Six Hillcats Set to Play in Carolina League All-Star Game
Bob Toth | On 17, Jun 2017
The Lynchburg Hillcats are once again well represented in the Carolina League’s All-Star Game, set to pit the North and South Divisions against one another on Tuesday, June 20.
With the first half winding down, the Hillcats are still in the race for the first half crown and some of the players to put them in that position were recognized with selections to the North squad for the exhibition event next week. Three pitchers and two position players were picked to fill out the roster initially, with one more late addition giving Lynchburg six total representatives.
Triston McKenzie leads the Lynchburg pitchers heading to Salem for the game. Through his first 12 starts of the season, he has posted a 5-3 record with a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 0.96. In 69 2/3 innings of work, he has struck out 90 batters and walked 29. Opposing hitters are batting just .159 against the 19-year-old right-hander, who now owns a professional career record of 12-9 in 31 appearances with a 1.91 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.
McKenzie is at the top of the leaderboard in many key pitching statistics in the Carolina League. He is first in strikeouts with a 12-K lead, third in WHIP, fourth in ERA, and eleventh in innings pitched. His strong performance in May earned him the Pitcher of the Week Award from the Carolina League. It will be his second career All-Star appearance, following on the heels of his selection last year in the New York-Penn League.
Fellow starter Shao-Ching Chiang will make the first All-Star appearance of his career to cap off a 7-4 record through the first half thus far. The 23-year-old right-hander out of Taiwan won six consecutive starts from the middle of April through the middle of May. He is 12th in the Carolina League in ERA (3.36), ninth in WHIP (1.13), and trails the league leader in innings pitched by just one out (80 1/3 innings worked for Chiang).
Chiang is in his sixth professional season and second in regular duty in the Indians farm system. He spent 2012 to 2014 in the Arizona Rookie League, 2015 at short-season Mahoning Valley, and last season at Single-A Lake County, where he was 8-12 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 27 starts.
Reliever Argenis Angulo will be in the North bullpen. The 23-year-old right-hander out of Venezuela is 2-1 with ten saves in 12 opportunities and one hold for the Hillcats. He has made a total of 22 appearances, striking out 33 and walking 13 in 27 2/3 innings. His miniscule 1.63 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are tops among club relievers. His ten saves are tied for the second-most in the league and he has made more appearances than any other pitcher.
Angulo was a 19th round pick by the Indians in 2014. He worked for the club in the rookie league in 2014 and 2015 before getting a heavier workload in 2016, when he pitched at four different levels of the farm system for the club, going 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in 22 games.
Sicnarf Loopstok is one of two catchers on the North squad, despite making just nine appearances there in 55 games this season. He has been a versatile option for manager Tony Mansolino this season in his third year of work at the Advanced-A level. He has logged innings this season in left field, at catcher, and at first base, where he has done the bulk of his work. At the plate with the stick, he has posted a .280/.365/.490 line with 15 doubles, three triples, seven homers, and 35 RBI.
The 24-year-old out of Aruba was a 13th round pick by Cleveland in the 2013 draft out of Western Oklahoma State College.
A pair of infielders were selected from the Hillcats and fittingly, they are double play partners up the middle for the club.
Working primarily at second base in his third season on the farm, Sam Haggerty has shown improving numbers at the plate and has put his speed to good use with career highs already for doubles, triples, and stolen bases. Through 54 games, he has slashed .267/.343/.457 with 17 doubles, ten triples, a homer, and 17 RBI. He has also picked off 17 bases in 19 attempts. The switch-hitter has also contributed hitting streaks of six and ten games during the High-A season so far in his first year of work at the advanced level, one that saw him recognized as the league’s player of the week on April 30. His ten triples are tops in the league and his 17 steals are good for second.
A 24th round pick in 2015 out of New Mexico, Haggerty appeared in 16 games in 2015 at Mahoning Valley before playing 100 games with the Lake County Captains last season. It will be the first All-Star appearance of his professional career.
Willi Castro makes the second All-Star team of his professional career as the final add to the club. The Lynchburg shortstop made the midseason club last year while with the Lake County Captains.
Castro is in his second year of work with the Hillcats after joining the club late last season. After signing with the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in 2013 out of Puerto Rico, he has spent the last four years climbing the minor league ladder. He worked in 43 games with the rookie league team in 2014 before appearing in 67 games at short-season Mahoning Valley in 2015. He was with the Captains for nearly all of last season, hitting .259 with 21 doubles, eight triples, seven homers, and 49 RBI in 123 games.
This season, the 20-year-old switch-hitter has played 60 games for the Hillcats, posting a .289 batting average with a dozen doubles, five homers, and 30 RBI while working exclusively at shortstop.
The Carolina League All-Star Classic is set to take place on Tuesday, June 20, at 7:05 PM ET from Salem Memorial Ballpark.
Photo: Lathan Goumas/The News and Advance