Cleveland Indians Top 25 in 2016: No. 25, Ryan Merritt

Ryan Merritt sneaks into the Cleveland Indians Top 25 in 2016 list after having some key starts at the end of the regular season and in the postseason.

For most of 2016, Cleveland Indians pitcher Ryan Merritt was an afterthought on the roster. He was solid in three relief outings through September, spending most of his time making starts in AAA Columbus.

That all changed on September 30 when Merritt started an important game against the Kansas City Royals, as home-field advantage in the ALDS was still on the line.

Some fans were mad at Terry Francona for going to starters who had limited action all season, but Merritt showed the confidence in him was warranted. Francona was AL Manager of the Year for a reason.

Merritt pitched five innings against the Royals, allowing just one run and striking out four. His five innings of work allowed Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to close the deal, helping the Indians open the ALDS at home.

This start may be overlooked in the grand view of the 2016 season, but his next start is one that will be remembered for a long time.

Merritt was called upon to start Game 5 of the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays. In Toronto. In a potential World Series-clinching game. All the rookie did was throw 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in one of the toughest places to play in the league.

He was cruising, finishing his outing with just 49 pitches, while striking out three and walking no one.

The start helped send the game to the dominant bullpen, with the Indians ultimately winning the game 3-0 and shutting down any thoughts that Merritt was “shaking in his boots,” as Jose Bautista seemed to think.

Merritt was not chosen to pitch in the World Series, but his 2016 will be considered an overwhelming success. He stepped up when he needed to, and never made his manager look foolish for putting so much trust in a rookie.

The young pitcher may not crack the 2017 rotation out of spring training, but he is sure to be an option as the season progresses.

And if the Indians reach the postseason once again, which seems likely as of now, Merritt could once again be needed to provide the team with a dominant spot start. And after his performance in 2016, one can only imagine Merritt would be more than willing to step up and prove his value to the team once again.

He may not have played much last season, but his contributions earn him a spot as one of the Top 25 Indians in 2016. Be sure to check out the site tomorrow to see who comes in at No. 24.

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