Carolina Mudcats First Half: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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.

The Good

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.

Neither has disappointed. Lindor and Naquin both were named to the Carolina League All-Star team and made the trip to San Jose, CA.

The highly-touted pair will be joined on the All-Star team by teammates Jerrud Sabourin and Cody Anderson.

Sabourin, a first baseman that went undrafted out of Indiana University, posted solid numbers for the Mudcats in the first half, posting a .306 batting average. Naquin, Sabourin and Lindor are second, third and sixth in the Carolina League in batting respectively.

Anderson has been exceptional in 2013 while growing into the starter’s role after not pitching many innings in high school or community college in California. The lefthander has a 6-3 record on the campaign, with 69 strikeouts and only 19 walks in 75.1 innings pitched.

The Bad

A team that hits as well as Carolina should not be mired in last place. Simply put, middle relief pitching is killing the Mudcats.

Michael Goodnight and Owen Dew have struggled getting the Mudcats into late innings within striking range. Goodnight and Dew have ERAs of 5.71 and 6.00 respectively.

Francisco Valera, Grant Sides and Fabio Martinez have fared even worse. None of the three have an ERA better than 7.00 for the season.

The lack of quality middle relief has cost Carolina dearly and has wasted solid pitching performances from Anderson, fellow starter Shawn Morimando and closer Jeff Johnson. The Mudcats team ERA of 4.54 is worst in the Carolina League.

The Ugly

22-48. 18.5 games out of first place. Last place in the Sothern Division.

The facts are ugly.

The Mudcats, with four Carolina League All-Stars and the two of the top prospects in the Cleveland Indians farm system, had a .314 winning percentage in the first half.

In is astounding that a team with so much talent could finish so poorly. Carolina actually started the season with five wins in its first seven games. Since its hot start, the Mudcats have lost 46-of-63 games, with three losing streaks of at least five games.

The solace that Carolina manager Dave Wallace can take is that with the split-season playoff format, the Mudcats actually have a chance to play meaningful baseball in September despite the wretched first half.

While there is the consideration that nurturing young talent is the primary objective within a minor league system, the Cleveland Indians are looking to produce a winning organization from top-to-bottom. To facilitate a winning mentality, it must be taught in the early stages of player development along with being sought after in amateur drafts and trades or acquisitions.

With four Carolina League All-Stars, along with several other players earning accolades and call-ups, the Mudcats first half can be rated as successful based on the growth shown. Carolina certainly has future big leaguers on its team.

But there must also be tangible results on the diamond. To win less than a third of its games should not be accepted. The Carolina Mudcats will look to rebound in the second half. With the talent in Zebulon, a repeat of the first half, or even marginal improvement, should be considered unacceptable.

Photo by Nikolaus © 2013 Carolina Mudcats

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