Cleveland prospects getting a little extra time in the sun in the desert of Arizona saw their offseason activity come to a close last Thursday with the completion of the Arizona Fall League regular season schedule.
Tribe players teamed with those from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates to form the Glendale Desert Dogs roster. Glendale finished with a winning record at 16-14, but landed two games in back of the Peoria Javelinas (18-12) for the top mark in the AFL West Division.
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.
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.
The potential stars of the future united at Canal Park in Akron on Tuesday as members of the RubberDucks got settled into their new home after working out in Arizona over parts of the last two months.
The defending Eastern League champions will look to add a sixth title to the team’s mantel this season with a new skipper, some familiar faces, and an influx of new weapons with playoff experience who have advanced from High-A Lynchburg.
The quest for the championship begins Thursday night when the ‘Ducks host the Bowie BaySox.
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.
A three-run seventh inning proved to be the difference in the Mills Cup Championship Series on Wednesday as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans came back to defeat the Lynchburg Hillcats by a 5-3 final.
The win gave the Pelicans a 3-1 series win and their second consecutive Carolina League championship as they celebrated on the Hillcats’ home turf, Calvin Falwell Field at City Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Just two batters into the bottom of the first, the home team held the early lead. It would not last for long as the Hillcats twice on the night surrendered a slight one-run lead.
Against Pelicans starter Preston Morrison in the first, Tyler Krieger singled and scored on a double to center by Francisco Mejia. They would add a single by Yu-Cheng Chang and Anthony Santander was hit by a pitch, but Bobby Bradley went down swinging before a double play grounder from Dorssys Paulino.
A five-run fifth inning by the Pelicans was too much for the Lynchburg Hillcats to overcome as Myrtle Beach evened up the Mills Cup Championship Series with an 8-3 win on Sunday night.
Three straight Hillcats hits to start the game put the club in position for an early lead against Pelicans starter Jeremy Null. Tyler Krieger, Francisco Mejia, and Anthony Santander each reached on grounders before Bobby Bradley grounded into a double play. Krieger scored to give Lynchburg a 1-0 lead, but the twin killing derailed the early threat.
Myrtle Beach tied it up in the home half of the first against Lynchburg’s Brock Hartson. Charcer Burks walked to start the frame and advanced to second on a passed ball by Mejia. Donnie Dewees sacrificed him to third and after a walk by David Bote, freshly called up 19-year-old prospect Eloy Jimenez grounded to third to tie the game on the out at first.
Rains stopped the start of Game 1 of the Carolina League Northern Division Championship Series on Wednesday and the Potomac pitching staff stopped the Lynchburg offense as the Nationals defeated the Hillcats, 7-0, in the rain-shortened opener of the best-of-three series.
A delay of one hour and 13 minutes slowed the start of the Carolina League playoffs and both offenses were quiet through the first two innings, with the Hillcats getting a leadoff single from Tyler Krieger to start the night before he was erased on a double play ball by P-Nats starter Boone Whiting. Lynchburg would get just one more hit the rest of the night, a leadoff single from Connor Marabell to start the third.
Over the past several weeks, the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats have been a prominent feature in both Carolina League and national baseball news. Lynchburg’s on-field host, Kestrel Kerl, has awarded the team the moniker of “Thrillcats” and the team and the player continue to live up to this name.
All the excitement began with the continuation of what turned out to be a 50-game hitting streak for catcher Francisco Mejia. The streak began May 25 while Mejia was a member of the Low-A Lake County Captains and continued at Lynchburg under the watch of hitting coach Larry Day.
“You try to keep him focused on the things that matter and that is his daily preparation as both a hitter and a catcher,” said Day. “Rigo Beltran, our pitching coach, does a phenomenal job of educating him on the night’s starting pitcher so that he knows what he’ll be seeing, and what he’ll be calling as the catcher.”
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: