Not giving in to their surroundings, two players on the Lake County Captains’ roster remain untouched by the uncharacteristically cool temperatures of Cleveland throughout the past two weeks of July.
Despite playing in weather hardly reaching 80 degrees, Nellie Rodriguez and Clint Frazier have been getting hot as the summer wears on.
Rodriguez and Frazier have been named as the Indians Minor League Players of the Week during back-to-back weeks, with Rodriguez receiving the accolade for the week of July 7-13 and Frazier following for the week of the 14-20.
The performances of Frazier and Rodriguez could not have come at a better time for the Captains. Ending the first half of the season with the worst record in the Midwest League (27-43), the Captains needed to rally in the second half to even have a chance at contending for a playoff spot. Thanks to the second-half surges of players such as Rodriguez and Frazier, that playoff chase is possible. The Captains are currently at 15-15, tied with the Great Lakes Loons at four games back of league-leaders the South Bend Silver Hawks and West Michigan Whitecaps (both 19-11). With the development of Rodriguez and Frazier, the Captains have suddenly gained two players that will propel them into (hopefully) greater prominence in the second half.
Daniel Palka of the Silver Hawks is currently leading the Midwest League with 18 home runs, though Rodriguez, who leads the Captains with 16, is not far behind. Frazier currently has gone yard 10 times this season, putting him right in the middle of the pack on a league-wide level, and placing him tied with Paul Hendrix for third on the team.
Frazier is also second on the team in average, hitting .266 in 83 games and only trailing Hendrix, who is hitting .282 through 81 games. Rodriguez is hitting .251 in 93 games this season.
In the weeks in which they were respectively named Players of the Week, both Rodriguez and Frazier demonstrated the power they were rumored to possess in seasons — and even games — past. Rodriguez started last season in Lake County, playing in 47 games before he was sent down to Mahoning Valley. While with the Captains in 2013, Rodriguez hit a paltry .194 with one home run. However, upon his tenure with the Scrappers, he lead the team with 75 hits, nine home runs, 16 doubles, 37 RBI, 118 total bases, 29 walks, and a .818 OPS. He hit .287 in Mahoning Valley.
This season, Rodriguez, a 6’2” and 225 pound first baseman, seems to be adjusting to Single-A pitching and capitalizing on his size to hit with power when at the plate. Rodriguez was drafted in 2012 out of George Washington High School in New York, New York, the same high school attended by Manny Ramirez.
From the week of July 7-13, in which he received his POTW award, Rodriguez hit .360 with a double, three home runs, 10 RBI, and a 1.120 OPS. He scored six runs in six games. Rodriguez also embarked on a 15-game hitting streak from June 29 through July 16.
Frazier had an equally as impressive streak during his week of note. He is hitting .444 over an 11-game hitting streak, in which he has also hit four home runs, two doubles, one triple, and 11 RBI. He is triple-slashing .510/.800/1.310, with his OPS ranking second amongst all of Single-A ball.
Frazier joined the Captains in April and had an underwhelming start with the team. The 2013 first round draft selection by the Indians hit .224 in April and .248 in May, amassing only one home run during that stretch. In high school, the outfield phenom batted .485 with 17 home runs, 45 RBI, 56 runs scored, and a 1.134 OPS is 32 games during his senior season, thus placing high expectations on the 19 year-old. He headed into the 2014 season as the second-best prospect in the entire Indians organization, as ranked by Baseball America, and their annual Best Tools survey had Frazier ranked as the best power hitting prospect. However, once he settled in to the groove of professional baseball, Frazier certainly has begun to deliver in the form that was initially expected of him.
In his first 18 games of the month of July, Frazier is batting .352 and raised his average 23 points to its current .266. He had a five-hit game during Lake County’s 14-3 win over the Great Lakes Loons on July 11, in which he had his first career multi-home run game and finished with four runs scored.
Frazier has already hit five home runs in the month of July, and Rodriguez has already hit 6. As the Captains continue their pursuit of a playoff spot based on their second half performance, it will do them well to rely on the bats of Rodriguez and Frazier. In an organization in which offense is faltering, having two strong, powerful hitting prospects can only bode well for the future of their current team, and the teams on which they will play in future seasons.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer