May Brings Continued Complacency for RubberDucks

As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. Well April was definitely a shower of struggles for the RubberDucks, which hoped to lead to a more confident and explosive team coming into May. Unfortunately, those showers did not bring the bountiful joys of what we all like to see in May. The RubberDucks ended the month of May with a record of 12-16, and are still searching to find some consistency.

The RubberDucks have yet to really have an explosive game where they really break loose, more or less on the offensive side of the diamond. They averaged about 4 runs a game in May, which can usually be good enough to win a game, but if you’re bullpen is blowing games, or your pitcher can’t make it to the sixth or seventh inning without giving up a bunch of runs, then you’re bound to lose a game now and then. That’s been the issue with the RubberDucks. Only eight times in May did they score more than five runs to allow their pitchers to have some breathing room.

The starting pitching staff was mostly average in May. Cody Anderson continued to shine in Akron as he posted an ERA of 2.25 in five games with a record of 1-1. He struck out 17 while only walking 5 in 24 innings of work. Even though his ERA has been fantastic this season, he’s still struggling to go deep into games. This puts more pressure on the bullpen, which allows more room for error on a bullpen that has been mostly solid, but still has some shaky spots. Luckily Jacob Lee, Josh Martin, Trey Haley, and Enosil Tejeda have been extremely dominant in the pen for the RubberDucks this year to backup their ace.

Shawn Morimando has also been a bright spot in the rotation thus far. He posted a 2.75 ERA in May in six games with a record of 3-2. He struck out 24, and walked 15 in 36 innings of work. He’s averaging six innings per start, but he’s walking almost three batters per start as well. His control is something that will need to be worked on going forward if he wishes to stay successful. This most disappointing member of the rotation thus far has been lefty Ryan Merrit. He put together a grisly 4.97 ERA in 5 games with a record of 1-1. He only struck out 14, but also only walked 5 guys in 29 innings. He’s a smaller guy, but he’s always had great control which allows him to work efficiently and deep into a game. While he may not be walking many batters, he hasn’t been able to go very deep into games and he’s serving up a lot of runs. After being named the best pitcher in the Indians minors last season, the highly touted lefty will need to turn things around in the second half of the season.

On the offensive side, there hasn’t been a whole lot to shout about. Top prospect Tyler Naquin continues to be dominant among the top of the order as he hit .301/.383/.409 with 1 home run, 7 RBI, and 4 stolen bases. After suffering the hand injury last year, it’s been crucial to see Naquin be successful this year, and he seems to be doing just fine. With the current log jam of outfielders in the Indians minors, he’ll be spending the majority of the season in Akron, but he’s spending his time wisely.

Along with Naquin, Todd Hankins posted a much better month in May than he did in April, and shortstop Erik Gonzalez continues to swing a hot bat as well. The player that has seemed the most impressive in May though has been outfielder Jordan Smith. He hit .293/.421/.402 with 20 walks, 19 strikeouts and 7 stolen bases! He also clobbered 6 doubles, but he was not able to record a single home run. Smith’s big frame makes it seem like he should be hitting with authority, but that’s not the type of player he actually is. After having a terrible 2014 campaign, it’s been fantastic to see him succeeding in Akron this year. He’s doing a phenomenal job of getting himself on base to allow the guys behind him to bring him in.

The area that the RubberDucks lack the most in is power and speed. Aside from Naquin, Hankins, Smith and Ollie Linton, not many players can steal a base. None of which have tremendous power. Anthony Gallas was supposed to be the power guy on the team, but he has been struggling mightily this season. This past month, he batted .227/.327/.389 with 2 home runs, 7 RBI, 11 walks and 23 strikeouts. Gallas is a guy that the team is leaning on to drive in runners with authority. He lacks in speed and strong defensive capabilities, so his best attribute is his power. When he’s not flashing his power, his struggles really show. Another player who is still trying to find consistency is converted catcher Tony Wolters.

Wolters hit .237/.303/.309 in May. He belted 1 home run and drove in 8 RBI while walking only 6 times and struck out 26 times. As one of the Indians top catching prospects, they’re expecting big things out of Wolters. He’s always been a guy who’s been able to get on base, but that hasn’t been this case thus far. He’s not taking his walks, and he’s striking out way too often. He’s been getting catching duty pretty much every day this season, and his defensive skills are fantastic, but he just hasn’t been able to find his swing. It’s been a struggle for him so far during his entire career in Double-A, but the Indians will continue to stick with him as his ceiling of growth is extremely high.

The most noteworthy promotion in May was the promotion of Adam Plutko from High-A Lynchburg. This season for Plutko has been incredible. During his time at High-A, he had an ERA of 1.27 in 8 games. He struck out 47, and only walked 5 guys, which is just unbelievable. After the promotion of Cody Anderson to Triple-A Columbus, Plutko is going to slide right into the rotation.

The RubberDucks are currently sitting in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division, but there is plenty of time for them to make up ground. The offense has been much better in May than in was in April, but it’ll need to continue to get better as they’re still not quite there with the competition quite yet. This team will need to find new ways to score, instead of relying on the next guy to hit a home run to bring them home. While this team doesn’t have anyone who over excels at one position, they a balanced team who are able to make things happen.

In order to win though, they’ll have to make those things happen. Time to bring it all together and start turning their luck around.

As of June 8, the RubberDucks are 3-3 in June. They’ll be starting a three game series against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at home starting June 10.

Photo: David Monseur/Akron RubberDucks

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