After dominating at times as a starter at Bryant, James Karinchak somehow fell to the Cleveland Indians in the ninth round of the 2017 MLB draft.
Now just two full seasons later, he finds himself one step away from the big leagues. However, it is as an extremely high strikeout reliever. While the 2019 season has included some time on the injured list, Karinchak has posted an insane 23 K/9 in 24 appearances and 22.2 innings of work.
“It has been going pretty well,” Karinchak said. “I recently came off a rehab. I am feeling good and trying to get the rust off to get back to where I was.”
Sure, the percentage numbers are staggering. Don’t worry, the raw numbers are just as much so. In 2019, Karinchak has gotten 68 outs and 58 have been by strikeout through last Friday. That is correct, he only had retired 10 batters this season by something other than a strikeout through August 15. In a larger sample size in 2018, the numbers are still pretty impressive, as he retired 146 hitters and 81 by strikeout.
Karinchak has also allowed just 40 hits in the past two seasons and only three home runs. However, his main issue has been command. He has allowed 52 free passes between the past two seasons in 71.1 innings of work. What is crazy is that his WHIP in 2019 is still just 1.191, while walking nearly a batter every other inning.
Overall, so far relieving has treated Karinchak well. Despite needing to harness his command a bit, his strikeout rates are some the best I have ever seen. In needing to aid the command, he has been looking into his mechanics hard.
“It is just a different mindset when you are coming in for three or four outs and not trying to go three times through the line up,” Karinchak said. “My mechanics keep getting smoother, as I am working with the great pitching coaches in the organization. Me smoothing out my mechanics, I am just throwing the ball better, getting better velo and better stuff.”
Karinchak has had quite a path and he wouldn’t change any of it.
“The journey has been amazing,” Karinchak said. “There were a lot of ups and downs, but I get to meet new guys in the clubhouse and play against the best guys in the world. It’s amazing.”
Prior to playing at Bryant Karinchak attended Valley Central High School in New York. This is the same high school attended by former Major League right handers Matt Morris and Jason Motte.
“Those guys are obviously what everyone wanted to be,” Karinchak said. “Those jerseys are hanging on the high school walls. My brother was who I looked up to in high school. He was who I wanted to be. He was a great baseball player in high school too. But everyone wants to be a big leaguer. Seeing those jerseys, that’s where you want to be.”
If Karinchak is able to have near the career that either Morris or Motte had in the big leagues, he is a major success. However, with those strikeout numbers, he has the chance to be even more special. Ultimately, only time can tell if he is able to harness it.