Akron RubberDucks second baseman was some kind of hot this past week. Joe Wendle went 11-21 for an obscene .524 average with three runs scored, three doubles, one triple, eight runs batted in and added a stolen base. Wendle got off to a slow start to the season having multiple hot and cold streaks. Over his last 26 games, however, Wendle has been consistently hot hitting .333 with eight extra base hits and 24 runs batted in during the time frame. Wendle leads the team with 41 runs batted in, one more than fellow prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor. Wendle has his batting average up to .264 with his recent surge but is still well below his career .307 minor league average coming into the season.
Wendle a sixth round pick in 2012 out of West Chester University has some uncanny similarities to a current Indians star Jason Kipnis. Both Kipnis and Wendle are listed at 5’11 190lbs, both bat left-handed and throw with their right hand. Take a look at the stats for both players in their first two years in the minor leagues.
First Kipnis: 162 games, 629 At bats, 115 runs, 193 hits, 40 doubles, 11 triples, 17 home runs, 93 runs batted in, 12 stolen bases, 70 walks and a .307 average. Now Wendle: 168 games, 658 At bats, 105 runs, 202 hits, 47 doubles, 9 triples, 20 home runs, 101 runs batted in, 14 stolen bases, 59 walks and a .307 average.
Have the Indians found another Jason Kipnis in Wendle? While Wendle didn’t have the same pedigree as Kipnis coming out of college, with Kipnis coming from power house Arizona State University, Wendle has really opened some eyes with the Indians brass and nationally as well. After the 2013 season the Indians selected Wendle as one of a handful of players to attend the prospect riddled Arizona Fall League. Wendle also was chosen by the Indians to attend the big league camp for the 2014 spring training season. While Wendle still has a lot to prove before receiving a shot in the majors, especially can he hit the higher level pitching of Double and Triple-A, he’s someone for Indians fans to follow and see if his journey will continue to mirror that of Indians All-Star second baseman, Kipnis.
The Columbus Clippers started the week winning their first five games and extended a season-long winning streak to seven overall. The streak was snapped with a loss to Buffalo on Wednesday proceeded by losing both games of a doubleheader on Thursday to end the week with three straight losses. With the five win week the (38-35) Clippers moved into sole possession of second place gaining a game and a half on the first place Indianapolis Indians but still remain five games back.
The hitting star of the week is outfielder Tim Fedroff. Fedroff hit .444 with four runs scored, two doubles, four runs batted in and added five walks. Fedroff was drafted by the Indians in the seventh round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft out of the University of North Carolina. After a strong 2012 between Akron and Columbus in which he hit for a combined .316 average with 23 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 14 stolen bases Fedroff was added to the Indians 40-man roster. Looking like he was on the rise and might have a future in Cleveland Fedroff went on struggle mightily in 2013 in his first full year in Triple-A. Fedroff hit a mere .242 and his extra base hit total went from 45 in 2012 to 20 in 2013 even though he played in 13 more games that year. Fedroff was designated for assignment late in the 2013 season and was passed up by other prospects for a September call-up. Fedroff hasn’t been able to return to his old form so far in 2014 as well and at 27 years old looks like he may be tagged as a Four-A player.
Pitching star of the week is a familiar face, right-handed relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano. Pestano for the week pitched three and one-third innings, while allowing just one hit, zero runs, zero walks, striking out three and adding two saves. Pestano earned a spot on the Indians roster out of spring training but struggled mightily out of the gate and was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Pestano continued to struggle in his first 10 appearances for Columbus after being sent down. Over his next 18 appearances something must have clicked as Pestano threw 18.2 innings giving up just 11 hits, allowing just one run, walking only three while striking out 20 and earning five saves good for a 0.48 Earned Run Average. For his success Pestano is receiving his second chance with the Indians as he was called up Friday in his return to the majors.
Akron got back on track this week taking four of the six games they played. The (43-30) RubberDucks move back into first place in their division after blowing a huge lead they had over second place. With the strong play this week they have bumped that lead over Richmond back up to two and a half games.
Wendle is the obvious choice of the hitting star of the week for Akron. Another hot bat for the week to briefly touch on is recently promoted outfielder Anthony Gallas. Since moving up to Akron from Carolina Gallas has been outstanding. Gallas went 10-25 for a .400 average with three doubles, a home run and six runs batted in. Gallas was named to the All-Star team in the Carolina League with the Mudcats, but was not able to participate in the game because the call-up to Akron.
