After a successful season on the field, two more members of the Cleveland Indians organization received recognition for their work throughout the 2016 season this week in separate announcements from Baseball America.
President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti was announced on Tuesday as Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year by the publication. Akron RubberDucks manager David Wallace was selected on Wednesday by Baseball America as its Minor League Manager of the Year.
There was a certain amount of faith that the Cleveland Indians were placing in outfielder Bradley Zimmer when they were willing to move top prospect Clint Frazier to the New York Yankees as part of the four player package used to acquire reliever Andrew Miller prior to the non-waivers trade deadline during the season.
Zimmer has rewarded that belief in him by putting together a good showing thus far during Arizona Fall League play.
While the focus right now may be on the Cleveland Indians’ Major League roster, things are going well throughout the Tribe’s farm system as well.
The importance on drafting strong and developing stronger is no more apparent than at the Major League level for the Indians. The current playoff roster is well-balanced between guys drafted/signed internationally and developed solely by the club (Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Cody Allen to name a few), others acquired via trades and developed on the farm (Corey Kluber, Carlos Santana, and other absentee names like Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley, and Yan Gomes), and other veterans still who were added via big trades or free agent moves (Andrew Miller, Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, and Coco Crisp).
The names that compose the roster now all worked their way up through the minor league system, whether in the Indians organization or elsewhere. The names of the future are doing the same and some standout performers were recognized this week when MILB.com announced its picks for Cleveland’s organizational All-Stars.
Indians outfield prospect Greg Allen has turned plenty of heads with his blazing speed on the base paths, but earlier this week, he was recognized for an underappreciated element of his game. On Monday, he was announced as one of just nine recipients of the 2016 Rawlings Gold Glove Award® for defensive excellence in the field.
Allen worked at two levels in the Indians system in his third season with the club after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft out of San Diego State University. He started the season at High-A Lynchburg, appearing in 92 games before a promotion on July 25 to Double-A Akron.
He worked exclusively this season as a center fielder for the Hillcats and RubberDucks and put together strong numbers in the field. In 795 1/3 innings during his time in the Carolina League, he made just a pair of errors on 239 total chances for a .992 fielding percentage. In addition to the numbers, he was a sight to see running around the outfield, often making the impossible plays possible.
The Akron RubberDucks are the 2016 Eastern League champions after sweeping the Trenton Thunder for a third straight game on Friday, claiming a 2-1 victory on the road to bring home the title.
The RubberDucks had one-out walks in the first two innings off of Sheffield, but could not score. A third walk on the night, this one leading off by Ivan Castillo, had much better results for Akron. Greg Allen bunted him over to second on a sacrifice and Castillo moved to third on a single by Eric Stamets. Jordan Smith put the ‘Ducks on the board with an RBI grounder to short, scoring Castillo to make it 1-0. With another runner standing at third and two outs, Nellie Rodriguez struck out looking to end the threat.
Home field was advantageous one last time for the RubberDucks on Wednesday as Akron used a three-run third inning to defeat the Trenton Thunder 4-2 in Game 2 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Rob Kaminsky started for the ‘Ducks and retired eight straight to start the night before two-out singles from Sebastian Valle and Tyler Wade. Kaminsky buckled down, striking out his fourth batter of the night as the scoreless game moved to the bottom of the third.
Four straight hits from Akron in the bottom half off of Will Carter opened up the game for the ‘Ducks. Singles from Greg Allen and Yan Gomes to start the frame set up a run-scoring opportunity for Jordan Smith, who got his second hit of the game with a double to right, scoring Allen for the early lead. Nellie Rodriguez followed with the game-changing hit, scoring a pair with a single to center to give Akron a 3-0 lead.
