This week the All-Star rosters were named for both the Carolina League and Midwest League. The Carolina Mudcats had three players named to the Carolina League team in LHP Ryan Merritt, SS Erik Gonzalez and OF Anthony Gallas. Merritt a left-handed starting pitcher is tied for the league lead in wins with fellow teammate Shawn Morimando with six. He leads the league with a 1.71 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. Shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who has missed sometime with a finger injury, is sixth in the league with a .309 batting average. Gonzalez has 15 extra base hits, 26 runs batted in along with eight stolen bases and is a tremendous defender. Outfielder Anthony Gallas got off to a tremendous start to the season but has cooled off some lately. Gallas leads the league in doubles with 21 in only 54 games. Gallas sports a .279 average with seven homeruns and 27 runs batted in.
Despite Lake County struggling and sitting in last place, the Captains have three players representing them in the Midwest League All-Star game in RHP Robbie Aviles, RHP Jordan Milbrath and C Eric Haase. Aviles has been in another world leading the league with a 1.45 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. His ERA is so good the next closest pitcher is more than a half a run higher at 2.02. Aviles control has been outstanding giving up only seven walks in 56 innings pitched. Jordan Milbrath has been a pleasant surprise as a 35th round draft pick in last year’s first year player draft. Milbrath has a 2.92 ERA and has only allowed 42 hits in his 52.1 innings pitched. Eric Haase is third in the league in homeruns with 10 despite only playing in 37 games on the year. Haase along with the 10 homeruns has four triples on the year helping him to lead the league with a .522 slugging percentage.
With All-Star games comes All-Star snubs. Lake County’s infielder Paul Hendrix might be the greatest snub I’ve seen in a while. Hendrix on the year is second in the league with a .327 batting average, third in OBP at .418, .543 slugging and .961 OPS and has added six homeruns as well.
The Columbus Clippers finished the week strong by winning their last three games in a row and winning five of the eight games played. The Clippers offense came alive this week outscoring their opponents 47-21 in the eight games. With their record sitting at 29-31, two games under .500, the Clippers are currently in third place in the International League Western division, six games behind the first place Indianapolis Indians.
The hitting star of the week is outfielder Tyler Holt. Since being promoted from Double-A Akron, all Holt has done is hit. Holt did not let up this week as he had 12 hits in 27 at-bats good for a .444 batting average, scoring six runs, two doubles, three runs batted in, five walks and two stolen bases. Holt’s .372 batting average in the 11 games he has played so far is pretty impressive, but coupled with his walks, his on base percentage is a ridiculous .471, almost reaching base 50% of the time. While he currently projects as a possible 4th outfielder, he is very valuable in that he can draw walks and can play all three outfield positions.
The pitching star of the week is right-hander starting pitcher Gabriel Arias. Arias, like Holt, began his season at Akron but was promoted because of their strong play. Arias made one appearance this week in which he went seven and one-third innings pitched, giving up six hits, one run, one walk, while striking out six batters in earning the win. The 6’2, 185 lbs. Arias, from the Dominican Republic, originally signed with the Phillies in 2007 as a non-drafted free agent. The 24-year old signed this winter as a minor league free agent with the Indians.
Right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar has struggled with the Indians and with Columbus since being demoted. Salazar was placed on the Triple-A disabled list this week with what’s being called a right triceps strain. Possibly the root problem of his early struggles Salazar is only projected to miss one or two starts as the injury is not considered too serious.
Akron just keeps plugging along, winning four of their six games this week. The RubberDucks by far have the best record of any of the Indians affiliates at 37-22. The RubberDucks are the only Indians affiliate as well with a winning record currently. The RubberDucks are four games ahead of the second place Richmond Flying Squirrels in the Eastern League.
The hitting star of the week is second baseman Joe Wendle. Wendle continued his hot hitting, which carried over from last week. During the week Wendle wen 8-for-27, for a .296 average, he scored five runs, with a triple, two homeruns and seven runs batted. On the season Wendle leads the team with six homeruns and is second in runs batted in with 31, trailing only top prospect Francisco Lindor who leads with 33. Wendle, who has some good pop in his bat for a middle infielder, has 55 hits on the year with 23 of them going for extra bases. Blocked by Jason Kipnis at the big league club, Wendle could become an intriguing player to use as trade bait in the future.
