The Carolina Mudcats pushed past the Wilmington Blue Rocks, 6-2, on Tuesday afternoon to complete a winning road trip and finish the month of July with an impressive 18-9 record. The Mudcats finished the first half with a 22-48 mark and began the second half losing seven of its first nine games. After its recent stretch, Carolina is 21-16 after the All-Star break and 2.5 games behind the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League Southern Division.
Pitcher Nick Pasquale personifies the improvement Carolina has made. The diminutive righty from Walnut Creek, Ca. was named the Indians’ Minor League Player of the Week on Tuesday for the week of July 22-28 when he won both of his starts and allowed only one run on right hits in 13 innings pitched. After losing his first five decisions since being promoted to Carolina from Lake County on May 13, Pasquale has posted a 3-1 record in July with a 2.78 ERA.
The Carolina Mudcats, once over 30 games under .500 for the season and now without its most dynamic player, are continuing to surge up the standings after the promotion of Francisco Lindor to Double-A Akron. The Cats take to the road for a seven games starting Thursday only three games behind first half winners Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League Southern Division.
With the split-season format, Carolina’s wretched first half can be voided out with a strong showing over the season’s final two months. Mudcats manager Dave Wallace, while stressing the bigger picture theme of player development, would also like to see his team reach the Carolina League playoffs by winning the second half title. Wallace accomplished that same feat last season when he guided Lake County in 2012 and the Cleveland organization has made it known that winning baseball starts from within.
The rigors of professional baseball require self-discipline. It is also helpful to have a winning background.
Tyler Naquin has both.
The Cleveland Indians’ first round draft pick of 2012 (15th selection overall) is excelling for the Mudcats as he did in college. The Spring, TX-native starred on the 2011 Texas A&M team that reached the College World Series. Naquin is putting what he has learned as an Aggie to good use in Zebulon.
“Playing at Texas A&M, reaching the College World Series, was great preparation for now,” Naquin said. “I have been a part of winning baseball, and I want to be a part of some more, for Carolina and for Cleveland.”
As the Carolina League enters its All-Star break, it is time to break down the Carolina Mudcats performance in the first half of the season.
Entering the season, the Mudcats were the team in Cleveland’s minor league system receiving the most attention. Based on the amount of top-level prospects in Zebulon, it was easy to see why. With the previous two first-round draft picks in Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin slated to begin the campaign in Carolina, the excitement at Five County Stadium was palpable.
It has been a season to forget on the field for the Carolina Mudcats. Entering Wednesday’s game with a dismal 21-43 record, the ‘Cats have floundered spectacularly to the shock of most observers. Carolina’s record belies not only the talent in Zebulon but also the individual performances from some of Cleveland’s top prospects.
The announcement of the Carolina League All-Star team only accentuates that surprise. Carolina has four players who will be making the trip to San Jose, CA to face the California League All-Stars on June 18, including both of the first round picks. Only the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Texas) have more All-Stars than the Mudcats.
After the first month of the Carolina League season, the 2013 Carolina Mudcats are starting to form an identity as a team that will slap the ball around, make spectacular plays, and produce many exciting prospects for the Cleveland Indians.
While they have not shown much power this season, the Mudcats are easily leading the Carolina League in batting. Carolina has a .274 team batting average through 23 games. Its nearest competitors are batting more than 20 points below the Cats.
To develop a winning mentality in major league baseball, it is best to begin with a formula for success in the minor leagues.
The Carolina Mudcats begin its second season as Class A affiliates of the Cleveland Indians with excitement over the influx of talent and hope that its relationship with its parent club will continue to blossom.
David Wallace is marching up the managerial ladder in the Cleveland organization. In his third season as skipper, Wallace has been annually promoted and begins his first year in Zebulon with a 112-102 record overall.
With a solid nucleus of players from last season’s Lake County Captains’ roster that made it to the second round of the Midwest League playoffs, the 2013 Mudcats will look to expand on the gains on the field and in player development.
It all starts with 2011 first round draft pick Francisco Lindor, the top-rated prospect in the Cleveland organization by Baseball America. Last season, the shortstop posted solid numbers in his first full year. Lindor batted .257 with six home runs and 42 RBIs along with 27 stolen bases in 2012 at Lake County.
Lindor, however, is not nearly satisfied.
Captains Use Strong Relief Performance From Pasquale to Take Game One; Captains 5, Hot Rods 4
By Mike Brandyberry
In a tale of two different contest wrapped into one nine-inning game, the Lake County Captains were able to win both. They’ll only be credited with one win in the standings, but they were able to take the first game of the best-of-three series by a score of 5-4 over the Bowling Green Hot Rods–Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
After the game began full of fireworks for the first four and one-half innings, the contest turned to a pitchers’ duel featuring Jake Partridge in relief for Bowling Green and Nick Pasquale for Lake County. Pasquale worked five quality innings in relief.
“In my mind, player of the game,” Captains Manager Dave Wallace said in regards to Pasquale’s effort. “The way he stepped up and battled through those last couple innings when he didn’t have much left in the tank was huge. It sets up our bullpen nice for tomorrow night and the rest of the series. I thought he did a great job.”
By Dave Roberts
On June 4, the Cleveland Indians made Tyler Naquin their number one draft pick, instantly vaulting him into the spotlight of Cleveland fans. With the new Major League Baseball deadline for signing prospects set at July 13, the Indians wasted no time in signing the youngster on June 15. This new deadline is already providing dividends for Naquin for after being assigned to Cleveland’s Single-A affiliate Mahoning Valley Scrappers he appeared in his first professional game on June 20, just five days after signing his contract.
The Spring, Texas native grew up with baseball and was innovative in his training. “Growing up, I hit a lot of rocks on Spring Creek with a broom stick probably for 10 years or so,” Naquin said. “Still try to do it when I have a shot.”
By Dave Roberts
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers will commence their 2012 season opener on tonight in Jamestown, New York, in the first of 76 games this season in search of becoming the New York Penn League Champs. It’s an honor the Scrappers achieved once in 2004. Before the season formally kicked off players and media met together at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio, on Saturday to introduce this year’s squad to the public.
Last year’s squad played to a 41-34 finish, good for third place in the Pinckney Division. The labeling of last year’s team with a third place finish can be quite deceiving as they finished just four games out of first with their second best finish in the last seven seasons. With four players returning from last season, intermixed with guys from Lake County and the Arizona League, and of course, a selection of 2012 draft picks the team looks to pick up where it left off last year.
Manager Ted Kubiak, who coached these same Scrappers for the 1999, 2000, and 2003 seasons, has seen some very good squads in his time but spoke of this year’s bunch as “Some of the best I’ve seen in my 20 years with this organization.”
Kubiak’s familiarity with the New York Penn League will no doubt lend a hand with the team’s progress, especially since he took the organization in its first two years of existence to the top of the Pinckney Division. He felt the team really impressed in Arizona but like any other would not go without some challenges. “You never know once the season starts,” Kubiak said. “Once the bell rings and they see people in the stands instead of cactus, things change.”