The Indians have a history of fast-tracking college relievers to the big leagues, when appropriate.
They drafted Cody Allen out of High Point in the 23rd round in 2011, and when the Indians called him up in 2012, he became the second player from his draft class to reach the majors.
In the fourth round of the 2013 draft, they took Virginia lefthander Kyle Crockett, and when he made his major league debut the following May he was the first player from his draft class to reach the majors.
The next college reliever to make an early arrival at Progressive Field could be righthander Nick Sandlin, who galloped through four levels of the minors in 2018 and could become a bullpen option in Cleveland in 2019.
The Indians drafted Sandlin in the second round in 2018 out of Southern Mississippi, where he was a closer in his first two years before moving into the rotation as a junior.
The Indians signed him for $750,000, and Sandlin wasted no time in hop-scotching his way through the minor league system. He touched down in the Rookie-level Arizona League and followed that with assignments to low Class A Lake County, high Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron.
Sandlin uses a low arm slot to deliver a low-90s fastball and nasty slider. In a combined 25 appearances during his pro debut he recorded a 3.00 ERA. He averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings while walking just three batters and allowing opponents to hit .233.
“Sandlin is a competitor who had versatility as a starter and reliever in college,” farm director James Harris said. “He provides a different look with his sidearm slot out of the pen, and he competes with a fastball and slider that are tough on righthanded hitters.”
Indians officials are going to let Sandlin’s ability dictate how soon he reaches the majors, but with the big league bullpen in a state of flux because of the expected departures of free agents Allen and Andrew Miller, there will be opportunities available.
The Indians love Sandlin’s makeup.
“We like his ability to compete and his drive to improve, along with his dedication to his teammates,” Harris said. “Any time you have that combination, the sky is the limit.”