The Rule 5 Draft is today and I will be providing live updates on my site throughout the day with anything Indians related. I'll be back tomorrow with a full writeup recapping who the Indians may have lost or added as well as any other newsworthy items from the day.
The Indians have built up an impressive amount of depth in the pitching ranks at Triple-A and Double-A. While they have only a small handful of truly elite arms with ceilings as potential top of the rotation arms or backend relievers, they have a lot of pitchers who could fill a depth role as a backend of the rotation starter or a middle reliever.
But with so many options at their disposal, sometimes a player or two can slip through the cracks because they don't have anything in their arsenal which stands out or they lack any eye-popping numbers. A pitcher who was interesting in rookie ball and Single-A can get lost in the shuffle because there is not much that separates him from many other like players in the upper levels of the system.
One of those players who often gets overlooked in the Indians system and sort of lost in a deep sea of average to above average pitching is left-hander Ryan Edell.
Edell is one of those pitchers who by now at age 26 is what he is. That is, a pitcher who won't blow you away with great stuff and velocity, but instead relies on command, control, intelligence and toughness on the mound. He was an 8th round pick in the 2005 Draft out of The College of Charleston, and in his four and a half seasons since the draft has put together a solid resume from a statistical perspective going 25-25 with a 3.63 ERA in 109 games (82 starts). His career rate stats are pretty solid across the board with a 9.3 H/9, 0.9 HR.9, 2.0 BB/9, 7.6 K/9, and 1.26 WHIP.
While the numbers are very good, he lacks that true dominant pitch or the ability to throw three above average pitches to really be considered an upper-level prospect in the organization. While he is more in the middle pack, he has a good four pitch mix led by a fastball which sits around 90-91 MPH though he reportedly hit a few ticks above that on occasion at Double-A Akron this past season. He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup, with the curveball considered the best pitch in his arsenal.
Being left-handed, Edell could get some interest in the Rule 5 Draft today and possibly be selected. In 17 games (16 starts) at Akron in 2009, he was 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA and put up an impressive 91 strikeouts to just 19 walks in 89.1 innings pitched. Though he followed that up with a sub par stint at Triple-A Columbus where he was 0-6 with a 6.36 ERA in 15 games (6 starts) and allowed a .338 batting average against.
While the two month stint in Columbus was not up to Edell's standards, he was satisfied with his season overall and felt he improved on some things over the course of the 2009 season.
"I am pretty much never going to be totally satisfied," said Edell in a recent interview. "I think the level of play is a lot different between Double-A and Triple-A. I feel like the players are a little bit more disciplined where down [at Double-A] I got a lot more swing and misses outside of the zone which made it easier. Up [in Triple-A] I was forced to pitch more in the zone, and it really was not too bad when I got ahead. But I would struggle when I would fall behind and I would have to rely on my fastball in the zone and that doesn't really work as much up there."
Edell actually book ended his season at Akron with a month stint in Columbus from mid-April to mid-May and then from early August to early September. His first stint at Columbus in the early part of the season he worked strictly out of the bullpen, and then when he came back at the end of the season he finished the in the rotation. However, whether he was starting or relieving, or when he came back a second time, the numbers did not change as he had some trouble with the more disciplined hitters at Triple-A.
"The [second] time I was a starter where last time I was a reliever which I had not really done before," said Edell. "So it was kind of a transition for me and I struggled a little with that. Just trying to get my routine down because I was so used to a strict routine as a starter so it was kind of hard going to the bullpen and not knowing when I was going to pitch. I think [the Triple-A hitters] know what they can do and that is a really strong asset for them. They know what they are looking for so it is different that way, where down [in Double-A] it is a lot more raw talent. But I feel comfortable where if I was given a little more time as a reliever I could fit into that role better."
When Edell came back to Akron in mid-May after his disappointing four week stay in Columbus, the Indians moved him back into the Akron starting rotation. Back to his familiar role of starting, he took off and his numbers soared. In all but two of his 16 starts he allowed no more than three runs in any outing, and in the two he didn't he allowed just four runs. Nine times he went at least five innings and allowed no more than two runs.
His mid-season success at Akron was helped by the reemergence of his curveball and his other pitches all improving. He had a very good curveball coming into the 2005 Draft, but it was tabled in 2007 at High-A Kinston to get him to concentrate on throwing and developing a slider. He lost the feel for the curveball, but re-found it this past season and it helped add another weapon to his arsenal.
"It was just that the slider is a little bit sharper and I just kind of lost my curveball and lost how to throw it," said Edell on why the curveball was dropped from his pitch mix. "But I worked all last offseason on my curveball again and I feel comfortable again throwing it in the zone. It is more of a get ahead pitch now and not a put away pitch. It is just something I like to flip in there, and I feel like it will be a pretty good pitch for me in the future as long as I keep working on it."
Some refined pitching mechanics and improved consistency also helped him put it all together at Akron.
"I think it was just the consistency," said Edell. "I worked a lot in the offseason with repeating my delivery, and I had a lot better feel for my changeup this year than I ever have. It was probably my second or third pitch this year depending on the day. I [got] a lot of groundballs and pop ups with that. I think those were the things that made the most difference."
Currently, Edell is back home in California working out and getting ready for the 2010 season. He was also scheduled to pitch in winter ball somewhere this offseason, but to date has not made an appearance anywhere. He and the Indians wanted to get some additional work to make up for some of the lost innings when he pitched out of the bullpen the first month and a half of the season. Pitching winter ball would also allow people to get more looks at him scouting-wise.
"I kind of wanted to go somewhere and keep pitching since I [didn't] have as many innings this year after pitching in the bullpen the first month," said Edell. "It [would] give me another chance to work on my two-seamer and develop more."
Edell knows he walks a fine line as a pitcher since he does not have the over-powering fastball or wipeout secondary pitch. His success will largely be determined with how well he can control his fastball in the zone and consistently hit his spots. Consistency is the key for him, and it is something he will continue to work on this offseason and into the 2010 season where he should open the season in the Columbus bullpen.
"I pretty much just need to keep consistent because I don't throw 95 MPH, so I need to attack the zone early," said Edell. "That is something I need to continue to work on. Also, that two-seamer is probably going to help me whatever role I am placed in. I just need to work on getting mis-hits instead of trying to get strikeouts. It seems like I either totally fool someone or they hit the ball hard somewhere. So if I can just get a little bit more movement on my ball I think that will be the key difference for me."