Despite the hot start to their 2016 season, the Lynchburg Hillcats ran into a bump in their road this week, as they were swept in a series for the first time this season when they visited Salem for three. The three straight losses marked the longest losing streak of the year for the Indians’ Class-A Advanced affiliate, who is off to an impressive start while holding down the top spot in the Carolina League Northern Division.
Lynchburg began a four-game series in Carolina on Friday night to start the final half of a seven-game road trip. They will return home to Calvin Falwell Field for three games at City Stadium before heading back out on the road to Myrtle Beach next weekend.
In other Hillcats chatter:
ALLEN RACING AROUND THE BASES
One of the Indians prospects who does not get enough attention or credit, Lynchburg center fielder Greg Allen, is racing his way to a fast start in 2016. Through his first 31 games entering Friday’s action, the 23-year-old third-year pro was hitting .298 with a .418 on-base percentage. He has an even strikeout-to-walk ratio, with 19 of each on the year, and has also picked off 19 bases in 21 attempts this season.
Allen stole 46 bases in 2015 in 62 attempts and 30 of 35 in just 57 games in 2014. His numbers this season are third-best in the league, trailing Boston Red Sox prospect and Salem second baseman Yoan Moncada’s 21.
BRADLEY BLASTING AWAY
Third round pick of the same 2014 draft, Bobby Bradley continues to display the raw power that makes him a sight to see in the batter’s box in his third season in the Indians organization.
The 19-year-old first baseman, after hitting six doubles, six homers, and driving in 23 runs in 21 April games, has a pair of doubles, two homers, and a dozen driven in over his first ten May games entering action on Friday night. His eye at the plate has been far improved in the early action this month, as he has drawn 13 walks against eight strikeouts after walking just nine times in April versus 35 Ks.
His eight homers and 35 RBI for the season were both leading the Carolina League entering Friday’s action. His 43 strikeouts were second-highest in the league.
MURPHY A RUBBERDUCK NOW
Off to an impressive start in his first 26 games at the Class-A Advanced level with the Hillcats, outfielder Taylor Murphy has been reassigned to the Double-A Akron RubberDucks.
The former 18th round pick by the Indians in the 2014 draft is in his third professional season after 53 games at Mahoning Valley in 2014 and 115 games with Lake County in 2015. He hit .341 with a .422 OBP (fifth- and third-best in the Carolina League, respectively) as a member of the Hillcats preceding his promotion, hitting seven doubles, three homers, and 19 RBI. While working primarily as a right fielder this season, he also saw three games of work in center and one nine-inning effort at third base. He spent all of 2015 at the hot corner but made 32 errors in 97 games for an .865 fielding percentage, leading to his move back into the outfield.
CASTILLO AND POLANCO TOO
Shortstop Ivan Castillo beat Murphy to Akron by a day as he was assigned to the RubberDucks roster on Thursday. Lefty pitcher Anderson Polanco did the same when he joined the Akron club on Wednesday.
Castillo is getting an early tour of the farm system this season, as his stop in Akron is his third club in the first five weeks of the season. He began with the Hillcats but was assigned to Triple-A Columbus on May 6. He did not appear in any games for the Clippers before he was reassigned to Lynchburg on May 8. He has hit .174 with the Hillcats this season.
Polanco, the 23-year-old southpaw, was 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in six games (one start) for the Hillcats prior to his promotion. His final appearance for Lynchburg was a five-inning start in which he allowed one run on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
The Hillcats activated catcher Sicnarf Loopstok from the seven-day disabled list on Thursday.
The 23-year-old backstop out of Aruba and Western Oklahoma State College returned to the lineup that day and extended his on-base streak to eight games in an inconvenient manner – by means of his fourth hit by pitch of the season in just 12 games. Loopstok has reached base safely in ten of his 12 games this season heading into Friday and was hitting .250 for the year with a .362 OBP.
Photo: Lathan Goumas/The News and Advance