Recently, an intriguing Cleveland Indians pitcher was designated for assignment, which raises the question – should the Jays take a shot with the young Texas native?
Just this week, Indians pitcher Ryan Merritt was designated for assignment, with the team citing a velocity decrease and injury troubles as the main driving forces behind this move. Merritt, 26, is an interesting arm with a connection to the Blue Jays organization.
Drafted in the 16th round of the 2011 draft, Merritt, a left-handed starter, quickly rose to the top of Cleveland’s prospects lists, being ranked as their No. 22 prospect in 2018, No. 21 in 2017, and their No. 29 prospect in 2016.
During the 2014 season, the southpaw pitched to a terrific 2.58 ERA in 160.1 innings for the High-A Carolina Mudcats, going on to continue his dominance at the Double-A and Triple-A levels the next season.
For Blue Jays fans, Merritt is most likely remembered for his stellar Game Five performance in the 2016 ALCS, in which he pitched 4.1 scoreless frames against the Jays while striking out three and surrendering just two hits. The Indians would clinch the series victory in large part due to Merritt’s excellent outing.
Unfortunately for Merritt though, that would be the highlight of his short major league career thus far. The following season, he battled knee and shoulder injuries, limiting him to just 26 innings in 2018. For his career, he’s pitched to a 3.68 ERA in Triple-A in 315.1 innings and has pitched to a 1.71 ERA at the big league level in 31.2 innings.
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Additionally, he’s added 13 major league strikeouts, has a career MLB WHIP of just 1.137 and has been worth a cumulative 0.9 WAR in the big leagues. It’s nothing to be particularly shocked by, but when he’s healthy, he’s been quietly effective.
While many may criticize the front office for going out and getting players that are related to their Ohio roots, this could potentially serve them well. Merritt, after all, was drafted by the Shapiro/Atkins team that is currently at the helm of the Blue Jays. They know him, they like him, who knows what he could become if he were a member of this organization? Shapiro and Atkins haven’t shied away from pursuing their former draft picks, as evidenced by the Jays’ signing of Shawn Morimando last week, among others.
In short, picking up Ryan Merritt would be just as the title of this piece suggests – an investment. He likely won’t reach the big leagues this year, but he’s under team control until the 2023 season, and you can never have too much starting pitching depth, especially of the left-handed variety.
Indians manager Terry Francona said in a press conference that he sincerely hopes that Merritt goes unclaimed, so he can return to the minor leagues and work on his velocity and work towards an eventual return. So far, there’s been no word on any other teams’ interest in the young southpaw. Here’s hoping the Jays take a look, because it could wind up being a worthwhile investment for the franchise as they move forward.