Karinchak working his way back to Guardians

July 19th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It’s time to take another trip down to the farm.

The Guardians have seen their fair share of prospects up in the big leagues this season, but there are plenty left at all levels of the Minors to keep an eye on. Who will be next to join the big league team? Who’s putting themselves on the club’s radar?

Let’s take a deeper look in this week’s Minor League roundup:

Triple-A Columbus

In a perfect world, the Guardians would be able to add James Karinchak back in the bullpen to have another lethal, back-end option to turn to in relief. Instead, Karinchak is still in Triple-A, working through some of the issues he displayed earlier this season when he owned a 4.37 ERA through the first two months of the season.

A quick look at his numbers in Columbus would show that he’s only given up two runs (both in the same outing) since he was optioned on June 10. It would be easy to assume that he’s seeing the results that the Guardians are looking for, but the team needs to see a little bit more than just zeroes on the scoreboard.

In three of his first four appearances with Columbus, he had one-inning outings. In those one-inning outings, he threw at least 20 pitches to get three outs – one of which was a 29-pitch appearance. The Guardians want to see him consistently in the strike zone.

“Obviously he needs to throw more strikes,” Columbus pitching coach Owen Dew said. “He needs to control the running game better. ... The velocity is a piece of that, as well. His velocity has gone down a little bit.

"He’s striking out 51% of hitters he’s facing in Triple-A, but obviously we don’t want to strike out Triple-A hitters, we’d like him to get back up here and strike out Major League hitters. So, doing those things that will help him come back up here and help the team win.”

Karinchak is starting to trend back in the right direction. In his first three appearances in July, he’s kept his pitch count at 18 pitches or fewer. And if he can keep showing improvements in controlling the running game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in the Guardians’ bullpen at some point again this season.

“James is an incredible hard worker,” Dew said. “I mean, I can’t say enough good things about how he’s been in his time in Columbus. I know he wants to be up here, everybody wants to be in the big leagues. But he’s taken that role in Triple-A and understood that he has things that he needs to work on and we’re addressing that right now.”

Double-A Akron

As soon as shortstop Juan Brito was promoted to Double-A Akron, he proved exactly why he needed to take the leap to the next level. He logged at least one hit in each of his first eight games from May 27 until June 4. For the month of June, he owned a .313 average with an .854 OPS. He’s cooled off a bit more in July, but he just had a huge night last week, going 3-for-5 with a double and a homer.

Maybe he’s part of Cleveland’s more distant future, but he’s certainly taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given to prove why he’s the team’s No. 13 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

High-A Lake County

Guardians fans couldn’t wait to see last year’s first-round pick, Chase DeLauter, get into game action. He reported pain in his left foot back in December, and he ended up having to undergo surgery on his fifth toe on Jan. 10. It kept him on the sidelines until the beginning of June. But after a handful of games with the team’s Arizona squad, DeLauter joined Lake County on June 30, and he's lived up to the hype. In his 11 games with Lake County, he’s hit .488 with nine doubles and one homer.

The outfielder went 0-for-3 in his first game with the Captains. After that, he has yet to experience a hitless contest, and he had a multi-hit effort on Tuesday. However, DeLaute was replaced by a pinch-runner in the middle of the game and was seen limping off the field. Now, the Guardians need to hold their collective breath that he won’t have to miss more time.

Single-A Lynchburg

Catcher Zac Fascia has had a scorching July. In nine of 10 games, he’s logged at least one hit. On the month, he owns a .350 average with an .881 OPS.