Cold Weather Fails to Stop Captains from Getting Off to a Hot Start
Bob Toth | On 10, Apr 2018
The Lake County Captains kicked off the 2018 Class-A season in the chilly weather of northeast Ohio last Thursday night, hosting some big names in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system and the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
The Captains made the opener a thriller, needing a three-run ninth inning after being held to just a hit through the first eight innings, getting a game-winning walk-off single from Jorma Rodriguez. Friday’s game was suspended by snow in the fourth inning and picked up over the weekend from Fort Wayne, where the Captains won Saturday’s and Sunday’s games, in addition to the completion of the suspended game, to start the year 4-0. In three of those four games against the TinCaps, the Captains incredibly drew eight walks.
Lake County dropped game one of four in Dayton on the second leg of their road trip by a tough 3-2 final.
Coming off of a 54-85 season, the Captains have a new presence in the dugout this season as Luke Carlin returns to the Indians organization as the 13th manager in Lake County. A 2002 draft pick by Detroit, his career brought him to Cleveland in 2010, when he appeared in six games for the Indians and 13 more for Triple-A Columbus. He spent parts of the next two years in the organization before continuing his Triple-A journey with three other clubs. He made his managerial debut with the Indians last season at their short-season Mahoning Valley affiliate, leading the club to a 44-29 record and a playoff berth. Because of his time with the Scrappers, he will have plenty of recognizable faces in his clubhouse this season.
Benson, 19, played his second season in the organization last year, making his first appearance with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in short-season play. He was selected in the first round by the Tribe in the 2016 draft and played in 44 games in the Arizona Rookie League that season. He appeared in 56 games for the Scrappers last season, slashing .238/.347/.475 with eight doubles, five triples, ten homers, and 36 RBI while manning right field.
Jones was selected next by the Indians during the same 2016 draft with their pick in the second round. A 19-year-old third baseman, he joined Benson with the Scrappers during his second season and hit .317 with a .430 OBP and a .482 slugging mark. He drove in 33 runs and hit 18 doubles, three triples, and four homers. His 43 walks led all New York-Penn League players.
He appeared in just two games for the Captains before he was placed on the seven-day disabled list over the weekend with knee soreness. Dillon Persinger, a 22-year-old infielder taken in the 18th round of last year’s draft out of Cal State Fullerton, joined the Captains roster in his place.
Oscar Gonzalez, a 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, is making his debut at the Class-A level after a good showing with the Scrappers last year. He was a New York-Penn League All-Star midseason and is the 18th-ranked prospect in the Tribe’s system. He hit .283 with a .301 OBP last season with 16 doubles, three homers, and 34 RBI with Mahoning Valley.
Next to Jones in the infield (when healthy) will be several new faces to the club, including another top 30 prospect Ernie Clement. A fourth round pick in the 2017 draft out of the University of Virginia, the middle infielder appeared in 45 games for the Scrappers last year, hitting .280 with a .315 OBP.
Ulysses Cantu, Tyler Friis, and Rodriguez of the opening day walk-off hit will also take reps in the infield for the Captains. Cantu, a first baseman, was an All-Star in the New York-Penn League last season. Friis debuted at Mahoning Valley after being selected in the 21st round of last season’s draft. Rodriguez, a 22-year-old infielder, has bounced around the farm system during his time in the organization and played second, third, and short last season with Lake County, Lynchburg, and Akron.
Infielder Jonathan Laureano started the year on the 7-day disabled list before being joined by top prospect Jones. A 22-year-old right-handed hitter out of Puerto Rico, he split last season with Mahoning Valley and Akron and was a 25th round selection by the Indians in 2016.
Behind the plate, Michael Rivera and Jose Vicente will handle the pitching staff. Rivera was taken in the sixth round of last year’s draft out of the University of Florida and played in 15 games for the Scrappers. Vicente, 22, returns for a second season with the Captains after appearing in 35 games for the club last season, hitting .278.
Elijah Morgan was tabbed as the Opening Day starter for the Captains against Fort Wayne. The 21-year-old right-hander was taken in the eighth round last year out of Gonzaga as one of the top collegiate strikeout men and brought that with him to the pro circuit, striking out 58 batters over 35 innings in 13 games for Mahoning Valley.
Morgan allowed one unearned run on four hits in six innings in his first start, striking out eight in his Captains debut.
Returning to the Lake County pitching staff from previous years are left-hander Juan Hillman and right-handers Grant Hockin and Domingo Jimenez. New arrivals include Tommy DeJuneas, James Karinchak, Kirk McCarty, Jean Carlos Mejia, Kyle Nelson, Francisco Perez, Felix Tati, Jonathan Teaney, and Gregori Vasquez.
Photo: Chris M. Worrell/The Plain Dealer