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.
The Lynchburg Hillcats (32-16; .667) started off another series strong with a 6-1 victory by Justus Sheffield over Salem to start this weekend’s four-game set against the Red Sox. It marks four consecutive series opening wins for the Hillcats, after a stretch of three straight series started with losses in the middle of May.
The Hillcats have continued their strong all-around play and remain the league leaders in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. They won their series earlier in the week with Wilmington and split a four-gamer in Myrtle Beach against the Pelicans last weekend. They have won four straight series since being swept in three straight in Salem from May 10 to 12.
Lynchburg will wrap up their series with three more against Salem before hitting the road for three games in Wilmington against the Blue Rocks.
In other Hillcats chatter:
Big things are going on for the Cleveland Indians’ High-A affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats. On Saturday, the club won its tenth straight game, knocking off the Frederick Keys (Baltimore Orioles affiliate) behind a 3-0 shutout.
With the win, the Hillcats improved to 14-3 on the season, the best mark across all minor league levels. Seven of those wins have come against the Keys, after sweeping a four-game set in Maryland last weekend. This weekend in a similar four-game set from Calvin Falwell Field in Lynchburg, the Hillcats have taken each of the first three games of the series.
After a slow start to last season, Cleveland minor leaguer Mitch Brown will look to rebound in 2016 and keep his name on the list of top Indians pitching prospects down on the farm as the club’s pitching depth continues to get stronger and stronger.
The 21-year-old right-hander finished up his fourth season in the organization in 2015 working at the High-A level with the Lynchburg Hillcats, posting a 9-12 record with a 5.15 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Those numbers were elevated from his previous showings and were marred by a rough dozen game stretch over two months from the end of April through the last days of June and included five consecutive decisions lost in one span.
He snapped out of it in July, ripping off five straight wins, six of seven, and seven of nine. He was a perfect 5-0 in July, working a 3.16 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in those five starts, and followed with a 2-2 August with a 3.10 ERA in five more trips to the mound. On July 24, 2015, he struck out a professional career-high nine Pelicans as Lynchburg defeated Myrtle Beach.
If someone described a draft pick as 6’1” 195 lbs. out of Rochester, Minnesota, most sports enthusiasts would assume you are talking about a hockey player. In this case the player is Mitch Brown, the Cleveland Indians 2nd round selection in 2012.
Rated the 14th best prospect in the Indians farm system, the 21-year old right-hander grew up with a love for the outdoors, not uncommon for those raised in the Northstar State.
“I love to fish and hunt,” says Brown. “I really like to spend time out on the lakes and when I’m home just hang out with my family.”
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.
Captains Clip Silver Hawks in Three Game Series; Captains 6, Silver Hawks 2
They looked like a new team on the field Wednesday night in Eastlake, and with good reason. The Lake County Captains, who finished last in the Midwest League, delivered a game filled with hard hits, good defense, and strong pitching, to earn a 6-2 win in the first of their three-game playoff series against the South Bend Silver Hawks. They were propelled to victory by some of the newest members of the Indians organization, including first-round draft picks of this year and last.
The Captains, 38-31 in the second half, faced the Silver Hawks, who finished the second half leading the Midwest League Eastern Division at 43-27. Mitch Brown (8-8, 3.31) was matched against South Bend’s Anthony Banda, who started the season with the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization and pitched for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers before being traded to the Diamondbacks and moving to the Silver Hawks in August. Banda was 6-6 with a 3.66 ERA with the Timber Rattlers and is 3-0 with the Silver Hawks, boasting a 1.54 ERA in six starts since the move. He is 9-6, 3.03 overall on the season.
While the Indians have four more weeks to chase their playoff spot, the minor league regular season came to a close yesterday and the Tribe has three teams qualifying for postseason. After a disappointing 2013, where no Indians farm team qualified for postseason, getting three teams into the playoffs is a vast improvement. All three teams will begin the playoff journeys on Wednesday evening.
The Columbus Clippers will begin their pursuit of the Governor’s Cup in the International League’s Triple-A playoffs on Wednesday night at Huntington Park at 7:05 p.m. Winners of the Western Division, Columbus enters the five game series against the Durham Bulls with the lesser record. Columbus will host the first two games on Wednesday and Thursday, before playing the final three necessary games in Durham on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
If the Midwest League season ended today, the Lake County Captains would make the Eastern Division Midwest League playoffs with a 24-24 record in the second half. Despite a paltry first half, the Captains have rallied to put together a much-improved second-half team.
Impressively, it’s not so much that the Captains have developed a much-improved roster in the second half – it’s that their usual roster has stepped up in the second half to deliver stronger and more effective results.
Among those players stepping up to the plate (pardon the pun) and coming into their own is catcher Richard Stock, who is in his second year with the Lake County Captains. Stock was called up from extended spring training in Arizona in May 2013 to join the Captains, where he stayed throughout the rest of last season, and found himself back on their Opening Day roster this past April.
It’s safe to say that Jobu was not suffering from a quarter-life crisis during the Lake County Captains’ Friday night salute to the 25th anniversary of the classic baseball film, “Major League.”
In fact, a crisis is the farthest thing from what happened at Classic Park last weekend.
Drawing the second-highest crowd of the season, with final attendance numbers coming in at 9,069 fans, the Lake County Captains joined with Cleveland sports’ greats and movie stars alike to pay homage to Cleveland sports’ history, to “Major League”, and to the characters that brought the film to life and have kept it treasured in the hearts of baseball and non-baseball fans alike for the past 25 years.
Mitch Brown has not had an easy season in Lake County. The starting pitcher has struggled through a number of appearances for the Captains, though, as of late, has found himself falling closer to his desired level of performance. Described as having a “power arm,” the young pitcher is using his improved fastball command to work through a number of other pitches this season which will, hopefully, lead him through a strong finish to the season.
Brown is currently 2-7 with a 4.16 ERA. He has thrown 72 strikeouts for the Captains and issued 43 walks on the season, though he says that the frequency at which that is happening has slowed down as the season progresses.
The Columbus Clippers will be represented by two players this year at the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game. Both first baseman Jesus Aguilar and catcher Roberto Perez were selected to be on the International League roster, and will be taking on …