Mahoning Valley Scrappers
Things may have finally turned a corner for the Cleveland Indians’ Mahoning Valley Scrappers affiliate, who endured nearly a month of tough games to start the New York-Penn League season.
After a 3-11 start to its season and a 3-7 mark to begin July, Mahoning Valley has gotten into the win column with much more regularity, posting an 8-3 record over its last eleven games, including a season-high four-game winning streak from July 12 through 15.
The Scrappers (14-21) are now nine games in back of the State College Spikes in the Pinckney Division, fifth out of six teams, but with a sizable lead over the cellar-dwelling Batavia Muckdogs. The club will look to continue taking series by series, as the Scrappers have won four straight sets, including a three-game matchup against Lowell to start their current six-game homestand. They will welcome in Connecticut on Sunday for three games before hitting the road for Aberdeen.
In other news and notes from the Scrappers’ scrapbook:
The Class-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers are starting to find the win column a little more consistently as the young club gels in Niles, Ohio.
Mahoning Valley took a tough 2-0 loss last Saturday with star pitcher Triston McKenzie on the mound before Juan Hillman led the club to a 6-4 win in the series finale with Staten Island on Sunday. After losing the opener at home against Tri-City, the Scrappers bounced back with 4-3 and 5-3 victories on Tuesday and Wednesday to win their first series of the season. They won Thursday’s opener at State College, 7-4, before a strong 8-5 win on Friday night.
The Scrappers are now 10-18 on the season and have won four consecutive games. Their season-high winning streak has helped to propel the club past the Batavia Muckdogs and out of the cellar of the New York-Penn League’s Pinckney Division. They are now in fifth place in the six-team league, trailing the first place State College Spikes by eight games.
In other notes from the Scrappers scrapbook:
The successful development of young ball players generally takes precedence over wins and losses in minor league baseball, especially at the lowest levels. That may be the focus for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who have won just five times in their first 21 games and are tied for the worst record in the short-season New York-Penn League.
On the road against State College last weekend, the Scrappers dropped the first two games of the series before winning a 4-0 finale on Sunday to avoid the sweep. They followed a similar recipe after returning home to host Vermont Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, dropping the first two before winning a 6-0 final to avoid the sweep again. After taking Thursday off, they started a three-game set in Staten Island against the Yankees, losing a 4-2 decision on a three-run fifth inning.
After finishing the series on Sunday, Mahoning Valley will return home from July 11 through 13 for three games at Eastwood Field in Niles when they host the Tri-City ValleyCats in three 7:05 PM ET starts.
More from the Scrappers’ scrapbook:
It’s been a rough start to the season for the young Mahoning Valley Scrappers (3-12), but they did pull out a pair of wins this week to give them three so far in New York-Penn League play.
They were 2-4 on their homestand to wrap up the month of June, losing two of three to Batavia and Auburn. Their 10-4 win last Saturday over Batavia was their second double-digit scoring game of the early season, a feat that they nearly matched in their 9-5 win over Auburn on Tuesday. They hit the road for a three-games series this week against State College (St. Louis Cardinals affiliate), but they lost the opener on Friday, 4-3.
More scraps from the Scrappers’ scrapbook:
Baseball has returned to Niles, Ohio, as the Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ short-season is now underway.
Debuting on Friday, June 17, the Scrappers dropped each of their first two games to open the Class-A season last Friday and Saturday at home against West Virginia. They hit the road and claimed their first win on Sunday in Auburn behind a 14-3 offensive explosion. Mahoning Valley lost the final two games of their series with Auburn before moving on to Williamsport, where they lost three heartbreakers, 1-0 in the first game and 2-1 in the final two.
The late loss on Friday, after the Crosscutters scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to take the final at bat lead, knocked the Scrappers to 1-7 on the season and left Mahoning Valley buried deep in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division.
In other scraps from the Scrappers:
Baseball returns to Niles, Ohio, this weekend as the Mahoning Valley Scrappers kick off the short-season New York-Penn League season against the West Virginia Black Bears at Eastwood Field on Friday night.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez is at the helm for the Scrappers and is joined by pitching coach Tighe Dickinson and former Indians farmhand (and published author) Justin Toole in his new capacity as the team’s hitting coach. Plenty of young and fresh faces will fill out the roster for Mahoning Valley as several look to begin or continue their paths towards potential Major League careers.
Life as a middle infield prospect in the Cleveland Indians farm system has to be a scary place for aspiring professional baseball players.
When the Indians selected junior second baseman Mark Mathias out of California Polytechnic State University in the third round of last year’s draft as their fourth overall selection, the 19-year-old junior had to know that his work was cut out for him with Jason Kipnis on his way to the second All-Star berth of his career.