Akron’s Eric Haase was the hero of Sunday night, clinching an Eastern League Western Division Series win with a walk-off single in the tenth inning. He still had a little magic left in that bat of his on Tuesday as his grand slam in the fifth inning powered the RubberDucks over the visiting Trenton Thunder by a 6-3 final in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Trenton jumped on top with two runs in the first against Akron starter Michael Peoples. Tyler Wade singled to start the game but was picked off by Peoples at first. Dustin Fowler singled, but was erased on a force out at second on a grounder to short by Miguel Andujar. Nearly out of the inning, Mike Ford homered to right, scoring Andujar to make it a 2-0 Trenton lead.
Akron could not score in the second after getting back-to-back two-out walks from Haase and Eric Stamets, but they did not miss out on a scoring opportunity in the third as they tied the game against Trenton starter Ronald Herrera. Ivan Castillo and Greg Allen singled to start the inning, putting runners on the corners for Yan Gomes. The rehabbing Indians catcher singled on a liner to center to score Castillo and move the speedster Allen to third. Jordan Smith grounded into a force at second, but Allen scored on the play to make it a 2-2 game.
Eric Haase’s one-out RBI-single in the tenth inning ended a dominating pitching performance by both Akron and Altoona as the RubberDucks defeated the Curve 1-0 to win the Eastern League Western Division Championship on Sunday night.
An incredible pitcher’s duel between Altoona’s Brandon Waddell and Akron’s Nick Pasquale took place on the mound in Akron as the pitchers matched pitch for pitch, out for out, with the RubberDucks’ righty coming away with the slightly longer outing in the impressive display from both young arms.
Five runs batted in from left fielder Mike Papi were more than enough for the Akron RubberDucks as they defeated the Altoona Curve 9-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Eastern League Western Division Series from Canal Park on Friday night.
Akron took an early lead and doubled that score the following inning off of Altoona’s Nick Kingham. Nellie Rodriguez singled to left and went to second on a single from Papi. Kingham struck out Eric Haase swinging before walking Eric Stamets to load the bases. Mark Mathias came through with the big hit to put Akron on the board, driving home Rodriguez and Papi on the play. Mathias was thrown out trying to stretch it to a two-base hit and Ivan Castillo grounded out with a runner on third, but Akron was on top, 2-0.
Altoona jumped out to an early lead and used a strong pitching performance from starter Clay Holmes and three relievers to shut down Akron, 3-1, in Game 2 of the Eastern League Western Division Series on Thursday night.
The Curve had a 2-0 lead three batters into the bottom of the first inning against Akron starter Michael Peoples. Kevin Newman singled to center and scored on a double from Erich Weiss. He advanced to third on the throw to the plate, enabling him to come home himself on a sacrifice fly from Barrett Barnes to give Altoona a two-run advantage.
A six-run onslaught in the seventh inning, plus three more for good measure in the eighth, pushed the visiting Akron RubberDucks past the Altoona Curve, 12-8, in Game 1 of the Eastern League Western Division Series on Wednesday night.
Akron started fast as shortstop Eric Stamets homered with one out in the first off of right-hander Alex McRae to give the ‘Ducks the early 1-0 lead. It would not last for long, however, as Akron starter Julian Merryweather quickly loaded the bases, giving up back-to-back singles and a walk to start the bottom half of the frame. A wild pitch allowed one run to score before he locked in and struck out Edwin Espinal and Anderson Feliz swinging, but Jin-De Jhang (older brother of Merryweather’s former teammate in Lynchburg, Yu-Cheng Chang) doubled to left, scoring both base runners to give Altoona a 3-1 lead.
It’s playoff time in the minor leagues and three Indians affiliates will begin their chases for postseason crowns on Wednesday night.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers, Double-A Akron RubberDucks, and High-A Lynchburg Hillcats all punched tickets in their respective leagues behind solid 2016 seasons. The Clippers won the International League’s West Division with an eleven-game lead at year’s end. The RubberDucks clinched a playoff berth on Sunday and won the Western Division title outright on Monday. The Hillcats won the Carolina League Northern Division first-half crown and tied the Potomac Nationals for the division’s second-half title with a 39-31 finish.