Karinchak's 74 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings last year averaged out to 22.0 per nine frames, the highest rate with at least 30 innings in the modern history of the Minor Leagues (which starts in 1963) and likely the entire history of the Minors. He also ranked second in NCAA Division I in strikeout rate (13.7) in 2017, when the Indians drafted him in the ninth round out of Bryant. After they made him a full-time reliever the following year, he went from Class A to Cleveland in just 17 months despite missing nearly 10 weeks last summer with hamstring issues.
Karinchak has an exceptional fastball that sits at 95-99 mph and features well above-average spin that creates unusual ride and armside run. He also has a hammer breaking ball that combines curveball depth with mid-80s slider velocity, making it futile to try to sit on his heater. His high arm slot and herky-jerky delivery add plane and deception to his pitches, adding to the difficulty of making contact.
With his mechanics, Karinchak will never have pinpoint control, but he can become a closer if he throws enough strikes to keep batters honest. He can get too amped up and lapse into overthrowing, detracting from the quality and location of his pitches and costing him control. After striking out eight of the 22 batters he faced in his big league debut last September, he's ready for an expanded role in Cleveland's bullpen.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
Karinchak set Bryant records for wins (12) and strikeouts (112) as a sophomore, then encored by ranking second in NCAA Division I in strikeout rate (13.7) in 2017. He lasted until the ninth round that June, in part because he battled shoulder soreness during the spring, then struggled as a starter in his pro debut. He took off when he became a full-time reliever last year, advancing from Class A to Double-A with a 1.29 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings, and has dominated even more in 2019 while dealing with hamstring injuries.
Karinchak misses bats with two pitches that play well off of each other. He has a 95-98 mph fastball with riding life that he can throw by hitters at their letters, and a 12-to-6 curveball that he can get them to chase out of the bottom of the zone. He also threw a changeup/splitter as a starter but doesn't use it much while coming out of the bullpen.
His high arm slot adds plane and deception to his pitches, though there's also effort in his delivery that makes it difficult to control them. He averaged 6.7 walks per nine innings in 2018 and his pitches aren't as sharp or reliable when he gets too amped and overthrows them. The Indians think he'll demonstrate more consistency if he can keep his emotions in check.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
It might not occur to people to think of Rhode Island as a baseball hotbed, but Bryant University has been a bit of a machine in terms of producing draftable talent. Karinchak became the 19th player in program history to be drafted in 2017, when, after ranking second among NCAA Division I hurlers with 13.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings, he became property of the Indians as a ninth-round pick. Making his full-season debut in 2018, Karinchak got off to a hot start with Class A Lake County and earned a promotion to Lynchburg in early May.
Karinchak shows a fastball up to 96 mph with a plus breaking ball at times. His velocity was more consistent in early 2018 after he dealt with shoulder soreness as a college junior. Karinchak knows how to spin his 12-to-6 breaking ball, a hammer with depth, and he creates good deception thanks to his high front side. He hides the ball well and typically throws with good angle and plane.
Karnichak's command also went in the wrong direction post-injury, although his strike-throwing ability is less of a concern in a bullpen role, where his fastball-curveball combo could help him jump on a fast track to the Majors as a reliever with swing-and-miss stuff.