While one of the better second basemen in the MLB is under contract through the 2019 season, with a team option for 2020, the final three years of Kipnis’ deal are set to pay him eight figures, including more than $13 million in 2018 and $14 million in 2019 before the $16.5 million team option hits. If changes to spending from the front office do not change by then, those substantial sums could lead to some movement by the club with several players locked in on large deals for those years, and Mathias could become an interesting name to know.
They grew up just about 12 miles apart on the San Diego Freeway, but now only Eastwood Field’s right-centerfield gap in Niles, Ohio separates two of the Indians most promising picks from the 2014 first-year player draft.
Bradley Zimmer of La Jolla, California, has been the regular centerfielder for the Class-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers this season, while Greg Allen of San Diego patrols the area just to the left of Zimmer in right field. Zimmer was the first pick by the Cleveland Indians in June’s draft—21st overall—while Allen was taken in the sixth round. Zimmer was hopeful for the chance to be taken in the first round, while Allen said it didn’t matter as long as he got there.
“It was definitely in my mind about having a chance to go in the first round,” Zimmer said. “It’s obviously an honor to get selected in the first round of the amateur-player draft.”
Adam Plutko was drafted last year in the 11th round of the First Year Player Draft out of UCLA. Unlike most players making their professional debut in the same year that they were picked, the Indians held Plutko out until the 2014 season as they were concerned over the amount of innings he had already thrown for the Bruins in the 2013 collegiate season.
In 2013 Plutko was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player, helping the Bruins win the College World Series. Plutko was on the same pitching staff with the Bruins as Pittsburgh Pirates starter, Gerrit Cole, and the Indians own, Trevor Bauer. Plutko actually came into college with what most scouts thought better stuff than both Cole and Bauer, with a fastball that sat around 95 m.p.h. as a freshman. Plutko saw his velocity drop down to around 90 m.p.h. over time for the Bruins and witnessed Cole and Bauer also become first round picks. As a junior in 2013, Plutko had become the workhorse and the ace of a staff in which many didn’t have high hopes for. While Plutko and the Bruins proved many wrong in 2013, it still didn’t help his draft status as the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series because he wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Indians.
The athletic Dominic DeMasi played two sports in college, football and baseball. He was successful in both sports during his college career, but eventually he was going to have to choose one of the other.
He chose baseball.
DeMasi, 21, is a big right-handed pitcher at 6 ‘3” 190 pounds. He was selected by the Indians in the 31st round of the First Year Player Draft. He opted to attend college out of high school instead of going straight to the draft. He attended Valdosta State University out of Valdosta, Georgia. During his time there he was able to refine his skills as a pitcher, and better prepare himself for playing professional baseball when his opportunity arose.
Nellie Rodriguez has been on an absolute tear lately. Rodriguez has been the hottest hitter out of all of the Indians minor league affiliates. Rodriguez for the week had 11 hits in 26 at bats hitting .423 while scoring eight runs, with two doubles, five homeruns and 12 runs batted in. Rodriguez is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak in which he scored 12 runs and added three doubles, six homeruns, 16 runs batted in with a .372 batting average. During the streak Rodriguez has seen his average go from the low .224 up to .249 and is now second in all of the Midwest League in homeruns with 15, which is also the most in all of the Indians minor leagues.
Rodriguez started out in Low-A ball for Lake County in as an 18-year old in 2013, which proved to be a tough task as he struggled out of the gate hitting only .194 with one homerun in 160 at bats. The Indians transferred him down to their Short-Season team the Mahoning Valley Scrappers during the middle of the season last year. Still only 18-years old, Rodriguez found success and regained his confidence, finishing the season leading the Scrappers in hits (75), home runs (9), doubles (16), RBIs (37), total bases (118), walks (29) and OPS (.818) and was named the New York-Penn League’s Player of the Week for July 22.This year as a 19-year old, Rodriguez found himself starting the 2014 season in a familiar place back in Lake County with the Captains. Rodriguez had a strong start to his 2014 season but has struggled since until the past week and a half.
It’s a long journey for any ball player to reach the Major Leagues, but for Kieran Lovegrove the journey is even a little longer.
Lovegrove was born in Johannesburg, South Africa—a region of the world that does not have the strongest baseball following or level of play. When Lovegrove was just five years old, his family moved he and his sister to California and his love of baseball was discovered and flourished.
“Things in South Africa were pretty rough at the time,” Lovegrove said. “My parents thought it would be a good time to get us out, my sister and I.”