As the Carolina League enters its All-Star break, it is time to break down the Carolina Mudcats performance in the first half of the season.
Entering the season, the Mudcats were the team in Cleveland’s minor league system receiving the most attention. Based on the amount of top-level prospects in Zebulon, it was easy to see why. With the previous two first-round draft picks in Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin slated to begin the campaign in Carolina, the excitement at Five County Stadium was palpable.
It has been a season to forget on the field for the Carolina Mudcats. Entering Wednesday’s game with a dismal 21-43 record, the ‘Cats have floundered spectacularly to the shock of most observers. Carolina’s record belies not only the talent in Zebulon but also the individual performances from some of Cleveland’s top prospects.
The announcement of the Carolina League All-Star team only accentuates that surprise. Carolina has four players who will be making the trip to San Jose, CA to face the California League All-Stars on June 18, including both of the first round picks. Only the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Texas) have more All-Stars than the Mudcats.
One June 3, Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera left the game early after limping his way down the baseline. The next day he was placed on the 15 day disabled list and the Indians called up injury fill-in Juan Diaz from Columbus. The injury seemed to call into question among fans not only his value on the field, but his value in the trade market. Many looked to the Indians Minor Leagues and asked who within the organization could replace Cabrera at short. The Tribe is thick with young talent at shortstop at the Minor League level, and among there is almost certainly a couple future Major League players. Three of the Indians top 20 prospects play short, and four of their top 20 prospects play the position. Among all those young players, six have made themselves worthy of note as possible future Indians.
Francisco Lindor is one of the most recognizable names that have come through the Indians system in the last decade. He has sparked hope and excitement in Cleveland’s future, and the hype is not just smoke and mirrors. Drafted 8th overall by the Tribe in 2011 at the age of 17, Lindor has climbed the ranks to debut this season for the Carolina Mudcats, the Indians High A affiliate. The now 19 year old Lindor currently boasts a .299 batting average, a .367 on-base percentage, and a .416 slugging percentage. He looks like the real deal, excelling both offensively and defensively at every level. His skills have earned him the Indians organization top prospect and Baseball America’s 28th best prospect in baseball. He is certainly on the fast track to the Major League level but is still at the very least a year away.
Things did not start this well for Carolina Mudcats starting pitcher Shawn Morimando this season.
After a home loss to Lynchburg on May 12 in which the lefthander allowed five earned runs in four innings, Morimando seemed to be a start or two away from being pulled from the rotation or, even worse, perhaps being demoted.
It requires an investment of time and patience to play minor league baseball. The investment becomes magnified when a player is willing to reboot and learn a new position in order to achieve his dream.
Carolina Mudcats catcher Tony Wolters is doing just that. The native of Vista, CA was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 2010 and began his career as a middle infielder.
Patience is not a problem for Carolina pitcher Cody Anderson.
The reliever-turned-starter is excelling in Zebulon for the Mudcats. Anderson is 4-2 with a 2.74 ERA in his eight starts in 2013. His ERA is ninth-best in the Carolina League and the right-hander has demonstrated impeccable control with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over 4-to-1.
For the native of Quincy, CA, it has been a steady and measured path to success on the baseball diamond.
Going into a situation surrounded by hype and expectation can be a daunting task for anyone. It can be especially challenging for a professional athlete that is yet to reach his 20th birthday.
So far, shortstop Francisco Lindor is pulling it off with aplomb.
The Cleveland Indians’ top rated prospect is having a sensational season so far for the Carolina Mudcats. On Monday, Lindor was named as the Carolina League Hitter of the Week. Wednesday, the Indians named him their Minor League Player of the Week. The native of Puerto Rico batted a smooth .500 between April 29 and May 5 (13-for-26) and also hit his first home run of the season.
After the first month of the Carolina League season, the 2013 Carolina Mudcats are starting to form an identity as a team that will slap the ball around, make spectacular plays, and produce many exciting prospects for the Cleveland Indians.
While they have not shown much power this season, the Mudcats are easily leading the Carolina League in batting. Carolina has a .274 team batting average through 23 games. Its nearest competitors are batting more than 20 points below the Cats.
Before the season started, there was quite a bit of hype within the Cleveland organization over the several top prospects that would be starting the season with the Tribe’s Class A affiliate Carolina Mudcats.
With high draft picks like Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin beginning the year in Zebulon, plenty of eyes were certain to be fixed on Five County Stadium over the summer.
One player that did not receive the fanfare of Cleveland’s higher profile minor league stars but is excelling and climbing up the ladder within the Indians’ organization with equal success is Mudcats’ infielder Jerrud Sabourin.
After climbing the minor league ladder as a catcher, Dave Wallace wasted no time jumping back in as manager to climb it again.
In his third season as manager in the Cleveland organization, Wallace is guiding the Carolina Mudcats in 2013. The Mudcats, stocked with some of Cleveland’s top talent this season, provide their skipper a chance to improve upon not only his player’s prospects but also his own.
The jump straight from a playing career to managing is not surprising. Wallace has an extensive sports background.
Born in Nashville, Tenn., Wallace grew up playing football and baseball and received a scholarship offer to play at home with the Vanderbilt. The native son played both sports at the private school, including receiving time at quarterback for the Commodores during the 1998 and 1999 seasons under head coach Woody Widenhofer.
To develop a winning mentality in major league baseball, it is best to begin with a formula for success in the minor leagues.
The Carolina Mudcats begin its second season as Class A affiliates of the Cleveland Indians with excitement over the influx of talent and hope that its relationship with its parent club will continue to blossom.
David Wallace is marching up the managerial ladder in the Cleveland organization. In his third season as skipper, Wallace has been annually promoted and begins his first year in Zebulon with a 112-102 record overall.
With a solid nucleus of players from last season’s Lake County Captains’ roster that made it to the second round of the Midwest League playoffs, the 2013 Mudcats will look to expand on the gains on the field and in player development.
It all starts with 2011 first round draft pick Francisco Lindor, the top-rated prospect in the Cleveland organization by Baseball America. Last season, the shortstop posted solid numbers in his first full year. Lindor batted .257 with six home runs and 42 RBIs along with 27 stolen bases in 2012 at Lake County.
Lindor, however, is not nearly satisfied.