Maikel Cleto 2.0


February 15, 2011 -- Cardinals pitcher Maikel Cleto throws from the bullpen mound during Cardinals spring training at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Chris Lee clee@post-dispatch.com

Cardinals fans know the name Maikel Cleto, even if we may not know how to spell it correctly.  He was the hard throwing A ball pitcher that we got from the Seattle Mariners for fan favorite and defensive wizard, Brendan Ryan.

Fans of the former Cardinals shortstop will call this a dumpster dive for the sole purpose of getting rid of a clubhouse distraction.  No so fast, friends.   This kid named Cleto has some serious talent.   And we know what happens when pitchers don the Birds on a Bat, right ?

After an impressive start with the Palm Beach Cardinals, Cleto was promoted to Springfield (AA).   He would get in one quick relief appearance before settling into the rotation.  Here’s how his AA career has gone so far.

Date Opponent W/L IP H R ER K BB
May 9 Arkansas ND 1 1 0 0 1 1
May 13 NW Ark ND 5 5 4 3 4 3
May 19 Arkansas L (0-1) 6 3 3 0 6 3
May 23 Tulsa ND 6 8 3 3 4 1
May 29 San Antonio W (1-1) 6 6 1 1 9 2

Looking a little deeper into these four starts reveals a far more interesting story. One that will seem all too familiar to fans of Chris Carpenter.

In both of his starts where he did not receive a decision, Cleto left the game with a lead and was in position for the win. Nick Greenwood would get lit up on one of the games, and Jesse Simson would do similarly in the other, costing Cleto two wins. I guess they call that stat a BS for a reason.

His sole loss came at the hands of Oragel Arenas of the Arkansas Travelers, who threw 8 2/3 scoreless innings. Talk about lack of run support and a hard luck loss. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap to the better pitcher on that day, and Arenas was simply brilliant.

The questions surrounding Maikel Cueto have nothing to do with whether or not he could retire major league hitters.  It was whether or not he could keep the opposition off the bases, thus keeping his runs allowed down.   So far in 2011, Cleto has done exactly that.

The fact that Cleto is on the Cardinals 40 man roster, and the bullpen is somewhat gassed due to some early starter exits the last few games, don’t be surprised if you see this big kid in a Cardinals uniform in the next few days.  If so, opponents will get to face another Jason Motte type, throwing 100 MPH gas in the late innings.  There is one big difference – this one has an actual secondary pitch.

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3 Responses to Maikel Cleto 2.0

  1. Jon Doble says:

    Eh, the story on Cleto from what I read from Mariners blogs when we picked him up isn’t so much command, it’s that his fastball doesn’t move. Until he shows he can make major league hitters miss that fastball, I’ll reserve my judgement. Motte was pretty decent coming through the minors and got a rude awakening when he couldn’t flame it past major league hitters with regularity.

    • Thanks for the comment. I had read some of those same comments. The ones that got my attention though were questions about his control.

      When you look at a guy that has a K/BB ratio of better than 2, control is an interesting criticism that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Maybe it was a flat fastball, or maybe he just threw too many pitches over the heart of the plate, but he was getting lit up with great regularity. Not so this year. Granted, the sample sizes are small, but so far this year, he looks like a pitcher, and not a thrower. I listened to his last two starts, and there was nothing but praise coming from the radio booth.

      • Jon Doble says:

        His walks really haven’t decreased that much. 4.2 in ’09, 3.9 in ’10, and right now at 3.4 across A and AA. Maybe the pitching coaches taught him something in Quad Cities, who knows. I never really thought Cleto was junk, but something the Cardinals minor league system has become well known for. Having a lot of RH relievers. Would have rathered a LHP with an upside as a reliever.

        His K rate is up, which makes me wonder if they are getting him to throw more of his 2nd pitch or if he’s just facing lesser competition. That’s about the only real peripheral that’s had a major change (well, that and hits allowed)

        Needless to say, we will find out once he makes his way to the bigs. According to some, that might be sooner rather than later.

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