Arizona Fall League play is under way as some of the top prospects around the minor league landscape pair up for competition in the annual six-team offseason league.
Hopeful prospects are a week into the six-week schedule as players work to hone their craft against a collection of some of the best up-and-coming names working their way through the levels of professional baseball. The Indians are well represented in their home-away-from-home in Arizona, where eight of their minor leaguers help make up the roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Those eight Indians prospects have teamed up with representatives from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates for league action in Glendale this year, after Cleveland players worked with different clubs while playing for the Mesa Solar Sox last October and November.
Tanner Tully is a 6’0”, 200 lb. left-handed starter out of Elkhart, Indiana, selected by Cleveland Indians in the 26th round. He was the last of six Ohio State Buckeyes taken in 2016.
Growing up in Indiana, he developed an appreciation for hunting, fishing, and sports. These made up a rotation across the seasons that kept him engaged.
Six members total between the Akron RubberDucks and Columbus Clippers earned the honor of playing in their respective league’s All-Star Games this week and several took advantage of the opportunity on a big stage to shine.
The International League faced off with the Pacific Coast League on Wednesday night from Tacoma, Washington. A four-run fourth inning by the PCL All-Stars would prove to be too much for the IL squad to overcome in a 6-4 contest. Columbus’ Richie Shaffer was one of the players to best utilize his time as his performance for the losing squad earned him the league’s All-Star Game MVP award.
All-Star games are the theme of the week as one day after Major League Baseball hosted its annual Midsummer Classic and several days after top prospects united for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, both the International League and the Eastern League will play their respective games on Wednesday night.
The Indians’ top farm affiliate, the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, have just two representatives in Tacoma, Washington, for the Triple-A All-Star Game between the best of the International League and the Pacific Coast League. Richie Shaffer received the early invitation through voting, but middle infielder Eric Stamets was also asked to participate as a reserve.
Akron catcher Eric Haase put on an impressive display of power over the last week and in doing so, was named the Eastern League’s Player of the Week for games played between July 3 and July 9.
Haase entered action last week already on a hitting tear at the plate, coming in with a four-game hitting streak that included three consecutive multi-hit games to start it. He would notch hits in every game that he played in, hitting .400 for the week with two doubles, a triple, four home runs and seven runs batted in.
The future was now on Sunday, even if most people missed it.
Major League Baseball has done an effective job of hiding the All-Star Futures Game, a collection of some of the best and brightest upcoming stars on the minor league stage. With a great opportunity to get the names of these young budding prospects out on a national level, the game was stashed away in the middle of the day Sunday while the big boys in the Majors wrapped up the first half of the 2017 playing schedule.
Francisco Mejia has proven himself to be quite the player to watch over the last season and a half as he has blossomed into a potent hitter while working his way through the Indians farm system. He put some of that prowess to the test last week, and with an incredible hitting effort in a five-game span, earned himself the praise of the Eastern League as the Akron catcher was named the Player of the Week.
A streaky May has turned into a very even month of June for the Akron RubberDucks, who won their last two games over the weekend to take their series in New Hampshire against the Fisher Cats, ending a six-game road trip.
At 5-5 in the month and 28-30 on the season, the ‘Ducks sit in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division, three and a half games in back of the Altoona Curve. They have been as close to even across the splits this season, putting up a 13-16 record at Canal Park, a 15-14 record on the road, and a 15-15 mark within the division.
Making his first start with the Akron RubberDucks since September 6, 2010, Corey Kluber worked five scoreless innings in a quick and efficient outing as he continued to work his way back from a lower back strain.
Out since May 3 after exiting a start in Detroit against the Tigers, the 31-year-old right-hander made easy work of the Bowie Baysox on Friday night, just one day after his planned rehab start with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers was rained out.
When the Akron RubberDucks have not been dodging rain drops, they have played with mixed results. To be fair, when six games have been rained out or suspended over the course of the first three weeks of a month, it may be hard to find a rhythm on the diamond.
Rains wiped away contests last weekend, washing out the rest of the ‘Ducks’ series after getting a pair of wins to open the five-game series from Binghamton. The team returned home soggy to Canal Park and performed well, taking two of three from the Richmond Flying Squirrels. After dropping a 3-1 decision in the opener last Monday, they put up 6-1 and 7-5 victories to take the series and inch within a game of the .500 mark. That would be as close to an even record as they would get as their tough series in Hartford against the Yard Goats ended in three consecutive losses to wrap up the weekend. Akron was dealt one-run losses on both Friday and Saturday before a 5-2 final in the finale.
The Akron RubberDucks roster received a big blow this week when the club placed outfielder Greg Allen and catcher Francisco Mejia on the 7-day disabled list with injuries. The moves will deprive the Akron lineup of a pair of its two more exciting players to watch.
The RubberDucks sat in the middle of the Eastern League Western Division pack heading into action on Saturday, winners of three straight to post a 15-17 record on the year, five games in back of the first place Altoona Curve while sitting in the fourth spot in the division.
Thomas Pannone turned 23 years old three weeks and one day into the current minor league baseball season. This past weekend he was given a late birthday gift by the Cleveland Indians organization, a promotion to AA Akron after only five starts decked out in the new blue and lime green duds of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats.
If Pannone was on your list of the most likely Hillcats player to get the first promotion to AA that would be a surprise. He is not ranked in the top 30 Indians prospects according to the 2017 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. They list Pannone as a left-handed reliever, just ahead of his new AA Akron teammates Luis Lugo and David Speer, and behind Hoby Milner, a Rule V pick since returned to the Phillies, and Edwin Escobar, a journeyman who never actually suited up for the Cleveland organization.