Naquin’s Hitting Streak Headlines Minor League Round-up

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.

Now living up to the moniker of a first round pick, Naquin might not be too far off from a Major League call up. Naquin possess an outstanding arm, good speed, should hit for a decent average but lacks ideal power for a corner outfielder and still strikes out a good amount. Ultimately, his bat plays out best for a centerfielder, which many scouts believed he would not be able to handle having only mainly playing right field in college for Texas A&M. The Indians felt differently and have had Naquin playing center since day one and he has not let them down showing he has enough speed, tracks balls well, takes good routes and adds another dimension as a centerfielder, his above average arm, which some feel is his best tool. Indians fans can only hope that Naquin’s success in the minors can only translate into a long and productive major league career.

The Columbus Clippers got back to .500 (33-33) after winning four of their six games this week. Despite the strong week the Clippers couldn’t gain any ground on the first place Indianapolis Indians who have won five in a row. The Clippers are in a tie for second place still six and a half games out of first.

The hitting star of the week is first baseman Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar returned from his second stint with the Indians on Sunday and only played in four of the team’s six games. What Aguilar did in just those four games was rather spectacular. Aguilar hit .375 with five runs scored, three homeruns, nine runs batted in and added two walks. Probably not a coincidence that the Clippers won three of the four games he participated in. Though Aguilar struggled in his brief time with the Indians this year he is likely to get another shot in 2014 and will definitely be a September call-up.

My pitching star of the week is right-hander starting pitcher Zach McAllister. McAllister made a rehab start this week for the Clippers working his way back from a low back strain. This was McAllister’s second rehab start as he had already made one appearance with the Lake County Captains with varying results. McAllister was much sharper with the Clippers, throwing six strong innings while just giving up three hits, two earned runs, two walks while striking out six in earning the win. Barring any setbacks McAllister’s next start should be back up with the Indians, tentatively scheduled for next Thursday against the Angels.

Akron looked nothing like a first place team that was 15 games above .500 before the week began. The RubberDucks played eight games this week winning just two of the eight, including losing the last four in a row. The RubberDucks had a four game lead over Richmond before the week began which has been dwindled down to just a half game. The RubberDucks gave up 57 runs in the eight games and in the last four games were outscored 41 to 15 by the Binghamton Mets.

Naquin is the obvious choice of the hitting star of the week. In addition to Naquin’s accomplishments, fellow first round pick Francisco Lindor should also be recognized. Lindor, the Indians top prospect, had been really struggling lately but seems to have turned it around. He hit .308 on the week with eight hits in 26 at bats. He scored seven runs had three runs batted in, four walks and three stolen bases.  Lindor, the youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League at just 20-years old, had been hitting above .300 most of the season before slumping as of late. Lindor’s average still sits at a respectable .279 and he is showing a great eye at the plate, walking 34 times in his 62 games. Lindor’s defense is Major League ready while the bat is pretty close. Indians fans should be excited as it won’t be long before Lindor makes his Major League debut.

The pitching star of the week, in a week where the team’s pitching really struggled, is right-handed starter Duke von Schamann. Von Schamann came over from the Dodgers farm system in a small trade for Indians left-handed reliever Colt Hynes. Von Schamann has pitched mostly for the RubberDucks this season but has made a couple of spot starts for Triple-A Columbus as well. Von Schamann went seven innings, giving up just four hits, two earned runs while walking three and striking out three in his start this week. Von Schamann has great control, only walking 12 batters in his 69 innings pitched this year. Von Schamann was a 15th round draft pick in the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft out of Texas Tech. Von Schamann’s father, Uwe, was a NFL kicker for the Miami Dolphins.

Outfielder Bryson Myles was placed on the disabled list with a torn right meniscus. Anthony Gallas, a Carolina Mudcats outfielder who was just named to the Carolina League All-Star team, was called up to the RubberDucks to fill Myles roster spot. Indians first baseman Nick Swisher played in two games for Akron this week and had three hits in his six at bats with two doubles and two runs batted in. Swisher was activated and rejoined the Indians in Boston on Thursday.

