It looked as though the Cleveland Indians would be quiet during the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday in the final activity from the annual Winter Meetings, but the club traded reliever Shawn Armstrong to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday afternoon for international bonus pool money, opening up one spot on the team’s 40-man roster. With a spot now available, the Indians could grab an unprotected player from one of the other 29 clubs.
Last December, the Indians did try to steal away a potential candidate for their 2017 roster when they selected left-handed minor leaguer Hoby Milner from the Philadelphia Phillies organization with the 27th pick (15th overall).
The annual Winter Meetings concluded on Thursday morning with the Rule 5 draft. In the Major League phase, the Cleveland Indians selected left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner from the Philadelphia Phillies organization with the 27th pick (15th overall) of the first round to fill one of two vacancies on the 40-man roster.
The Indians lost one player in the Major League portion of the draft and four more during the Triple-A portion. Outfield prospect Anthony Santander, last with the Indians’ High-A Lynchburg Hillcats affiliate, was selected by Baltimore in the second round of the draft with the Orioles’ second Major League selection. Cleveland also lost pitchers Trevor Frank (San Diego) and Jon Fitzsimmons (Arizona) early in the first round of the Triple-A portion of the draft and relievers Grant Sides (Arizona) and Nick Maronde (Miami) in the second round.
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.
For the second consecutive season as a Cleveland Indians’ affiliate, the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats reached the Carolina League playoffs. This year they took it one step further, winning the Northern Division playoff against the Potomac Nationals and advancing to the Mills Cup Championship before bowing to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, who would win their second consecutive Carolina League title.
The Hillcats’ success as a team was achieved through a combination of a strong offense and consistent pitching.
Baseball America released its minor league All-Star teams across all minor league levels on Monday and four prospects from the Cleveland Indians farm system claimed spots on the annual rosters.
The biggest winner was 19-year-old right-hander Triston McKenzie, who was not only named as one of the five starting pitchers selected to the roster, but was announced as the Baseball America Short-Season Pitcher of the Year for his 4-3 record in nine starts while with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Lynchburg’s bats were silenced again on Tuesday night as the Hillcats were blanked 7-0 by the visiting Myrtle Beach Pelicans in Game 3 of the best-of-five Mills Cup Championship.
Myrtle Beach used a pair of doubles from its first three batters to take an early 1-0 lead off of Lynchburg lefty Luis Lugo. Charcer Burks doubled to right and after a strikeout from Donnie Dewees, David Bote doubled to center to put the Pelicans on the board. He was erased at third by catcher Francisco Mejia to defuse the rally, and Cubs top prospect Eloy Jimenez grounded to short to end the inning.
With two on and nobody out in the top of the 12th inning, an error by Myrtle Beach allowed the go-ahead run to score for Lynchburg and the Hillcats held on in the bottom half of the frame to claim a 4-3 victory in the Mills Cup Championship Series opener on Saturday night.
The Hillcats never trailed, but let the Pelicans back into the game several times throughout the night before clinching the contest for good in extras
Lynchburg took a 1-0 lead in the second against Myrtle Beach starter Erick Leal. Three straight singles from Yu-Cheng Chang, Connor Marabell, and Yonathan Mendoza pushed Chang across with the first run of the game. Those names would all come up big much later on in the night.
It’s playoff time in the minor leagues and three Indians affiliates will begin their chases for postseason crowns on Wednesday night.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers, Double-A Akron RubberDucks, and High-A Lynchburg Hillcats all punched tickets in their respective leagues behind solid 2016 seasons. The Clippers won the International League’s West Division with an eleven-game lead at year’s end. The RubberDucks clinched a playoff berth on Sunday and won the Western Division title outright on Monday. The Hillcats won the Carolina League Northern Division first-half crown and tied the Potomac Nationals for the division’s second-half title with a 39-31 finish.
The Carolina League season is rapidly winding down for the Lynchburg Hillcats, with just seven games remaining on their regular season schedule. Their ticket to postseason baseball in September was punched with a first half Northern Division crown, but they are sitting atop the league again with a 37-26 record and a one-game lead over the Potomac Nationals after breaking a tie in the standings with a walk-off win on Sunday. Earlier in the week, they had completed a sweep over Wilmington before dropping the first two games of their three-game set with the P-Nats.
The Hillcats will take their final road trip of the regular season this week, heading to Myrtle Beach for three games with the Pelicans beginning Tuesday before returning home for four straight against the Salem Red Sox. The playoffs are scheduled to begin on September 7.
In other Hillcats chatter:
Lynchburg’s Bobby Bradley is your Carolina League Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season, as the third-year pro brought home the second consecutive league MVP award for the Hillcats.
The Carolina League also announced its 13-man postseason All-Star roster, nearly half of which was filled by Lynchburg players. In addition to Bradley, outfielders Greg Allen and Anthony Santander, second baseman Mark Mathias, shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, and catcher Francisco Mejia also were honored by the end-of-the-season accolades. Hillcats manager Mark Budzinski was named the league’s Manager of the Year.
The six players honored with postseason All-Star selections fell just one short of Lynchburg’s record for selections in a year, set in 2002 when the club had seven players picked.
The Lynchburg Hillcats have charged back into the top spot in the Carolina League’s Northern Division as the Potomac Nationals have fallen apart.
The Hillcats wrapped up play on Sunday with a 33-24 record in the second half of the season and are tied with the P-Nats, who had dropped seven straight games and nine of their last ten before winning Sunday. The Hillcats have already secured a trip to the postseason with their first half divisional crown, but are going for the clean sweep. The club went 4-3 over the last seven days, with a pair of rainouts last Monday and Wednesday while the club visited Frederick. They played a pair of doubleheaders with the Keys instead, splitting both days, before taking the first two games over the weekend from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The Pelicans won on Sunday, scoring two in the ninth to tie it and one more in the tenth to walk off.
In other Hillcats chatter:
The Lynchburg Hillcats may have already clinched a playoff berth with their strong first half, but it hasn’t stopped them from playing hard in pursuit of the second half crown as well. A 12-10 win on Saturday helped the club keep pace with the Potomac Nationals for the top spot in the Carolina League’s Northern Division, as both teams currently reside at 19-9 in the second half. The Hillcats have moved back into that top spot by winning ten of their last eleven games.
Last weekend, they swept the Wilmington Blue Rocks in four straight on the road to finish their road trip at 8-1 with one rainout. They returned home to host the Carolina Mudcats and won 3-0 on Thursday before splitting a doubleheader with a 15-1 win and a 10-3 loss. They won another slugfest on Saturday, 12-10. They will finish their series with Carolina on Sunday before hosting Wilmington for three, then will return to the road at Winston-Salem.
In other Hillcats chatter: