Mudcats All-Time Team Full of All-Stars
Rob McLamb | On 04, Jun 2014
The Carolina Mudcats started as a fledgling Minor League team during the 1991 season on the outskirts of the Triangle in North Carolina. Initially a Double-A team in the Southern League for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Mudcats were affiliates of several teams prior to moving to the Carolina League in 2012 as the Class A Advanced team of the Cleveland Indians.
With so much talent having passed through Zebulon over 23+ seasons, it seems appropriate to pick a Carolina Mudcats all-time team and see where the prospects of the Tribe stand in relation to the great players who have taken the field at Five County Stadium.
Catcher: Jason Kendall was a stalwart behind the plate for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately for Kendall, it came during a wretched period in Bucs history, as he never took the field for a winner. He was however a great Major Leaguer who was a threat at the plate and durable behind it.
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: Tony Wolters
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez held it down at First base for the Mudcats for apportion of the 2003 season before earning promotion to Triple-A. Carolina was an affiliate for the Florida Marlins at this point and Gonzalez—a former first round pick—was a top prospect. Like many Marlins over the years, A-Gon was shipped elsewhere. Unlike most Marlins dumpster sales, Gonzalez was actually traded for a Major League player to provide a push towards the players. The four-time All-Star was dealt to Texas for Ugueth Urbina, who provided solid bullpen work to help lead the Fish to its second World Series title.
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: Jesus Aguilar
Second Base: Going by the criteria of who played second at Carolina, this goes to Chone Figgins. Prior to excelling for the Angels and signing a huge contract for Seattle, Figgins played for the Mudcats as a prospect in the Colorado Rockies organization. Relegated to bench duty now for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the speedster has had a solid Major League career.
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: Joey Wendle
Third Base: One of the greatest players of the current era, Miguel Cabrera, played for the Carolina Mudcats in 2003 prior to promotion to Florida and winning the World Series. He is tormenting Cleveland and the rest of the American League Central Division with Detroit after being traded to the Tigers for Cameron Maybin and two Minor Leaguers in one of the worst deals in MLB history. In 2012, he was the Majors first Triple Crown winner in 44 years and is currently a three-time batting champion.
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: There is none
Shortstop: Tony Womack beats out Lou Collier and Clint Barmes to make the list. Although he spent much of his career at second base once he reached the Majors, Womack was a solid player who stole 190 bases over a three-year stretch (1997-99). Womack was in the Pirates organization while playing for the Mudcats. He would win a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: Francisco Lindor
Outfield: Using the All-star method, which basically names three outfielders regardless of which position they play, the three for this list would be Juan Pierre and Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies organization and Al Martin from the Pirates
Pierre was traded to Florida prior to 2003 for Preston Wilson and would win a World Series that season. He is a Marlins legend. Holliday also won a World Championship with St. Louis in 2011 and has appeared in the Fall Classic two other times (2007 with Colorado and last season with the Cardinals). Martin was a regular for Pittsburgh for several seasons, like Kendall toiling for losing teams as a Pirate. He moved on to Seattle and got a taste of winning baseball with the Mariners in 2001. Injuries hampered Martin’s career. He only exceeded 143 games three times in 11 seasons in the Majors.
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: Tyler Naquin
Starting Pitcher: Tim Wakefield is familiar to Tribe fans after spending 17 seasons with Boston. He broke through in Pittsburgh in 1992 going 8-1 in the regular season and with a stellar performance in the National League Championship Series versus Atlanta. This was after reinventing himself as a knuckleball pitcher following a failed stint as an infielder. He was on the first Carolina Mudcats team in 1991 and finished 15-8 with a 2.90 ERA
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: Danny Salazar
Relief Pitcher: Aroldis Chapman is closing games for Cincinnati now but was throwing darts for the Mudcats in 2011 after defecting from Cuba in 2010. He actually started two games for Carolina, a frightening thought since that would mean batters would actually have to face his freakish fastball for more than one at-bat a game.
Cleveland’s best hope for the list: Louis Head
Photo by Nikolaus