CLEVELAND -- The trade did not register very high on the national radar when the Indians pulled the trigger two seasons ago. On a local level, Cleveland traded away a fan favorite in reliever Vinnie Pestano and received a Minor League pitcher from the Angels in return.
That Minor Leaguer, right-hander Mike Clevinger, is now a rising star in the Tribe's farm system and could reach the Majors as soon as this year. On Monday, Clevinger received the Indians' 2015 Bob Feller Award, honoring the starter as the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
"It was one of the highlights of our development system last year, the progress Mike made," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "He's on a really good path."
Along with Clevinger, first-base prospect Bobby Bradley was named the Indians' recipient of the 2015 Lou Boudreau Award (Minor League Player of the Year). Bradley -- a 19-year-old slugger -- checks in at No. 7 on MLB.com's list of Top 30 prospects for the Indians. Clevinger is currently 15th on that list and has drawn interest from other teams in trade talks with the Tribe this winter.
In recent years, Cleveland has gained a solid reputation for finding future Major League contributors via low-level trades. Clevinger, who has the makings of a mid-rotation starter, could give the Indians another success story. Within the Tribe's current big league rotation, Corey Kluber, who went from unheralded trade acquisition in 2010 to the American League's Cy Young Award winner in 2014, provides the best example.
It is far too soon to gauge where Clevinger's career will go, but his development since joining the Indians has been impressive.
"He made great progress last year," Antonetti said. "Mike really deserves a lot of credit because he actually made some pretty significant delivery adjustments and finished the year much, much further along than where he started the year. It's really a credit to the work he put in along with [Minor League pitching coordinator Ruben Niebla] and the pitching coaches."
Clevinger, 25, missed most of 2012 and '13 following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, which was injured only eight starts into his first professional season. On Aug. 7, 2014, the Angels shipped the young right-hander to the Indians in exchange for Pestano, whose performance had dropped in the months leading up to the trade.
This past season, Clevinger turned in a 2.73 ERA with 145 strikeouts and 40 walks in 158 innings for Double-A Akron. In all of Double-A, the righty ranked second in WHIP (1.06), third in strikeouts and fourth in opponents' average (.219). Clevinger then turned in 15 1/3 shutout innings with 17 strikeouts and only five hits relinquished in two postseason starts for Triple-A Columbus.
Needless to say, Clevinger could be coming to Cleveland in the near future.
"As we've seen multiple times," Antonetti said, "once a guy gets to the upper levels of the Minor Leagues, it can happen at any point."
Bradley, who was picked by the Indians in the third round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, hit .264/.357/.518 in 110 games between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg last season. In 108 games with Lake County, the left-handed-swinging slugger had 27 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .529 slugging percentage, which each ranked first among Class A batters.
"Our goal is to have him be an elite Major Leaguer," said Carter Hawkins, the Indians' director of player development. "He's definitely not a guy that's going to slip under the radar at this point. So, understanding the approach that pitchers are going to have against him and how he needs to react to that, at-bat to at-bat, game to game, week to week, will be something that will help him to take that next step in his career."