Lake County Captains
The Midwest League announced on Tuesday the representatives for the mid-season Midwest League All-Star Classic on June 21 at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The list of players included four members of the Lake County Captains.
The Indians Class-A affiliate will send three position players and one pitcher to the Eastern Division squad, including their middle infield tandem, a starting pitcher, and his battery mate. Shortstop Willi Castro, second baseman Tyler Krieger, catcher Francisco Mejia, and pitcher Tom Pannone will be the Captains honorees in the 52nd annual midseason exhibition.
Matt Esparza’s big week in the center of the diamond for the Captains was recognized on Monday, as the Class-A Lake County starting pitcher was awarded the Pitcher of the Week Award by the Midwest League.
Esparza was the second member of the Cleveland Indians minor league system to be honored with a weekly award on Monday, as he joined High-A Lynchburg Hillcats shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, who was named the Carolina League Player of the Week for his play from May 30 to June 5.
The Lake County Captains have returned to their winning ways, now that they have not had to see the South Bend Cubs for a stretch.
They wrapped up a series split last Monday by taking the fourth game of their series with Fort Wayne by a 5-4 final. They followed by taking two of three from Bowling Green to end their homestand with a 4-3 record. Over the weekend, they captured another series win by taking each of the first two games against Great Lakes in Midland, Michigan, at Dow Diamond before the Loons ended their season-high tying six-game losing streak with a win in the 8-4 finale.
The Captains remain in third place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division, trailing South Bend by a game and a half and just a half-game behind second place West Michigan.
In other notes from the Captains’ log:
After a very difficult series against the South Bend Cubs last weekend, the Lake County Captains needed to right the ship and did briefly, sweeping a three-game set during the week with the Dayton Dragons before returning home and losing two of three to Fort Wayne, despite outscoring the TinCaps in the series, 19-16, so far.
The Indians’ Class-A affiliate heads into play this week with a 28-22 record, sporting identical 14-11 records at home and on the road. Their recent struggles, combined with nine wins in their last ten games by the Cubs, have knocked the Captains four games off of the pace in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division and into the third spot in the standings.
The Captains will aim for a split with the TinCaps in Monday’s 1:00 PM start, looking to avoid losing a third consecutive home series at Classic Park. They will then welcome in the Bowling Green Hot Rods for three games before a brief road trip to take on the Great Lakes Loons. They will follow that series with a return trip to Eastlake for another six-game homestand.
In other news in the Captains’ log:
Eastlake’s own Lake County Captains celebrated the four millionth fan in franchise history on Friday night. That fan, and the others in attendance, could not bring home a win, however, as the Class-A Indians affiliate fell 3-2 to the Fort Wayne TinCaps, despite a ninth inning rally effort.
It marked the start of a seven-game homestand for the Captains, who will host Fort Wayne through Monday before welcoming in the Bowling Green Hot Rods for a three-game set from Tuesday through Thursday.
A 6-4 loss to the South Bend Cubs on Sunday afternoon sent the Lake County Captains to a fourth straight defeat, a season high. It also dropped them to two games in back in the Midwest League Eastern Division in a rare stretch of the season that has not involved the Captains being in first place. Prior to falling out of first place with a loss on Saturday, Lake County had spent 40 straight days tied for or in sole possession of the top spot in the Eastern Division.
Lake County will look to avoid the four-game sweep on their home field at Classic Park on Monday. They will then hit the road for a brief three-game trip to Dayton to face the Dragons before returning home on Friday for a seven-game homestand with Fort Wayne and Bowling Green.
In other Captains news and notes:
With a 6-3 victory on Sunday afternoon, the Lake County Captains (23-14) split their series with the Bowling Green Hot Rods and reclaimed first place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. They head into Monday’s off day with a one-game lead over South Bend and a two-game edge over Bowling Green.
The Captains will return to the field at 6:30 PM ET on Tuesday night as they begin a seven-game home stand, starting with a three-game series against the Dayton Dragons. They will play four with South Bend over the weekend before heading to Dayton for three more against the Dragons.
In other Captains notes:
From the start of the season, it was evident that the Lake County Captains were a team with potential. Their roster boasted names of top prospects, players drafted only last year, and players who have performed well at other levels throughout the system. However, as Indians fans know quite well, names don’t always mean performance will follow.
The Captains, though, are so far proving that wrong.
It’s still early in the season, but the Lake County Captains have been off to a hot start and currently lead the Midwest League with a 13-7 record. No guarantees can be made, of course, as to what this will bring as the season continues, but it certainly can’t be ignored. The team is fifth in the Midwest League in hitting with a team .263 batting average, and their pitchers are second in the league with 180 strikeouts thus far.
While this early success can’t be pinned to one player, one player is emerging as a player to watch who can make a big impact this season.
For many years, the Indians have been criticized for having some sub-par draft classes, getting few regular contributors to the everyday lineup in Cleveland while the club needed to supplement the poor selections by trying to pick off young talent from other teams.
Recent drafts, especially in this second decade of the 21st century, have provided much more promise and Lake County’s Tyler Krieger is quickly establishing himself as a top prospect to watch down on the farm. On Saturday, the 22-year-old switch-hitting middle infielder had five hits in six at bats and the Captains tallied 19 hits and a dozen runs in a 12-0 shutout of the Lansing Lugnuts.
The 2016 baseball season is off to a hot start on all levels for the Cleveland Indians and their minor league affiliates, despite the early weather-related interferences provided by the environment. This week was a much different week than the first week of play, as the Tribe and all of their active farm clubs got in a full slate of work and looked good in the process.
The week was highlighted by several impressive individual pitching performances, hitting streaks at the plate and winning streaks in the standings, and even a player of the week award.
With so many games and names to know, here’s a breakdown of some of the things you may have missed.
Matt Whitehouse is 25 years old and in Low-A. For those who don’t know his story, this doesn’t seem like a smart career choice. Most of his teammates are born in 1994 or later. He’s the oldest on the roster, but for Whitehouse, this isn’t a problem.
This is his chance to reclaim his career.
It’s a chance Whitehouse almost didn’t get. Two years ago, during the 2014 season, the pitcher was on the mound in South Bend, Indiana, when the unthinkable happened. He threw his second pitch of his second inning of work.