Scouting profile: Shawn Armstrong
Right-handed pitcher Shawn Armstrong is among the young power arms in baseball making their mark at the back end of big league bullpens.
Armstrong was a baseball and cross country star at West Craven High School in Vanceboro, N.C. He had labrum surgery in his senior year. The Astros selected Armstrong in the 33rd round of the 2008 Draft, but he chose not to sign the contract.
Instead, Armstrong went on to play for East Carolina University, pitching both as a starter and reliever. The Indians selected him in the 18th round of the 2011 Draft.
Armstrong has battled some injuries in his career. In addition to his shoulder woes, he suffered a hand injury in 2013.
After spending parts of five seasons in the Indians' Minor League system exclusively as a reliever, Armstrong was promoted to the big league club and made his Major League debut on Aug. 8. He pitched a clean inning against the Twins and struck out two. After five days on the big league roster, Armstrong was returned to Triple-A Columbus.
Armstrong, the No. 27 prospect on the Indians' Top 30 Prospects list, is 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. He returned to the big leagues on Sept. 1, when rosters expanded, and has yet to allow a run in 4 2/3 innings with Cleveland, yielding two hits and two walks while striking out six.
I was able to watch Armstrong pitch in the 2012 and '13 Arizona Fall League seasons. He showed increasing maturity in his second stint, but his command was not as sharp as it is today. That command improvement has put Armstrong on track for an increased role in the Indians' organization.
Other than his brief time on the Major League roster, Armstrong spent this season at Triple-A Columbus, where he was very successful against both right-handed (.221 batting average against) and left-handed (.179) hitters.
Coming out of the bullpen in mid-to-late innings, Armstrong keeps his repertoire simple. He throws a powerful 95-96 mph fastball, an effective 92 mph slider/cutter, a curveball and an occasional changeup.
Armstrong is a high-octane pitcher with improved, less aggressive pitching mechanics. He has shortened his delivery and comes at the hitter more directly than in the past. Armstrong does throw a bit across his body, but he gets late sink on the ball and induces ground balls. Improvement was obvious when he started using his lower half and his strong legs more in his overall pitching mechanics.
Armstrong is strong and durable. With improving command and control, he can be counted on to keep hitters off balance with some deception in his delivery and a very good mix of pitches.
Keeping the ball down, Armstrong has a history of not yielding many home runs. His low homer rate continues, while his strikeout rate is increasing.
What I have liked about Armstrong is his "take charge" approach on the mound that has come with increased confidence in his ability.
Armstrong has to be careful not to try to overthrow. When he tries to increase his velocity, he can lose his good mechanics, his shorter arm slot and his command.
I find this interesting
Armstrong has a great deal of Cody Allen in him, from his size to his temperament and repertoire. If he continues to soar through the organization, he can have the same type career as Allen.
The future for Armstrong
I think Armstrong will succeed either as an eighth-inning setup man or as a closer. He has had closing experience in the Minor Leagues and has been very successful.
He may get some late inning tests in September, but Armstrong will be on the radar when Spring Training arrives in February. He can assume a middle-inning role in the bullpen and eventually rise to a setup or closer role. I think Armstrong will be a very successful part of future Indians bullpens.
Armstrong in a word