The Minor League schedule kicks off this week and young prospects are reporting to their respective homes to start the season.
The Akron RubberDucks announced the members of their Opening Day roster on Tuesday as players settled in to Canal Park before the club hits the road for Altoona for their season opening series with the Curve (Pirates affiliate) in Pennsylvania.
The ‘Ducks will look to improve upon a 69-71 third place finish last season. Following their four-game set against the Eastern League champions, they will head to Binghamton to face the Rumble Ponies (Mets) from April 9 to April 11 before returning home to Akron for a four-game series against the Trenton Thunder (Yankees), starting on Friday, April 13.
The Carolina League plays a split season schedule, with the winner of each half gaining entry into the postseason festivities. The Lynchburg club earned a spot by winning the first half in the Northern Division. Finishing out the season strong by sweeping its final three home games against the Potomac Nationals, and then traveling to Wilmington, Lynchburg completed a four-game sweep against the Blue Rocks to conclude the season and win the second half Northern Division crown. Overall, the team finished its season with a league best 87-52 record, posting the best winning percentage for a Lynchburg team since they were a Mets farm club in 1985.
Looking at the roster for that Mets club, the most recognized name is shortstop Kevin Elster. He would go on to play for the Mets’ 1986 World Series Championship before establishing himself as their everyday shortstop in 1988. This year’s edition of the Lynchburg team is similar in that few players are top draft picks or rising stars. Instead, the Hillcats play as a team in the truest sense of that word.
“That’s kind of how we are built,” said manager Tony Mansolino. “At the beginning of the year, coming here, we thought we’d have pretty good pitching. That’s held true. The rest of it we weren’t so sure, no big strengths team wise.”
High-A Lynchburg Hillcats starting pitcher Aaron Civale got started in baseball by following his older brother.
“I wanted to do everything he did, compete at what he did,” he said. “He played baseball, basketball, and soccer. I did the same.”
Despite giving it a remarkable run late, Mahoning Valley saw its Pinckney Division title hopes lost as the State College Spikes officially eliminated the Scrappers on Saturday night with their win over Auburn.
That the Scrappers were even in a position to be the last team eliminated in the division is astounding, given the horrible start to the short-season schedule for Mahoning Valley in 2016. At 35-33 after Monday night’s 6-5 win in extra innings, the Scrappers have done well to overcome that start and put together a promising season full of growth.
The Scrappers have two more games with Williamsport on the schedule to wrap up August before hosting State College in the final three home games of the season. They will finish the year on the road, playing two against West Virginia.
In other notes from the Scrappers’ scrapbook…
The only thing that could slow down the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the last week was Mother Nature, and she succeeded twice in doing so.
The Scrappers are playing their best baseball of the short season. They are 9-4 in August and riding a five-game winning streak. Coupled with a four-game streak earlier in the month, they have pulled into third place in the New York-Penn League’s Pinckney Division with a 27-27 record, nine games in back of State College and 12 games away from being eliminated from the division crown. The week was won by taking two games at home against Batavia before wet grounds cancelled the finale. After winning the opener against Williamsport on Friday, Saturday’s game was washed out before the Scrappers took a doubleheader on Sunday.
After the All-Star break this week, Mahoning Valley will travel to Batavia for four games in three days starting Wednesday before returning to Niles for three with State College starting Saturday night.
In other news and notes from the Scrappers’ Scrapbook:
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:
Less than a week since the conclusion of Major League Baseball’s 2016 June Amateur Draft, the Cleveland Indians have come to terms with several selections, including three of their top four picks.
On Friday, the Indians announced the signing of Will Benson, their first round selection taken with the 14th overall pick, to a professional contract. A first baseman/outfielder who turned 18 on Thursday, Benson was in Cleveland on Friday for a physical. The 6’6”, 220 pound left-handed hitter out of The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, hit .454 with a .566 on-base percentage, eleven doubles, eight homers, and 41 RBI during his senior season.