With the All-Star break closing in this week, it’s time to take a moment to look over what has been nothing less than an awesome first half for the Akron RubberDucks. After changing the name from the Akron Aeros to the RubberDucks prior to this season, owner Ken Babby along with manager Dave Wallace were looking to bring some new life to this Akron team. Aside from all the new renovations that had been added to Canal Park, a team full of young competitors were experiencing their first time in Double-A baseball.
Going into this season, a good portion of the team had never played a game in Double-A baseball as they had spent their previous season with High-A Carolina. These players included Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor, converted catcher Tony Wolters, second basemen Joe Wendle, and outfielders Jordan Smith and Bryson Myles. Along with them came a plethora of fresh pitchers including Joseph Colon, Will Roberts, Gabriel Arias, and Duke von Schamann. Von Schammann did not start the season with the Indians organization, but was received from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the Colt Hynes trade. These guys joined the team along with some more promising players who had already spent some time up here including Tyler Naquin, Tyler Holt, Shawn Armstrong, Ronny Rodriguez, and Cody Anderson.
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 …
It hurts when your team loses one of the key members of the lineup. When you lose the top three hitters though, that can be detrimental to a team. The Akron RubberDucks are experiencing firsthand what this feels like. Currently, the RubberDucks have lost the 1, 2, and 3 hitters in their lineup. Those players being leadoff man Tyler Naquin, shortstop Francisco Lindor, and second basemen Joe Wendle.
All of these injuries happened within a span of three days.
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.
To say that Akron RubberDucks centerfielder Tyler Naquin has been hot at the plate lately would be an understatement. Scorching, sizzling, scalding, searing might be a better way to describe his bat of late. Naquin the Indians first pick from the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft hit .485 for the week with 16 hits in 33 at bats. Naquin scored eight runs, added a double, triple, two homeruns, four runs batted in and two stolen bases. Naquin is currently on a 15-game hitting streak, which he has maintained an unbelievable .453 average with 29 hits in 64 at bats.
Naquin’s hot hitting started before the 15-game streak, however. In his last 48 games Naquin has amassed 72 hits, leading to a .365 batting average while scoring 44 runs and adding 12 stolen bases as the leadoff hitter in the RubberDucks lineup. Interesting enough it took the first 16 games of the season for Naquin’s bat to get started. In his first 16 games he hit only .200 with 22 strikeouts, leading some to wonder if Naquin was indeed ready for the jump to Double-A to start the year. Naquin, sporting a robust .327 average on the season, has put that talk to rest and then some.
Staying focused and maintaining a consistent routine has been key to the recent success of center fielder Tyler Naquin
The 23-year old, Texas native has been one of the hottest hitters for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. In the month of April, Naquin hit a modest .262/.344/.727. Since the beginning of May though, he’s really turned it on and has hit an outstanding .302/.346/.752. Near the beginning of April, Naquin had struggled with getting on base as he rested around the Mendoza line for the first couple of weeks. Later that month though was when he started to get more comfortable at the plate.
Lake County Captains right handed pitcher Robbie Aviles continued his impressive season to date as he made two starts this past week earning one win while throwing 13 innings, allowing just six hits, three runs, zero walks and striking out seven. Aviles—originally projected to be a first or second round pick out of Suffern High School in Suffern, New York—partially tore the elbow ligament in his right arm a week before the draft, undergoing Tommy John Surgery. The Indians took a chance on Aviles by drafting him in the seventh round of the 2010 Draft, not knowing if he would come back as the first or second round pick he was projected to be. Aviles was able to make his professional debut near the end of the 2011 season after a long rehab. It had to be wondered if Aviles would ever return to pre-Tommy John form that the Indians had gambled on, as he would struggle sporting a 5.22 ERA in the two and a half years after making his professional debut. Still only 22 years of age, Aviles seems to finally be back, as his 2014 season has been nothing less than spectacular ranking second in the Midwest League in both ERA 1.65 and WHIP 0.85 along with only allowing 32 hits and five walks in 43.2 innings of work. Indians fans are hoping that Aviles has regained the form that had him so highly touted before his injury.
No way, Jose!
Jose Ramirez is back after making his debut with the Indians as a 20-year old September call-up last year where he impressed hitting .333 with four hits in 12 at bats scoring five runs. The 21-year old prospect has been called up to Cleveland with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis going on the disabled list with a right oblique injury. Ramirez has had an impressive start to the 2014 season at Triple-A Columbus. In 23 games at Columbus, Ramirez had a .319 average with 12 runs scored, 29 hits, three doubles, four homeruns, 17 runs batted in, eight stolen bases and eight walks.
Ramirez last season had only three homeruns in 482 at bats in the minor leagues. Already this season he has a career high of four homeruns in just 91 at bats. Power is not Ramirez’s game with his 5-foot, 9-inch, 165 lb. frame. He’s a tremendous contact hitter that offers above average speed and has great versatility being able to play many different positions on the field. Ramirez was mostly playing second base for Columbus this year but can also play shortstop, third base and even some outfield. Ramirez started the year by reaching base in the first 21 games that Columbus had played this season. It will be interesting to see how the Indians use him. Will he be the full time replacement for Kipnis at second while he’s out? Will he be in a time share of sorts at second base with Elliot Johnson and Mike Aviles? Finally will the Indians utilize him as a super utility man and play him all over the field? The kid just seems to have that it factor and will be exciting to watch.
There’s a lot of change coming to Akron, Ohio this spring. After Ken Babby purchased the club at the end of the 2012 season, he’s been making all kinds of changes to the club. Last year a new scoreboard was purchased to replace the much outdated previous one. This upcoming season, even more changes have been brought to the club. Over the last two seasons, there have been some debate on if the name should change from the Akron Aeros to a name that better represented the city of Akron. As of this spring, the formally known Akron Aeros will now be called the Akron RubberDucks. The name originates from the rich history of the rubber factories that started in Akron which inevitably led to the creation of tire factories such as Goodrich, Goodyear, and Firestone.
Along with all the new renovations that have happened to Canal Park, there have also been changes within the team as well. On the managerial side, Dave Wallace has been promoted as the new manager of the team. Previously, Wallace had spent some time as the manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2011 the Lake County Captains in 2012 and the Carolina Mudcats in 2013. Each of the years that top prospect Francisco Lindor was a part of the Indians minor league system, Wallace has been his manager. It has been huge for some of the guys who are on the current Akron RubberDucks roster that Wallace is in Akron this year. They credit him for their development due to his laid back and friendly attitude, while also knowing when they need to be serious.
“We’re comfortable with him, we know how he manages. We know how he goes about his business, and we know his expectations,” says catcher Tony Wolters.
The curtain goes up tonight on the 2014 season at 10:05 pm, locally, when the Cleveland Indians take the field against the Oakland Athletics from the Bay Area. The Indians have been clear they have Unfinished Business and while no one has said it in so many words, the organization seems dedicated to their second straight playoff appearance for the first time since 1998-99. Anything short of another playoff birth, and this time more than a nine-inning appearance, seems to make this chapter of Indians’ history a disappointment.
With the Detroit Tigers re-tooled and the Kansas City Royals looking to contend, the American League Central Division is as wide open as it has been in the last five seasons. On Opening Day, every team thinks if things break right, they’ll find themselves in contention in September with a chance to chase October.
The Indians are no different, but with a veteran team and new attitude continuing from last season, it could be October or bust. Here are five storylines that will likely be a major determining factor as to whether the Tribe plays past Game 162 or not.
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