An easy choice for the pitching star of the week for Akron this week is right-handed starting pitcher Will Roberts was sensational in his two starts he made for the RubberDucks. Roberts, with 14 innings pitched allowed 10 hits, three runs, no walks, and 11 strikeouts, with a 1.93 earned run average. Roberts earned the victory in each start. Roberts is in his fourth season with the Indians organization and was a fifth round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Virginia. Roberts is currently enjoying his best season as a pro with a 7-7 record and a 3.67 earned run average. His seven wins already ties a career high.
The Carolina Mudcats ended the first half of their season on Sunday with a disappointing record, (29-38) tied for last place 14.5 games behind first place Myrtle Beach. The team had three days off Monday through Wednesday for the All-Star break in which shortstop Erik Gonzalez and left-handed starter Ryan Merritt participated in. The second half of the season started Thursday with all teams’ records starting fresh at 0-0. The Mudcats got off to a great start by winning in come-from-behind to win 11-10 on a Todd Hankins walk-off hit. Carolina sits at 1-0 heading into the weekend.
The hitting star of the week is first baseman Joe Sever. Sever was just taken off the disabled list during the prior week after being hurt on opening day. Sever has been a hit machine since returning from injury and this week was no exception. Sever in the shortened week went 10-17 for a .588 average while scoring three runs, with a double and two runs batted in. Sever went to Pepperdine University and was drafted by the Indians in the 21st round of the 2012 major league draft. Sever is the nephew of Cleveland’s favorite son NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
Pitching stars of the week consist of two Mudcats that had tremendous outings. Right-hander Adam Plutko and left-hander Shawn Morimando both have had impressive seasons to date and this week was no exception. Plutko threw six shutout innings allowing three hits, one walk while striking out seven in a no decision. Morimando earned a no-decision as going six shutout innings like Plutko, allowing just one hit, two walks and striking out six batters. The 21-year old Morimando and the 22-year old Plutko are two names Indians fans need to remember. While both are not top of the rotation starters they both have a shot of being a back of the rotation starters in a big league rotation.
Just like the Carolina Mudcats the Lake County Captains ended the first half of the season finishing in last place in their division at 27-43, 14 games in back of West Michigan. Their All-Star break was also Monday through Wednesday, and they had three players selected to the game in catcher Eric Haase, and right-handed pitchers Robbie Aviles and Jordan Milbraith.
The Captains came out and won their first game of the second half of the season and are 1-0 heading into the weekend.
The Captains hitting star of the week is now outfield prospect, Dorssys Paulino. Paulino recently made the position change from shortstop to the outfield and has slowly seen his offensive numbers pick up. Paulino in the shortened week hit for a .333 average, scoring four runs, one double, his first home run of the year and one run batted in. While Paulino’s prospect status has diminished a little from moving from a premium position at shortstop, he still has what is considered a plus bat. The Indians hope that the move will help him focus more on his offense and not stress about his struggles he was having on defensive end.
As was the same as last week’s column there was a ton of options again for the pitching star of the week. Both right-handed pitcher Mitch Brown and left-hander Luis Lugo were tremendous but right-hander Dace Kime was spectacular. Kime, whose struggles at the beginning of the year had been well documented, has been pitching well of late and it all came full circle this week. Kime made two appearances earning the win in both while throwing 11 and two-thirds innings, allowing just six hits, one run, three walks, striking out an impressive 17 batters and sporting a miniscule 0.78 Earned Run Average. Kime a third round draft pick in last year’s draft out of the University of Louisville had some pretty big expectations coming into the year by many. Hopefully Kime’s struggles early on were just a small blip of what many hope will be a quick rise through the Indians system.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers opened their season last Friday on the road and pulled out an exciting 10-9 win over Jamestown in which they almost blew a big lead. The rest of the week the team was up and down. The Scrappers ended up winning just three of the seven games played. Though very early on in the season at 3-4 they find themselves two games behind first place Batavia (5-2).
The first Mahoning Valley Scrapper hitter of the week is outfielder Jorge Martinez. Martinez actually started the season with the Lake County Captains but was sent back to extended spring training after struggling. Martinez has not brought his early season struggles with him to Mahoning Valley. Martinez, with six hits in 19 at-bats, good for a .316 average while scoring four runs, one double, one triple and two home runs and eight runs batted in. Martinez still only 21 has yet to deliver on the promise he showed as a teenager in the Arizona Rookie League.
The pitching star of the week for the Scrappers in right-hander Justin Garcia. Garcia pitched in relief this week throwing four and one-third shutout innings allowing three hits, walking one, zero strikeouts and earned one of the teams wins. Garcia, a 2013 38th round draft pick out Weatherford College in Texas, did not pitch after he was selected in last year’s draft. Garcia was making his professional debut during the Scrappers opening week of the 2014 season. While the 21-year old Garcia had a solid week only time will tell if the Indians found a diamond in the rough in such a late round pick.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer