The Lynchburg Hillcats took home some hardware last season, bringing home ten different weekly league awards during the 2015 season. After the first full season of play in 2016, they already have one to their credit.
Mike Papi was recognized on Monday as the Carolina League Player of the Week for games played from April 7 through 17 for an impressive stretch that put him near or at the top of the list of prospects in the league in several offensive categories.
At the time the award was announced, Papi was hitting .314 and was leading the Carolina League with four home runs, nine extra base hits, and an .800 slugging percentage. He is second in the league (trailing teammate Bobby Bradley) with nine RBI and is third with nine walks after leading the Carolina League with 81 in 2015.
Included in his results were three homers in a two-game span over the weekend. He hit his second homer of the season in the second inning of Saturday’s contest, giving the Hillcats an early lead. He homered again in the tenth inning to give Lynchburg a 5-4 lead in a game they would ultimately win, 8-5. He doubled and later homered in Sunday’s 8-1 win.
After games on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, his average for the season is at .302. He has hit safely in five straight and seven of his last eight. He has reached base safely via hit or walk in all 12 games of the season. He has also walked in ten of those 12 games this year, helping earn him a .456 on-base percentage after a dozen games.
“I had a really good spring training. I’m very confident and feel good where my swing’s at right now,” said Papi in a press release from the Hillcats organization on Monday. “I’ve been hitting the ball well and making some loud outs, which is good. I’m striking the ball well and putting together good, quality at bats.”
The 23-year-old first baseman and corner outfielder was drafted by the Indians with the 38th overall pick in the 2014 June Amateur draft out of the University of Virginia. After a somewhat disappointing .236 average with 34 doubles, two triples, four homers, and 45 RBI in 127 games for the Hillcats last season, he remained with the club to start the 2016 campaign.
The move appears to be working thus far.
“I’m always blessed to play this game. I’m always blessed with all of the opportunities it gives me,” said Papi. “It is a great feeling to have a multi-homer game, but at the end of the day, it’s more fun to come out with a win.”
Photo: Lee Luther Jr./The News and Advance