From the start of the season, it was evident that the Lake County Captains were a team with potential. Their roster boasted names of top prospects, players drafted only last year, and players who have performed well at other levels throughout the system. However, as Indians fans know quite well, names don’t always mean performance will follow.
The Captains, though, are so far proving that wrong.
After winning their first game of the season on a walk off in extra innings, the Captains have kept up their winning ways and lead the Midwest League with an 18-9 record. They had a five-game win streak from April 11 through April 15, and have not lost more than two games in a row all season. What exactly is working for the young team?
For starters, their hitting has been a strong suit this season. The Captains began Wednesday leading the league with a team .276 batting average right now, and their .714 OPS is second behind South Bend’s .724. They have 112 RBI as a team, and a league-high 242 hits. The team has stolen 31 bases this season.
Leading the way for the Captains at the plate is Tyler Krieger, a 22-year-old from Laguna Hills, California, who was drafted in the fourth round last year out of Clemson University. This is Krieger’s first year of professional ball, and he is coming out strong. He has a team-high .393 batting average with 35 hits, four doubles, two triples, and 12 RBI. He is batting .414 with runners in scoring position and .500 with both runners at first and third and runners at second and third. His RBI single in the first inning of the Captains’ Tuesday, May 3, game extended Krieger’s hitting streak to 13 games, but it came to an end with a 0-for-4 at the plate on Wednesday. He also has eight stolen bases on the season.
Also with strong showings for the Captains are Francisco Mejia and Connor Marabell. Mejia, who was profiled last week, is in his second season with the Captains and it hitting .338. He has a team high 17 RBI in 20 games. Marabell is hitting .326 with eleven RBI.
On the pitching side, the Captains are not as dominating across the league, but are still faring well. In a total of 233 innings, Captains pitchers have struck out 227 batters and walked 72. They had a 1.23 WHIP as a team and a 3.32 ERA entering Wednesday night’s action. Their pitching staff has three shutouts and seven saves.
Matt Whitehouse, who was shut down for the 2015 season after his 2014 Tommy John surgery, has the lowest ERA on the team with an 0.68 in the seven games in which he has appeared. Matt Esparza, with a 4.62 ERA, has started in five games and, in 25 1/3 innings of work, struck out 32 batters so far this season. Starters Thomas Pannone and Sam Hentges have struck out 30 and 28 batters, respectively. Kieran Lovegrove, who was drafted in 2012, is making his first full season appearance with the Captains this year after injuries set him back early in his career. He has a 3.27 ERA in nine games, and has struck out 13 in eleven innings of work. He has two saves in three save opportunities.
Hopefully, with the weather warming up and better conditions ahead for the team (their first game of the season was played during an April snow shower), the Captains will keep up the winning momentum. The team has fared well in seasons past, and if their early successes are any indication, this season seems to be building up to be more of the same.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer