Lefthander Brady Aiken took a step backwards in 2018, but he and the Indians hope it will result in him taking two steps forward in 2019.
Cleveland drafted Aiken 17th overall in 2015 after he spent one year at the post-graduate high school program at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He had Tommy John surgery three months prior to his selection in the draft.
The 22-year-old Aiken’s recovery from surgery has been long and laborious. In three pro season he has made 41 appearances and pitched 178 innings, none above low Class A Lake County and none in 2018.
Aiken has logged a 5.05 ERA in pro ball, and he comes by it honestly. In 2017, for example, he went 5-13 and led the Midwest League with 101 walks, the second highest total in the minors.
It was then that Indians officials decided to back off and let Aiken use the 2018 season to regroup physically and mentally. He spent the entire season at the Indians’ spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
“We believe this season gave him the opportunity to sharpen his weapons, giving him a better opportunity to compete,” farm director James Harris said. “He has worked very hard to put his body in a place to increase his velocity and command.”
Aiken’s velocity has diminished dramatically since his surgery. At Lake County in 2017, his fastball sat in the high 80s and peaked in the low 90s.
Contrast that with the velocity Aiken showed as a San Diego prep in 2014, when he touched 97 mph and went No. 1 overall to the Astros in that year’s draft. He did not sign with Houston after the club reduced its offer following concerns about his elbow. Aiken instead enrolled in the IMG Academy, where in his first start he blew out his elbow.
Indians officials feel that not pitching competitively in 2018—and instead concentrating on his conditioning and mechanics—will benefit Aiken in the future.
“This season was a step in the right direction, and this offseason will be another important opportunity to make additional progress,” Harris said.
Barring setbacks, Aiken will resume his career in 2019.
“We expect Brady to return to competition in 2019 at a full-season affiliate,” Harris said. “Which one? Whichever level that is the best environment to continue his growth. Brady is a good man and a great teammate.”