With less than three weeks to go until the start of the Major League Baseball regular season schedule, the Indians have started to trim away at the long list of camp candidates in Goodyear, Arizona, looking for a job with Cleveland.
The Indians optioned infielders Willi Castro and Yu-Cheng Chang to Double-A Akron on Friday prior to the team’s action against the Colorado Rockies. Right-handed pitcher Cole Sulser, left-hander Robert Zarate, and first baseman Nellie Rodriguez were also re-assigned to minor league camp.
The first weekend of Cactus League play is in the books and the Cleveland Indians had, as expected, some good and some bad to show for it. After opening the spring training calendar with a home loss to the Cincinnati Reds, 6-4, on Friday from their shared complex at Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona, the Tribe notched its first win of the exhibition season with an 11-2 win on Saturday from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They returned home to Goodyear, this time playing as the visitors on Sunday, playing to a 2-2 tie against a split-squad Reds team.
Now, a look at how some of the temporary residents of Arizona fared in their first weekend back out in the sun…
Minor league infield prospect Willi Castro put together a career year on the farm for the Cleveland Indians and headed to the Dominican Republic to participate in offseason activity in the Dominican Winter League. But after a hot start there, the 20-year-old shortstop has seen his last game action for 2017 as he has been shut down with a left knee injury sustained in the competitive offseason league.
Castro injured the knee on a slide in the third inning of a game against Los Gigantes de Cibao on October 24. He returned to Cleveland to be examined by a team doctor the following Monday, with an announcement by the club a week later confirming that he had sprained the MCL in his knee.
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.
The Cleveland Indians’ season may be over and the World Series nearly half way complete, but competitive baseball continues to be played at spots across the globe.
Eight different Tribe prospects are in Glendale, Arizona, working in Arizona Fall League play. Four more have headed to South America to work in the Venezuelan Winter League, while nine more have taken up temporary residence in the Caribbean while participating in the Dominican Winter League.
Three different Tribe position prospects and six pitchers are scattered throughout the six-team Liga de Beisbol Dominicano.
The Lynchburg Hillcats put up four runs in the third and three more in the sixth to coast to a 7-1 victory to take the rubber match of the Carolina League’s Northern Division Championship Series from the Frederick Keys on Saturday night.
The victory gave the Hillcats a share of the Carolina League championship, an honor that they will share with the Down East Wood Ducks, who won their series on Friday to claim the Southern Division Championship Series.
Willi Castro is no longer the youngest player on his team for the first time in his career. That honor goes to Triston McKenzie. Castro, now 20 years old, earned a preseason prospect ranking of 15 in the Cleveland Indians farm system, according to Baseball America. He started the season slow, hitting just .250 in April. Since then, he has turned up his performance and been a key hitter in the Hillcats lineup.
From the Dominican Republic, he has lived in Florida and Puerto Rico. The Indians signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2013 when he was only 16 years old. After two seasons playing in the Arizona League, first as a second baseman and then as a shortstop, he finally moved up to affiliated ball in 2015.
The 2017 season will be the first time since 1998 that the Carolina League hosts its own cavalcade of stars. The last time the Carolina League held an All-Star game featuring the Northern Division stars versus the Southern Division stars, High-A Lynchburg pitcher Triston McKenzie was not even a year old and was still living in Brooklyn, New York. The relocation of two franchises from the California League to the Carolina League during the previous off-season followed the end of the cross-country California-Carolina League All-Star contest.
The Lynchburg Hillcats are once again well represented in the Carolina League’s All-Star Game, set to pit the North and South Divisions against one another on Tuesday, June 20.
With the first half winding down, the Hillcats are still in the race for the first half crown and some of the players to put them in that position were recognized with selections to the North squad for the exhibition event next week. Three pitchers and two position players were picked to fill out the roster initially, with one more late addition giving Lynchburg six total representatives.
After a couple of tough patches earlier in the month, the Lynchburg Hillcats have found that winning recipe in Carolina League play.
Winners of six of their last seven contests, the Indians’ High-A affiliate have charged back into the race in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. At 24-19, they trail the rival Salem Red Sox by three and a half games in the standings.
The Hillcats will play eleven of their next 15 games on the road, which could help them gain even more ground in the division. The ‘Cats have had a tough time at City Stadium this season, going just 11-13 on their home field, but are 13-6 on the road, a mark trailing only Salem’s 14-6 road record for best in High-A.
With the season winding down to its final two weeks, the Lake County Captains are staring down elimination from the postseason picture while working their way back to the .500 mark on the year.
The Captains (26-29) took both of their series over the last week, sweeping four straight from the West Michigan Whitecaps before taking two of three in Fort Wayne from the TinCaps. In winning six of their last seven and seven of their last ten, they have pulled their record within three games of reaching the even mark while tying the Great Lakes Loons for fourth place in the Midwest League Eastern Division. They will host five games in the next four days against Bowling Green before welcoming in Lansing for four home games over the weekend.
In other news and notes from the Captains’ log:
After ending July on a four-game losing streak, things have gotten a little bit better for the Lake County Captains over the course of the first week of the final full month of the Class-A regular season.
They wrapped up their series with West Michigan to start the month of August, splitting a pair after dropping the first two games of the four-game set. On the second leg of their road trip, they won the opener against Great Lakes, 8-2, but fell 12-3 and 5-2 in the final two games on Thursday and Friday. They came home to Eastlake on Saturday to start a four-game series with Dayton, losing the opener 7-2 before returning the favor by the same score on Sunday night. They clinched at least a series split with a 5-1 win on Monday.
The Captains (18-25), in seventh place in the eight-team Midwest League Eastern Division, will finish their series with Dayton on Tuesday night before returning to Great Lakes for four more beginning Thursday night. They will come back to Classic Park on Monday to host West Michigan before returning to the road once again.
In other notes from the Captains log: