By Sean Tuttle
After the first week in May Tribe fans are experiencing a few unexpected realities. First, the Tribe is in first place. Most fans will say that was not expected, but with the moves the Detroit Tigers made this offseason, it is hard to argue that they are not still the favorite to take the Central. The second is the production of first baseman Matt LaPorta. Sure he is producing in Triple-A, but many scouts will tell you that the leap from Triple-A to the big leagues is a significant one. Minor league statistics do not necessarily transfer to major league success.
LaPorta is currently in his fourth season as a member of the Tribe. He was drafted in the first round by the Milwaukee Brewers, seventh overall, in the 2007 amateur draft. He became an Indian in July 2008 when he was traded with Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, and later Michael Brantley for starting pitcher, CC Sabathia.
The 27-year old has seen significant time at the major league level since his arrival in 2008. He made his debut on May 3, 2009 where he appeared in 52 games that season, and played only 20 games in Triple-A the next two seasons as opposed to 217 with the Tribe from 2010-2011. So why has LaPorta spent 28 games in Triple-A this season? The truth behind the matter is that his production hasn’t transferred to the show.
In 2009, after 93 games in Triple-A Columbus, LaPorta averaged .299 at the plate. He hit 17 home runs, 60 RBI’s, drew 60 walks, and accounted for 63 runs. After getting the call up that season, LaPorta mustered a .254 average with seven home runs, 21 RBI’s, 12 walks, and 29 runs in 52 games. You could make the argument that half the games equals half the production.
In 2010, LaPorta appeared in 18 games in Columbus. He averaged a .362 average, had five home runs, 16 RBI’s, 12 walks, and seven runs. In 110 games with the tribe, nearly a complete season, LaPorta averaged .221 at the plate had 12 home runs, 41 RBI’s, 46 walks, and produced 41 runs. He could get on base, and when he did it usually meant runs, but he struck out just as much as he accounted for a hit, 82-83 respectively.
Last season, in only two games with the Columbus Clippers, LaPorta seemed to dazzle with a .444 average at the plate had one home run and 3 RBI’s with four hits and only one strikeout. His time with the Indians was not so impressive. In 107 games, LaPorta averaged .247 at the plate, hit 11 home runs, knocked in 53 runners, and accounted for 34 runs. Again he totaled 87 hits and 87 strikeouts.
This year, LaPorta has been the news of Triple-A. In 28 games, he is averaging .356, has hit nine home runs, 21 RBI’s, 13 walks, 21 runs produced. He has 37 hits and 25 strikeouts. He is currently ranked 2nd in the International League in batting average, 1st in hits, 2nd in slugging percentage at .683, tied for 3rd in home runs, 3rd in total bases with 71, and tied for third in extra base-hits with 16.
Many are looking down at LaPorta, questioning the Indians about why he isn’t with the club, or when he will make his return. Should he be given the chance? Isn’t it three strikes and you’re out? The production doesn’t transfer over, This has been proven three years in a row. LaPorta now has to wait for his next moment to come, and it may not be under the best of circumstances. Injuries occur, production from other players slip, the best time would be when rosters expand in September and the Tribe is locking up the division.
The good news for the Tribe is that if LaPorta keeps producing in Triple-A, they may find a taker come trade deadline time. Don’t be surprised if LaPorta is wearing different colors in the second half of the season.
Minor League Round-Up
As of May 8th, the Columbus Clippers (AAA) are 17-14 overall, in 3rd place, and are two and a half games back. Outfielder, Ezequiel Carrera, is tied for first in triples with three. Right handed pitcher, Corey Kluber, leads the league in strikeouts with 45. The Clippers lead the league in batting with a .281 average.
The Akron Aeros (AA) are 21-8 overall, and hold a five game lead in first place. They currently have a four game winning streak. Outfielder, Jared Goedert, is first in the Eastern League in batting with a .375 average and OBP (.470). He has hit safely in 9-of-his-last-10 games. Akron leads the Eastern League in team ERA with a 2.22 mark through 29 games. Outfielder, Tim Fedroff, is 2nd in OBP (.439), and has 3 straight multi-hit games.
The Carolina Mudcats (A) are 16-14 overall, in third place, and are two and a half games back. They currently have a two game winning streak. Jesus Aguilar was named the Carolina League Player of the Week (.458 AVG, 11-24, 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI). He is currently sixth in the league in hitting .330 AVG., third in slugging pct. at .570, tied for second in extra base hits with 14 and fifth in total bases with 57. Shawn Armstrong hasn’t allowed a run in 16.1 innings of work over seven appearances. Dale Dickerson has made five straight appearances without allowing a run with right-handed batters hitting .135 over 37 at-bats against him. Fellow Outfielders Tyler Holt and Carlos Moncrief are T-1st in triples with three.
The Lake County Captains (A) are 13-18 overall, in seventh place, and are eight games back. Infielder, Francisco Lindor, leads the league in plate appearances with 132, is first in hits 40, fourth in total bases 60, tied for fifth in stolen bases with 11. Outfielder, Jordan Smith, is tied for second in the league in triples with four and outfielder Luigi Rodriguez is tied for fifth with three.
Toru Murata was placed on Carolina 7 day DL with a right back strain. Retroactive to 4/28.
Activated Jordan Cooper from Carolina 7 Day DL.
Placed Bryce Stowell on Akron 7 Day DL with a right Forearm Strain. Retroactive to 4/30.
Transfered Jose De La Torre from Columbus to Akron.
Jose Lopez was outrighted to Columbus.
Xavier De Los Santos was reinstated from 7-day DL and active in Lake County
Will Roberts was transferred to Carolina from Lake County
Cole Cook was transferred to Columbus from Lake County
Mason Radeke was transferred to Lake County from Akron
Ryan Spilborghs outright trade to Texas
Ben Copeland was transferred to Columbus from Akron
Loek Van Mil was acquired from LA Angels in an outright trade
Cole Cook was transferred to Lake County from Columbus
Paolo Espino was reinstated from 7-day DL and active in Akron
Patric Tolentino was transferred to Mahoning Valley from Lake County
Shawn Morimando was transferred to Lake County from AZ.
Zack McAllister was recalled to CLE ML roster from Columbus
Toru Murata was reinstated from 7-day DL and transferred to Akron
Loek Van Mil was activated in Akron
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