The RubberDucks Miss Out On Postseason After a Strong 2015
Danny Madden | On 10, Sep 2015
Unfortunately, the 2015 season for the Double-A RubberDucks has come to an end, as they will not be attending the Eastern League Playoffs this season. They ended up in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division, and 7 games behind division leading Bowie Baysox.
The RubberDucks finished their season with a record of 71-70.
After starting the month of August residing in second place in their division, the RubberDucks had hoped to maintain a strong enough record to jettison into playoff baseball, but that was not the case. Instead, they went 13-15, which included a 7 game losing streak at the end of August. These crucial games at the end of the season is what may have done in the RubberDucks, but this team may have become one of the more exciting teams to watch as the season went on.
The RubberDucks were lucky enough to witness breakout seasons from a handful of players. The most astounding break out player on the team though, hands down, was third basemen Yandy Diaz. Diaz, who is only spending his second season in the minor leagues, performed at a level that didn’t seem sustainable all season long. In 132 games at Double-A, he hit .313/.408/.407 with 15 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs, 56 RBI, and 8 stolen bases. He also led the league in walks with 78, and led the next guy, Brock Stassi, by four walks. Diaz also plays gold glove caliber defense, and was later promoted to Triple-A Columbus when the Clippers had clinched a playoff spot.
Diaz has a bright future ahead of him, and the RubberDucks were able to witness the type of potential he has to bring to the big league club. While this is only his second year in the minors, he may still need time to grow, especially into his power.
Along with Diaz, Jeff Johnson also had a breakout season as he became one of the better closers in the Double-A level. Johnson recorded 27 saves this season, and was ranked second place in the league in saves, just under Stephen Shackleford who had recorded 30. Johnson this year posted a 1.05 ERA and a record of 1-2. He struck out 56 in 51.1 innings and kept batters to a .197 batting average. While this is only his third year in the minors, he is 25 right now, so he’s a bit old for his current level. After the season that he had though, he shouldn’t be seeing much time in the minors before he gets his big league chance.
What may have been one of the more impressive things that happened over the course of the 2015 season was watching the development of the entire RubberDucks pitching rotation. Most of the season, this included Michael Clevinger, Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko, and Shawn Morimando. The fifth spot was fairly fluid as there were a number of people who filled that spot, but were either moved due to promotions or demotions. This included Cody Anderson, Will Roberts, Zack Nuding, and D.J. Brown.
Plutko was received from High-A Lynchburg prior to the All Star Break, and really took off in Akron. In 19 games, he had a record of 9-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 116.1 innings. He struck out 90, while only walking 23. He was an absolute monster. He has some of the most incredible control of any pitcher in the league, and has a high enough baseball IQ that he knows how to get a specific type of out when he needs to. He manages the game very well, and really prospered from his promotion to Akron.
Along with Plutko, Morimando and Clevinger also had one of the best years in the minors. Morimando still needs to manage his command better, but overall he put up a solid season with a 3.22 ERA. Clevinger has worked hard on his delivery since being acquired by the Indians in the Vinnie Pestano trade last season. He added in a minor hiccup in his delivery to better control his pitches, and it seemed to work out. He posted a 2.73 ERA in 26 games with the RubberDucks, and had a record of 9-8.
Merritt was the most looked at pitcher coming into this season, as he had won the Bob Fellar award by Indians in the offseason for being the best pitcher in their minor league system in 2014. After starting off alright, Merritt struggled mightily in May. Merritt has a tendency to stay in the zone too much when he’s on the mound, which can make him predictable. In May, he was working trying to locate his pitches outside the zone, but learning that type of command made him a bit erratic, which led to him getting hit hard by the opposition. Once he was able to control his pitches, he really settled in for the second half of the season. He ended his Double-A season with an ERA of 3.51 and a record of 10-7 in 141 innings. He was later promoted to Triple-A Columbus.
The biggest name to pop up in Double-A Akron though was when the Indians top prospect Bradley Zimmer was promoted after the All Star Break. Zimmer has flown through the system since being drafted in 2014, but he struggled after getting his promotion to Akron. In 48 games with the RubberDucks, Zimmer hit .224/.316/.383 with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs, 24 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. Granted, the step from High-A to Double-A is a big one, as pitchers tend to be more refined at this level, but it’s been a challenge for Zimmer since his promotion. The rumors have already begun to swirl that Zimmer could start his season in Cleveland next year, but the chances of that happening are slim to none as he looks like he may need another year in the minors to refine some of his tools. While Zimmer is a great baseball player, he still needs to get into the groove of facing tougher pitchers before making the jump to the big leagues.
The RubberDucks seemed to fall just short of a playoff spot, but they certainly put their best foot forward. Players like Byrson Myles and Carlos Moncrief led the team at the end of the season following an injury to lead off utility man Hankins, and a promotion to Gallas, but it was for naught. This team went from a group of guys that not a lot of people may know, to a team full of potential, with a really exciting future.
Photo: David Monsuer/MiLB.com