The Cleveland Indians are having a good first half in the 2016 season. They currently sit in first place in the American League Central at 34-27, and are three games ahead of the defending champion Kansas City Royals. On Thursday, the MLB Draft began, and so for a few days, the Indians had to think about the future, instead of what they need to do to stay ahead of the Royals right now.
Shane Bieber a Steal for Indians in Fourth Round
On Friday, in the fourth round of the draft, the Indians selected right-handed pitcher Shane Bieber of the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos with the 122nd overall pick. That pick is designated for a $482,500 signing bonus, and for that money, the Indians may have found terrific value in Bieber.
Shane is not the most powerful pitcher around. His fastball generally sits in the 88-92 MPH range, so he isn’t going to blow anybody away. But what he does have is some of the best command of any pitcher taken in this year’s draft.
Operating as the Gaucho’s Friday night starter (the staff ace), Bieber recorded and 12-3 record with a 2.84 ERA. That includes a dominant start against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday in Game One of the College World Series Super Regional round. Facing a lineup littered with top talent, including 2016 fifth overall pick Corey Ray, Bieber pitched seven spectacular innings, and allowed just two runs on eight hits and one walk. He struck out seven and held Ray to an 0-4 day en route to earning the win (the Gauchos would eventually go on to win Game Two on Sunday and secure their first trip to Omaha thanks to a walk-off grand slam by freshman pinch-hitter Sam Cohen).
Bieber, a junior, displayed his pinpoint control all season long. Despite his average velocity, he struck out 103 opponents in 126.2 innings pitched, and issued just sixteen walks. Bieber very rarely misses his locations, and that command was on display against Louisville on Saturday. When one watches him pitch, he makes locating his pitches so precisely look almost effortless, despite the undoubtedly great amount of work that goes into it.
He also doesn’t get rattled by a bigger stage. Pitching in Game One of UCSB’s first-ever Super Regional appearance against one of the most talented lineups in college baseball, Bieber never appeared nervous or intimidated, even after allowing a second inning home run. His calm presence on the mound did much to help the Gauchos come back and take the lead, and then to remain in the lead despite several attempts at rallies by the Cardinals.
That command and mature, calm approach on the mound should help Bieber find success at the next level. He might not be an ace in the Major Leagues, but he could easily be a solid third or fourth starter. And if he can develop his secondary offerings a bit more, he might move through the minors fairly quickly. All in all, the Indians should be very happy with getting Bieber in the fourth round.
Stats via UCSBGauchos.com