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:
After their losing skid hit 12 straight games last Thursday, the Akron RubberDucks got back into the win column with a three-game sweep of New Hampshire over the weekend. They took the first game of a road series in Reading before dropping a pair to lose the series on Wednesday and Thursday.
Akron remains in first place in the Eastern League’s Western Division with a 42-31 record. They are 23-12 at home, but 19-19 on the road. Despite the even mark on the road, only four teams in the 12-team Eastern League have performed better away from home this year.
The RubberDucks return home to host the Trenton Thunder this weekend, with four games scheduled in the next three days. They will close out the month of June with three games at Richmond before starting a four-game series in Erie against the SeaWolves next Thursday.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
At the opening of the 2015 baseball season Dace Kime was ranked as the #20 prospect in the Cleveland Indians system. The 23 year old 6’4” 200 lb. right-hander was drafted in the third round of 2013 out of the University of Louisville.
An avowed user of Twitter, Kime has the quintessential growth mindset, a hunger to learn, be it about the world around him, or the game which he so much enjoys.
“I like to learn, I enjoyed school and I’m going back to school even though I graduated this year.” he said. “I use Twitter as a medium to share my passion with people. When I tweet some weird stuff out, some people like it, some people don’t. In Frederick last week I had two physicists come up to me before the game. They were asking me stuff about black holes, about crazy things. It blew my mind, but it made my day.”
The roster is riddled with familiar names, but not many because they’ve seen the grass of Classic Park before.
This season, the Lake County Captains roster boasts more than a few names that those who follow the Indians organization will recognize as up-and-coming prospects within the system. There are a few repeat names from last season but, as a whole, the 2015 Captains are a new, young team.
The 2014 Captains made their way to the Midwest League championship series last year, coming up short in the final series against the Kane County Cougars. However, most of the players who took the Captains that far last season have earned much-coveted promotions to the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats, giving the Captains a new group of players with which to work.
If you had told me four months ago that I’d still be writing about the Lake County Captains this late in the year, I would have laughed. Yes, I’m an optimist, but the first half of Lake County’s season led even the most eternal of optimists to shake their heads. The team won 27 out of their first 70 games — that’s a .386 winning percentage. They were, to be blunt, bad.
They about broke-even at home, going 18-17 in the first half while playing on the new field at Classic Park, but could not pull it together on the road. As they explored the Midwest, the Captains went a paltry 9-26.
Yet, somehow, they turned it around. And here I am, in the middle of September, writing a recap about a season that ended on Saturday, the 13th, when that same under-.400 team played for the Midwest League Championship.
Nellie Rodriguez said it best. If you had told the Captains in April or May that they would be playing for the Midwest League Championship, he would have said, as would many others, “You’re joking.”
Yet, here they are. Despite playing for a crowd of only 807, the Captains brought energy to Classic Park Sunday night and swept the Fort Wayne TinCaps to advance to the Midwest League Championship series with a final score of 5-4.
The Captains started Dace Kime, who was 7-14 on the regular season with an overall 5.22 ERA. He was matched with Fort Wayne’s Ronald Herrera, who is 3-5 for the TinCaps this season with a 4.26 ERA. Herrera started the season with the Beloit Snappers, where he was 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts.
Three days, that’s all it took for the RubberDucks to lose arguably their three best players.
Wednesday June 25, Indians top prospect and current RubberDuck shortstop Francisco Lindor took a bad hop on the infield directly to his face and suffered a small non-displaced nasal fracture. The good news on Lindor is he should only be out for 7-10 days. Thursday June 26, second baseman Joe Wendle, suffered a right hamate fracture which will most likely require surgery and is a couple month process to return. The hamate bone is a small bone located in the wrist and it is usually fractured while a player is hitting. Friday June 27, Tyler Naquin, the top outfield prospect in the Indians farm system, was hit-by-pitch fracturing his right hand.
Akron RubberDucks second baseman was some kind of hot this past week. Joe Wendle went 11-21 for an obscene .524 average with three runs scored, three doubles, one triple, eight runs batted in and added a stolen base. Wendle got off to a slow start to the season having multiple hot and cold streaks. Over his last 26 games, however, Wendle has been consistently hot hitting .333 with eight extra base hits and 24 runs batted in during the time frame. Wendle leads the team with 41 runs batted in, one more than fellow prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor. Wendle has his batting average up to .264 with his recent surge but is still well below his career .307 minor league average coming into the season.
Wendle a sixth round pick in 2012 out of West Chester University has some uncanny similarities to a current Indians star Jason Kipnis. Both Kipnis and Wendle are listed at 5’11 190lbs, both bat left-handed and throw with their right hand. Take a look at the stats for both players in their first two years in the minor leagues.
This week the All-Star rosters were named for both the Carolina League and Midwest League. The Carolina Mudcats had three players named to the Carolina League team in LHP Ryan Merritt, SS Erik Gonzalez and OF Anthony Gallas. Merritt a left-handed starting pitcher is tied for the league lead in wins with fellow teammate Shawn Morimando with six. He leads the league with a 1.71 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. Shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who has missed sometime with a finger injury, is sixth in the league with a .309 batting average. Gonzalez has 15 extra base hits, 26 runs batted in along with eight stolen bases and is a tremendous defender. Outfielder Anthony Gallas got off to a tremendous start to the season but has cooled off some lately. Gallas leads the league in doubles with 21 in only 54 games. Gallas sports a .279 average with seven homeruns and 27 runs batted in.
Despite Lake County struggling and sitting in last place, the Captains have three players representing them in the Midwest League All-Star game in RHP Robbie Aviles, RHP Jordan Milbrath and C Eric Haase. Aviles has been in another world leading the league with a 1.45 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. His ERA is so good the next closest pitcher is more than a half a run higher at 2.02. Aviles control has been outstanding giving up only seven walks in 56 innings pitched. Jordan Milbrath has been a pleasant surprise as a 35th round draft pick in last year’s first year player draft. Milbrath has a 2.92 ERA and has only allowed 42 hits in his 52.1 innings pitched. Eric Haase is third in the league in homeruns with 10 despite only playing in 37 games on the year. Haase along with the 10 homeruns has four triples on the year helping him to lead the league with a .522 slugging percentage.
The traditional story of how a young kid starts playing baseball is when the kid reaches the right age their parents register him for Little League and the rest is history. For Scrappers righty Dace Kime, it was more a fortunate accident that started it all.
“I was three years old when I went and watched my brother’s t-ball team play, he was five years old at the time,” Kime said. “They were a player short so they invited me out there to go ahead and play with them and it pretty much went from there.”