Tribe's Draper dominates in 2018 debut

Left-hander allows a hit over six scoreless innings for Captains

Zack Draper posted a 2.83 ERA in 95 1/3 innings as a senior at the College of Idaho in 2017. (Liza Safford/Inside the Lines Photography)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | May 30, 2018 6:50 PM ET

There's announcing an arrival with authority, and then there's Zack Draper's performance in his 2018 season debut Wednesday.

The Indians southpaw allowed only one hit and one walk while striking out five over six scoreless innings in his first start of the year, but his Class A Lake County club went on to lose to Lansing, 3-2, at Cooley Law School Stadium.


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Draper retired the first four Lugnuts he faced before giving up his lone free pass to Brock Lundquist on a seven-pitch battle in the second inning. After erasing Lundquist on a double play, the 23-year-old had still faced the minimum in the fifth inning when Lundquist ended his no-hit bid with a one-out single on a soft liner to center. The Lugnuts slugger was again erased in a double play, and Draper followed up with a perfect sixth. 

The Captains starter needed only 68 pitches -- 43 of them strikes -- to get through six innings while facing the minimum 18 batters.

"I thought every pitch was working," Draper said. "The changeup, in particular, was on point, and I felt really good commanding the fastball to both sides. Beyond that, it's just trusting what [catcher Jonathan Laureano] was putting down and letting things go from there."

Draper was assigned to the Captains just before the game after opening the season in extended spring training, where the Indians told him to focus on incorporating his lower half and developing his breaking ball. He was officially told he was heading to the Midwest League on Tuesday, flew out that morning and got the news soon after of the matinee start. The quick notice didn't faze Draper.

"I just need to go out there and throw strikes and compete, no matter the conditions," he said. "It's nothing I haven't been doing everywhere else I've gone."

The Utah native was a 30th-round pick by Cleveland in last year's Draft out of the College of Idaho. Draper posted a 2.83 ERA over 95 1/3 innings as a senior and drew the Indians' notice for his 100/15 K/BB ratio in his final season at the NAIA school. With a system that boasts control freaks such as Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Ryan Merritt and Julian Merryweather, the Tribe has shown an affinity for hurlers who can consistently fill up the zone.

The 6-foot-3 hurler didn't fare quite as well in his first taste of pro ball last summer, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.58 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP, 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in 27 2/3 innings across three levels. He made one relief appearance for Lake County in 2017, allowing one earned run on four hits while fanning three over 1 2/3 innings on Aug. 5, but was sent back to the complex-level Arizona League soon after. 

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Opening up what could have been his first full season without an affiliate may have been initially tough on the left-hander, but if Wednesday's outing was any indication, he could be on the right path toward success.

"Just trying to change things, anything really, was difficult, but that's how it goes," Draper said. "But that's why I think extended was important for my career. I had to build on what I have and that takes time. But I'm here and ready now."

Draper didn't factor into the decision after right-handed reliever Jonathan Teaney gave up three runs -- two earned -- on three hits over two innings. Two of those runs came on a homer by No. 17 Blue Jays prospect Ryan Noda -- his first of the season -- in the eighth inning. 

Indians No. 5 prospect Nolan Jones went 2-for-4 with a homer to lead the Lake County offense in the loss.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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