The pitching star of the week is left-handed pitcher Shawn Morimando. Having pitched for the Carolina Mudcats all year, Morimando was called up to make a spot start for the RubberDucks this week and he didn’t disappoint. In his first ever Double-A start Morimando was dominate with six shutout innings while only allowing five hits, one walk, striking out six and earning the victory. It was 21-year old Morimando’s best start of the year. Morimando while he only walked one batter in his start this week has struggled with control over his first three minor league seasons. Last year for the Carolina Mudcats, Morimando walked 76 batters in only 135 innings pitched. If Morimando can harness his control he is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on and should be able to find a permanent spot on the RubberDucks roster soon.
The Carolina Mudcats with an 11-20 record in May are glad to see the month come to an end. After dropping their first three games this week the team finished up on a positive note, winning three of their last four. With a 26-32 record on the year the Mudcats are 14 games behind the first place Myrtle Beach Pelicans and sit in third place in the Carolina League Southern Division.
The hitting star of the week is a familiar face for the Carolina Mudcats, shortstop prospect Erik Gonzalez. Gonzalez just came off the disabled list with a finger injury before the beginning of the week. The injury proved not to be too much of a hindrance as he hit .308 on the week with eight hits in 26 at-bats, with three doubles, a triple and six runs batted in. Gonzalez, since signing as a non-drafted free agent in August of 2008, was never considered much of a prospect until a breakout year in 2013. Gonzalez, known primarily for his defense, had a tremendous jump in his offensive production last year so much so the Indians added him to their 40-man roster, despite never playing a game above High-A Carolina. Gonzalez had an incredible 53 extra base hits out of 129 hits with 32 doubles, 12 triples and nine homeruns in 2013. Gonzalez is proving that his breakout last season is not a fluke with a strong start to his 2014 season currently hitting .309 with nine doubles, five triples, one homerun and 26 runs batted in through 43 games.
The pitching star of the week is right-handed starting pitcher, Michael Peoples. Peoples was selected in the 14th round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft out of Western Oklahoma State University. Peoples has struggled at times this year but seems to have turned things around in this last couple of starts. Peoples made two appearances this week, one start and one appearance out of the bullpen. Combined, Peoples threw seven and two thirds innings, allowing only four hits, two runs, three walks while striking out 10. Peoples on the year has averaged more than a strikeout per inning pitched striking out 49 batters in only 47 innings to date.
Don’t look now but the Lake County Captains put together a strong week winning four of their six games to bring their record to 22-38 on the year. Despite the good week the Captains are still sitting in the basement, 14.5 games out of first place. The Captains will be looking to continue their solid play this coming week starting with four games at home then finishing with three on the road.
The Captains hitting star of the week is second baseman Claudio Bautista. Standing at 5’11, 170 lbs., Bautista found his power stroke this week muscling up for three homeruns in his 24 plate appearances. Bautista’s week included eight hits in those 24 at-bats for a .333 average while adding a double, three homeruns, six runs batted in and two stolen bases. The 20-year old Bautista, who signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2011, struggled mightily to start the season hitting only .178 in his first 35 games. Since that time Bautista has been scorching, hitting .362 in his next 18 games including a 10-game hit streak. Bautista has been able to raise his batting average 62 points up to .240 on the year and has four of his five homeruns on the season during this hot streak.
The pitching star of the week is right-handed pitcher Dace Kime. A lot was expected out of Kime this season being the third round pick of the Indians in the 2013 First Year Player Draft out of the University of Louisville. So far it has been a disastrous start to the season for Kime, but not all his fault as the Captains defense has been atrocious. Kime currently sports a 0-8 record with a 6.08 earned run average on the season. Kime, however, had by far his best start of the year this last week despite taking another loss. Kime pitched 6 innings, gave up five hits, three runs but only one earned run, walked three and struck out a season high eight batters. Hopefully something finally clicked for Kime in this latest start and he can begin the turnaround of what has been a disappointing 2014 season.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer