Akron’s Tom Named Eastern League’s Player of the Week

Akron’s Ka’ai Tom received an early birthday present from the Eastern League on Monday when he was announced as the league’s Player of the Week for games played between May 20 and May 26.

Tom, who turns 25 on Wednesday, put up a .450 week at the plate last week with a .542 on-base percentage to earn the league’s top weekly honor, doing so for the second time in his career (he previously took home the New York-Penn League’s honor in August of 2015).

The 24-year-old was out of the lineup for the ‘Ducks in their series finale in Richmond with the Flying Squirrels and enjoyed an off day Monday before starting his productive week at the plate in Akron’s home series against the Harrisburg Senators. Tom started in left field and went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk while scoring two of the RubberDucks’ seven runs on the day in a 7-3 win.

Tom was back on the bases twice while hitting sixth in manager Rouglas Odor’s lineup on Wednesday. He went 1-for-3 again with a single and a walk while striking out once. Eli Morgan earned his first career win at the Double-A level, firing six and two-thirds innings of shutout three hit baseball in the 6-1 win.

Tom closed out his series with the Senators with a big day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a single, two doubles, and a run batted in. Starting in right field for his first time in the series and batting at the top of the order, he helped the ‘Ducks complete their three-game sweep over the first place club in the Eastern League’s Western Division with a 6-2 win. He started the scoring for Akron with a leadoff double in the bottom of the first before moving to third on a single by Nellie Rodriguez. He scored on a double play ball off of the bat of Connor Marabell as the first of a pair of runs to give the RubberDucks an early lead. He stepped back to the plate in the next inning and replicated his performance from his first at bat, doubling with one out to drive in Jorma Rodriguez to give Akron a 3-0 lead. The ‘Ducks added two more in the third and Tom stepped back in to lead off the fourth and got his third straight hit of the day with a single to center. He was erased on a double play and he struck out in his final at bat of the game in the bottom of the sixth.

Akron welcomed Richmond to town on Friday for a four-game weekend wraparound set. Tom made five trips to the plate hitting seventh and playing right field. He went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, but he did draw a walk and had a sacrifice in the team’s 2-1 walk-off win in 13 innings.

Tom was back in the lineup on Saturday, but his attempts to carry the offense were not enough as Akron’s four-game winning streak came to an end in a 6-3 defeat. Tom played in center field and hit sixth in the lineup, going 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and two runs batted in. The RubberDucks were in a 4-0 hole when Tom stepped to the plate for the first time in the second inning, delivering a one-out single to right to put runners on the corners. Alexis Pantoja drove in the team’s first run of the day with a grounder to second. Tom cut the deficit to 4-2 with a leadoff homer in the fifth, his fifth of the year. Tom walked with two outs in the seventh, but was stranded at first. He drove in Akron’s final run in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 6-2 at the time, as he drove home Marabell with a single to center for his third hit of the day and his fourth time reaching base safely in the game.

Tom hit fifth and was back in center in Sunday’s contest with Richmond. He put the first run of the afternoon on the board with his sixth home run of the season with a shot to right in the second. He struck out in the fourth and grounded out to second in the seventh. He came up one final time in the ninth in a 3-2 game with a runner at first and one out, but he struck out looking on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play that derailed the RubberDucks’ last ditch efforts. His homer gave him hits in 16 of his last 19 games.

Tom reached safely in all six games that he played during the week with hits in five of those contests and a pair of three-hit games. He totaled nine hits and four walks in 25 total trips to the plate with two doubles, two homers, and four runs batted in.

Tom was selected by the Indians in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Kentucky and headed to Mahoning Valley that summer to begin his professional career. He spent 28 games with Lake County in 2016, hitting .323, and he worked in a career-high 126 games with Lynchburg in 2017. This is his second season in the Akron outfield, after posting a .245/.329/.339 slash with a career-high 12 homers in 121 games in 2018.

Erie’s Casey Mize, one of the top pitching prospects in the game for the Detroit Tigers, brought home the pitching award from the Eastern League.

Photo: David Monseur/Akron RubberDucks

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