While Major League Baseball is down to its final games of the 2017 season, the Cleveland Indians are, unfortunately, working through the decisions facing the club as the Tribe prepares for the 2018 campaign.
While most players are resting up from what was an exciting, but ultimately disappointing season, a handful of minor leaguers are working their way through fall and winter league activities. Most notably in the mix are two of the club’s top two prospects, Francisco Mejia and Bobby Bradley, who are among eight players participating for the Indians in the Arizona Fall League. Mejia has put up a .400/.405/.571 slash through eight games while working to add third base to his list of defensive skills. He has hit a pair of homers and driven in five. Bradley has provided a little more in the power department, hitting two doubles, two homers, and a triple while driving in six, but the strikeouts have been plentiful for the big slugger, who has gone down on strikes 18 times in 44 at bats in eleven games.
The Indians have been well represented by their prospects in Arizona. Mejia will represent the Tribe and the Glendale Desert Dogs on the AFL West Fall Stars roster and will be joined by reliever Argenis Angulo (High-A Lynchburg) on the team. Bradley is part of the Final 2 vote for the team, as he will need to pull in more votes than Royals shortstop prospect Nicky Lopez and Rangers minor league outfielder Yanio Perez in order to participate in the All-Star Game.
Arizona Fall League play is under way as some of the top prospects around the minor league landscape pair up for competition in the annual six-team offseason league.
Hopeful prospects are a week into the six-week schedule as players work to hone their craft against a collection of some of the best up-and-coming names working their way through the levels of professional baseball. The Indians are well represented in their home-away-from-home in Arizona, where eight of their minor leaguers help make up the roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Those eight Indians prospects have teamed up with representatives from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates for league action in Glendale this year, after Cleveland players worked with different clubs while playing for the Mesa Solar Sox last October and November.
The Cleveland Indians did something they had never done in their 117-year history on Sunday, completing a four-game sweep over the Tigers in Detroit to win their eleventh consecutive game.
The Indians may be the team to beat in the American League as they won their eleventh game in a row, joining a nine-game streak from the end of July to make them one of the top teams in baseball in the second half. They were backed by a strong return to the mound by Josh Tomlin, who made his first start in over a month, and an incredible game by Jose Ramirez that was also a historic performance in the long history of Major League Baseball.
Game one of Friday’s doubleheader between Cleveland and Detroit came down to an RBI-single in the top of the ninth and a nail-biter finish with the bases loaded in the bottom of the frame in a 3-2 Indians win.
The Tribe made sure game two was nowhere near as close. Two runs in the second, three in the fourth, and five more in the sixth paced starter Mike Clevinger and three arms from the bullpen to a 10-0 victory in the nightcap from Comerica Park as the Indians (78-56) swept their second consecutive doubleheader and increased their winning streak to nine straight games, matching a season-high (July 21-29).
Six members total between the Akron RubberDucks and Columbus Clippers earned the honor of playing in their respective league’s All-Star Games this week and several took advantage of the opportunity on a big stage to shine.
The International League faced off with the Pacific Coast League on Wednesday night from Tacoma, Washington. A four-run fourth inning by the PCL All-Stars would prove to be too much for the IL squad to overcome in a 6-4 contest. Columbus’ Richie Shaffer was one of the players to best utilize his time as his performance for the losing squad earned him the league’s All-Star Game MVP award.
All-Star games are the theme of the week as one day after Major League Baseball hosted its annual Midsummer Classic and several days after top prospects united for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, both the International League and the Eastern League will play their respective games on Wednesday night.
The Indians’ top farm affiliate, the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, have just two representatives in Tacoma, Washington, for the Triple-A All-Star Game between the best of the International League and the Pacific Coast League. Richie Shaffer received the early invitation through voting, but middle infielder Eric Stamets was also asked to participate as a reserve.
The future was now on Sunday, even if most people missed it.
Major League Baseball has done an effective job of hiding the All-Star Futures Game, a collection of some of the best and brightest upcoming stars on the minor league stage. With a great opportunity to get the names of these young budding prospects out on a national level, the game was stashed away in the middle of the day Sunday while the big boys in the Majors wrapped up the first half of the 2017 playing schedule.
Francisco Mejia has proven himself to be quite the player to watch over the last season and a half as he has blossomed into a potent hitter while working his way through the Indians farm system. He put some of that prowess to the test last week, and with an incredible hitting effort in a five-game span, earned himself the praise of the Eastern League as the Akron catcher was named the Player of the Week.
A streaky May has turned into a very even month of June for the Akron RubberDucks, who won their last two games over the weekend to take their series in New Hampshire against the Fisher Cats, ending a six-game road trip.
At 5-5 in the month and 28-30 on the season, the ‘Ducks sit in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division, three and a half games in back of the Altoona Curve. They have been as close to even across the splits this season, putting up a 13-16 record at Canal Park, a 15-14 record on the road, and a 15-15 mark within the division.
When the Akron RubberDucks have not been dodging rain drops, they have played with mixed results. To be fair, when six games have been rained out or suspended over the course of the first three weeks of a month, it may be hard to find a rhythm on the diamond.
Rains wiped away contests last weekend, washing out the rest of the ‘Ducks’ series after getting a pair of wins to open the five-game series from Binghamton. The team returned home soggy to Canal Park and performed well, taking two of three from the Richmond Flying Squirrels. After dropping a 3-1 decision in the opener last Monday, they put up 6-1 and 7-5 victories to take the series and inch within a game of the .500 mark. That would be as close to an even record as they would get as their tough series in Hartford against the Yard Goats ended in three consecutive losses to wrap up the weekend. Akron was dealt one-run losses on both Friday and Saturday before a 5-2 final in the finale.
The Akron RubberDucks roster received a big blow this week when the club placed outfielder Greg Allen and catcher Francisco Mejia on the 7-day disabled list with injuries. The moves will deprive the Akron lineup of a pair of its two more exciting players to watch.
The RubberDucks sat in the middle of the Eastern League Western Division pack heading into action on Saturday, winners of three straight to post a 15-17 record on the year, five games in back of the first place Altoona Curve while sitting in the fourth spot in the division.
The Akron RubberDucks have put their five-game losing streak of a week ago to bed as they reeled off five straight wins through Monday night’s action to improve to 8-9 with the Eastern League’s longest active winning streak.
The ‘Ducks finished their two-city road trip with a pair of wins in Reading, including a resounding 12-2 victory in the finale last Wednesday. It capped off a series against the Fightin Phils in which Akron scored 24 runs and allowed 13 during the three-game set. They returned home for their second homestand of the season and swept the Altoona Curve in three straight over the weekend, including a pair of 3-2 victories on Friday and Saturday (including an 11th inning two-out walk-off single from Joe Sever on Saturday) before a more decisive 6-1 win on Sunday afternoon. They opened their three game series with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies with a 5-2 victory on Monday night, using a three-run sixth to break a 2-2 tie.