The Tribe signed Dominic Leone on January 23rd to a minor league contract. He received an invite to both Spring Training and Summer Camp. The right-handed relief pitcher impressed enough to make the final roster cut for Opening Day. He relies on mostly fastballs, throwing a combination of a four-seamer, cutter, and a sinker. This is offset with a slider and a seldom-used changeup.
Leone has had an up-and-down career thus far. The last two seasons have seen him on a downward trajectory. Pitching with the Cardinals during this time, he posted a combined ERA of 5.15 while averaging nearly ten strikeouts per nine innings. Further, he struggled with his control, which has been an issue for him throughout his career. Last season, Leone walked nearly five batters per nine innings. On the plus side, he posted an ERA of 1.54 over his last 12 appearances. Overall, Leone sports a career ERA of 3.66, averaging almost 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Francona and the coaching staff hope he can return to his 2014 and 2017 levels, where he posted ERAs of 2.17 and 2.56 respectively. Although Leone struggled with walks those years, he worked around those issues with a high K/9 rate (9.50 and 10.36) and a low HR/9 (.54 and .77). If he can manage similar numbers this season, then the Tribe will have a solid contributor in the middle innings.
The 26-year-old right-handed pitcher has yet to make his Major League debut. The Tribe drafted Cam Hill in the 17th round of the 2014 June Amateur Draft. Over the course of his minor league career, Hill has a 20-13 record with 33 saves and an ERA of 2.56. The low ERA is a reflection of his great performance at the lower rungs of the minors. His last two stints with the AAA Columbus Clippers have seen Hill post ERAs of 4.74 (2019) and 6.59 (2018). It should be noted that he only pitched a combined 37 innings in AAA over the past two seasons as a result of reconstructive elbow surgery back in July 2018.
Prior to the injury, this star was on the rise. In 2016, Hill posted an ERA of 2.34 and was selected for the Arizona Fall League. This run continued into 2017 where he was named a Double-A midseason All-Star while pitching for the Akron RubberDucks. Once he returned from his injury, Hill’s K/9 rate was an eye-popping 13.14 for Columbus last season.
According to Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs, “Hill’s stuff is nasty – his heater has huge carry, the breaking ball has big depth, and Hill even has a viable changeup — but his control puts him in the up/down relief bucket during his option years.” His fastball sits in the 93-96 MPH range and has topped out at 97. Longenhagen rates Hill’s slider as an above-average pitch with the potential to be a plus pitch according to the 20-80 scale scouts use to rate prospects.
Before COVID-19 shut down Spring Training, Hill was solid. He allowed only one run in five innings while striking out two with one walk. The Tribe selected Hill over veteran reliever Hunter Wood for the Opening Day roster. He has the potential to be a huge asset in the Indians pen this season.