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.
The Akron RubberDucks returned home from their six-game road trip Thursday with a 2-3 record and their second postponed contest of the year as rains continued to wreak havoc on professional baseball games across the country.
After dropping the final two games of their three-game series with Binghamton last week to bring an end to their five-game winning streak, Akron (11-14) hit the road for Bowie and earned a series win. The offense was big, outscoring the Baysox 22-11 in the series, as they won a 6-1 final on Friday and an 11-2 decision on Sunday as the ‘Ducks bats erupted for five home runs to pace Julian Merryweather to his second win of the week. Monday’s opener in Binghamton was rained out before the club lost two in the middle of the week, dropping a pair of tough games by 5-4 and 1-0 finals.
The Eastern League announced on Monday that Akron starting pitcher Julian Merryweather had been selected as the league’s Pitcher of the Week for games played between April 24th and April 30th.
The 25-year-old right-hander was joined by Binghamton outfielder Champ Stuart in receiving the league’s weekly player of the week honors.
The Akron RubberDucks have put their five-game losing streak of a week ago to bed as they reeled off five straight wins through Monday night’s action to improve to 8-9 with the Eastern League’s longest active winning streak.
The ‘Ducks finished their two-city road trip with a pair of wins in Reading, including a resounding 12-2 victory in the finale last Wednesday. It capped off a series against the Fightin Phils in which Akron scored 24 runs and allowed 13 during the three-game set. They returned home for their second homestand of the season and swept the Altoona Curve in three straight over the weekend, including a pair of 3-2 victories on Friday and Saturday (including an 11th inning two-out walk-off single from Joe Sever on Saturday) before a more decisive 6-1 win on Sunday afternoon. They opened their three game series with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies with a 5-2 victory on Monday night, using a three-run sixth to break a 2-2 tie.
Weather played some havoc in the opening week of the season, forcing an early doubleheader. They won the first game of the double dip on April 9 and won the next day in the opener against the Trenton Thunder, but have struggled to find the win column since, dropping the final two against Trenton before hitting the road for three in Altoona. The first road trip of the season has started off on the wrong foot, as the club has lost one-run decisions in each of the first two games of the three-game set with the Curve.
The RubberDucks will finish their stay in Altoona on Saturday before taking Sunday off. They will play three in Reading against the Fightin Phils before coming home to host Altoona for three next Friday and Binghamton for three more before closing out April on the road.
The potential stars of the future united at Canal Park in Akron on Tuesday as members of the RubberDucks got settled into their new home after working out in Arizona over parts of the last two months.
The defending Eastern League champions will look to add a sixth title to the team’s mantel this season with a new skipper, some familiar faces, and an influx of new weapons with playoff experience who have advanced from High-A Lynchburg.
The quest for the championship begins Thursday night when the ‘Ducks host the Bowie BaySox.
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.