The Carolina Mudcats only played five games this week as they were rained out on both Wednesday and Thursday. The Mudcats were only able to take two of the five games and remain 15 games behind first place Myrtle Beach, seven games under .500 with a (28-35) record on the year.

The hitting star in the rain-shortened week is infielder Yandy Diaz. Diaz, a Cuban defector, was signed this off-season and is making his professional debut this season for the Mudcats. Diaz just returned from the disabled list last Thursday with a wrist injury he suffered on opening day. The 6’2, 195 lbs, 22-year old, hit .500 for the week with eight hits in just 16 at-bats that included going 5-for-5 in Sunday’s game against Winston-Salem. Diaz also scored three runs had one double, one run batted in and a walk. Diaz signed as a shortstop but has moved to third base thanks to that position being occupied by the Mudcats by top prospect Erik Gonzalez. While hardly a familiar name, even for the hardcore Indians fans, Diaz is an exciting young player with plenty of potential and a name to file away.

My pitching star of the week is left-handed starting pitcher, recently named to the Carolina League All-Star Game, Ryan Merritt. Merritt has been dominating the Carolina League this year leading the league with a 1.66 earned run average a 0.97 WHIP and tied for the most wins with six. Merritt’s 1.66 ERA is actually the sixth best in all of minor league baseball for pitchers with enough innings to qualify. Merritt made one appearance this week, going seven and two-third innings while giving up six hits, one earned run, one walk and five strikeouts. With Merritt pitching so well one would have to think a move possibly after the All-Star game up to the Double-A Akron RubberDucks could be in the near future.

Gallas and right-handed reliever Louis Head were both promoted to the Double-A Akron RubberDucks over the last week from High-A Carolina Mudcats.

The Lake County Captains won three of their seven games this week. On a positive note the Captains didn’t fall further behind the first place South Bend Silver Hawks. A negative, they started the week still in last place 14.5 games behind South Bend. With a (25-42) record the Captains can’t wait until the All-Star break and the first half of the season is over. In A-ball there is a first half of the season champion and then the standings reset after the All-Star break. After the break a new season begins and a second half champion will be crowned.

The Captains hitting star of the week is top prospect Clint Frazier. The 19-year old Frazier, the Indians first round draft pick in 2013, has found the jump to Low-A ball this season not so kind. Frazier’s .250 batting average this week isn’t terribly impressive but Frazier scored five runs added one double, one home run and five runs batted in, including a career high four runs batted in on Thursday night against South Bend. Frazier is blessed with elite bat speed but contact with that powerful swing has been a problem. Frazier has a whopping 69 strikeouts in just 52 games played. While the number of strikeouts is troubling Frazier is one of the youngest players in the Midwest League and just a year into professional ball from high school it is not unexpected. While it’s not time to be concerned, if Frazier hasn’t made any adjustments by the end of the year and continues to struggle, there will definitely be some concern if he can make enough contact to live up to the high expectations many have for him. Hopefully after the strong week this will be the beginning of the maturation of this high profile prospect.

There was a ton of options for the pitching star of the week. Right-handed pitcher Mitch Brown, five innings pitched, one hit, no earned runs, one walk and four strikeouts and right-handed closer Ben Heller four and two-thirds innings pitched, not allowing a hit, earned run or walk while striking out 10 and earning a save. While Brown and Heller’s weeks cannot be over looked, left-handed starting pitcher Luis Lugo put in a dominant performance in his one appearance this week. Lugo was spectacular, pitching six innings only giving up three hits, one earned run walking none and striking out 10 in earning his fourth win on the season. Lugo’s 10 strikeouts are a career high and he now has recorded 62 in just 51.1 innings pitched on the season. While not mentioned nearly as much as former Captain starting pitcher Adam Plutko, Lugo actually has a higher strikeout rate than the current Carolina Mudcat Plutko, who was dominant in his time with the Captains. Lugo while still raw has plenty of upside to be excited about.

Infielder Paul Hendrix is currently has a 10-game hit streak, hitting .289 over that span. Outfielder Logan Vick was recently demoted from the Carolina Mudcats back to the Captains, who he played for all of last year.

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer

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