CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – It wasn’t quite sold out arenas like a teen idol who shares the same last name, but Cleveland Indians pitching prospect Shane Bieber did go on what may have felt like a world tour in 2017.
The 22-year old former 4th round pick in 2016 just wrapped his first full season in the Tribe’s minor league system and saw himself rise through the ranks quickly.
Bieber started the season in Lake County, spending just over a month with the Captains before being promoted to High-A Lynchburg. His stay with the Hillcats was slightly longer, but the righty was promoted to Double-A Akron at the end of July.
When everything was said and done, the California kid had amassed a 10-5 record through 28 starts, with a 2.86 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
Part of the reason Bieber’s ascension through the minor leagues was so rapid was because of his adherence to a key organizational philosophy: throw strikes and limit free passes.
Bieber allowed just 10 walks, 2 of them intentional, in 173 1/3 innings, posting an astonishing walk rate of 1.4%.
“I definitely pride myself on it,” the young right-hander said at the Indians’ Fall Development Program on Tuesday. “I learned early on that, you know, I didn’t have the best stuff in high school, little league and in the early years of college. So I wasn’t going to beat myself. If they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me. I’m going to make them do it.”
With a velocity in the low-90s to pair with a lack of walks, the 6-foot-3 starter is reminiscent of a current Indians starter. Bieber spent the week watching the approach of Josh Tomlin, the man who had arguments in the clubhouse with Joe Smith over who threw harder, yet carries a career 3.6 BB%.
What plays well for Bieber’s future is that while the Tomlin comparison holds water, the prospect carried a lower HR/FB ratio than Tomlin did at any point in the minor leagues.
Already checking one of the most important boxes on Indians Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway’s keys to success, first pitch strikes, the next key step for Bieber was to see how pros like Tomlin and Corey Kluber approach the day-to-day.
“It was a lot of fun, it was really exciting to watch and see how those guys operate,” Bieber said, adding he looks to learn from any pitcher and not emulate any specifically. “It truly is impressive how they get their business done day in and day out. No BS. They’re always looking to improve in any which way they can.”
It would be silly to assume that Bieber would continue to climb the ladder at the same rate in 2018, especially seeing as he only through 54 1/3 innings in Akron. Though while at Akron, Bieber was throwing to Francisco Mejia, who made his major league debut at the beginning of September, so the chance to contribute does not seem that far away.
“Once you get to the higher levels, you’re just a call away,” he said.
“It was a really cool experience to be able to go through and reflect on a few different roles over the year and how different the game is, so you can only expect even more change once you get to even higher levels.”