Posts By Danny Madden
There’s a new vibe to the Cleveland Indians this season, and it’s really not hard to miss. When most people are clamoring for more offense or praising the rotation for how great it is, and rightly so, there’s one aspect of the Indians’ makeup that has improved vastly and is a good part of the reason why the Indians are actually still in contention for a Wild Card spot in late September.
At the end of 2014, the Indians finished the season with 116 errors, and a DRS of -75. Both being dead last in their respective categories. It easy to see that the defense was beyond horrendous last year. The biggest contributors of the poor defense were not easy to miss either:
Unfortunately, the 2015 season for the Double-A RubberDucks has come to an end, as they will not be attending the Eastern League Playoffs this season. They ended up in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division, and 7 games behind division leading Bowie Baysox.
The RubberDucks finished their season with a record of 71-70.
After starting the month of August residing in second place in their division, the RubberDucks had hoped to maintain a strong enough record to jettison into playoff baseball, but that was not the case. Instead, they went 13-15, which included a 7 game losing streak at the end of August. These crucial games at the end of the season is what may have done in the RubberDucks, but this team may have become one of the more exciting teams to watch as the season went on.
It’s not every day that someone shows up late to a baseball game, and ends up creating one of the greatest moments in their career. For Bryson Myles, that day was August 25, 2015.
Myles didn’t show up to the Double-A Akron RubberDucks game when they were facing the Trenton Thunder until 6:20 for a 7:05 game. He went on later that night to hit for the cycle for the first time in his career.
There’s a new big guy in Akron.
For a team that had very little power production during the first month of the season, they have now been supplied with yet another big bat from High-A Lynchburg. This time it’s in the form of right handed hitting first basemen Nellie Rodriguez.
As we enter the middle of August, there’s only one thing on the minds of the Double-A Akron RubberDucks: Playoffs.
Currently the RubberDucks are sitting in second place in the Eastern League Western Division, 4.5 games behind league leading Bowie Baysox. The RubberDucks are currently sitting at a record of 65-56, and have won eight of their last ten games. They’re coming home to Akron on Tuesday to enter a long home stand which will span until the end of August, aside from one short road trip to Trenton.
After starting off the season with what seemed like little to no hope of entering the playoffs this season, the RubberDucks have played much better baseball in the second half of the season. There were plenty of guys on the team to start off who were going through their first trip through Double-A, along with some who had spent some time at this level before. Players like Tyler Naquin, Cody Anderson, Will Roberts, and Anthony Gallas were all returning members of the RubberDucks, who have thus seen promotions to either Triple-A Columbus, and even to the big league club. While these moves were huge to the RubberDucks because of the roles these players provided, they’ve since had some players come to Akron who can be partially credited to the reason the RubberDucks are even sniffing the playoffs this season.
It’s been a bumpy season for Carlos Moncrief.
After having a phenomenal spring training with the Tribe, and almost making the 25-man roster on opening day, Moncrief has been spending time down in Double-A Akron with the RubberDucks to try and turn his season around.
Moncrief, 26, was drafted by the Indians in the fourteenth round of the 2008 draft. He’s spent eight seasons now in the Indians minors, and has yet to make it to the show. What he’s been known for in his career is his cannon of an arm. He’s able to provide some stellar defense, along with some pop in his bat. His best season was in 2013 with Double-A Akron where he hit .284/.354/.470 with 17 home runs, 26 doubles, 7 triples, and 75 RBI. Along with 15 stolen bases, and 55 walks to 98 strike outs. Moncrief seemed like he was going to be the full package for the Tribe, and on the cusp of making it to the show.
He repeated his solid 2013 with a stellar 2014 in Triple-A Columbus. In ’14, he hit .271/.328/.431 with 12 home runs, 33 doubles, 4 triples, 63 RBI, and 8 stolen bases. With Moncrief starting to age out of the minors, it seemed like his chance to make it to Cleveland would be just beyond his grasp.
The Indians may have something special brewing at third base in Akron.
Third base may be one of the shallowest positions through the Indians minor league system. They currently have Giovanny Urshela manning the hot corner, with Lonnie Chisenhall also able to fill that role, as he has been there on and off for the last five seasons. Aside from the two of them, there are bunch of guys that don’t really stand out as someone to fill that role if either Chisenhall or Urshela went down. Well, that was until Yandy Diaz started popping up this year.
Canal Park may have been the most popular spot to be in Akron this week.
Not only was it the homecoming weekend for Indians top prospect Bradley Zimmer, but it was also the rehab weekend for Indians 1B/OF Nick Swisher. On top of all of that, CBS Sports was also at Zimmer’s homecoming game to televise the entire event.
“Ya, that was pretty cool. I know my parents and everyone back home were watching so I’m glad they got to be a part of it,” Zimmer said.
With the All Star break over and gone, the Akron RubberDucks are looking forward to September. While this team may not have looked exciting on paper, they’ve managed to put together a solid season thus far through 2015. Through the first half of 2015, the RubberDucks stood at a record of 47-43 and as of July 20, they’re sitting in third place of the Eastern League Western division with a record of 50-44. Going into the second half, and beyond, they’re sporting a higher than .500 record, and have real chances of seeing playing time once September rolls around.
Looking back at the first half, the RubberDucks have a lot they should be proud of, but there are definite parts of their game that need to be improved on.
As a pitcher is growing up, the first skill that they are taught is the ability of how to throw a strike. As time moves on, you begin to move away from just throwing a strike with a fastball, to throwing strikes with a variety of pitches. From there, you begin to take that knowledge and enhance your view of the batter at the plate, and find ways to get them to turn what should be called a ball outside, to a swinging strike by the batter. For some, that takes longer than others to adjust their mentality to this type of approach. For lefty Ryan Merritt, he’s starting to figure out why he needs to make this adjustment.
Merritt, 23, was drafted by the Indians in the sixteenth round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. He’s been in the Indians system since 2011 where he appeared in four games for Arizona rookie league. He’s spent parts of four season with short season Mahoning Valley, Low-A Lake County, High-A Carolina, and now Double-A Akron. In 2014, Merritt was awarded the Bob Feller award for being the best pitcher in the Indians minor league system. The year before this award was given to current big league starter Cody Anderson.
In 2014, he posted an outstanding ERA of 2.58, a record of 13-3 in 25 games. In those 25 games, he pitched a total of 160.1 innings, racked up 127 strikeouts to only 25 walks. Merritt is kind of a smaller guy. He build is unlike a lot of pitchers. Due to his size, he tends to stay around the 90’s for his fastball, but his ability to control his pitches is what makes him so effective. He’s got a very similar build to fellow Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin. Well, aside from the fact that Merritt toes from the left side of the rubber.
It’s been a big week for Bradley Zimmer.
After appearing in his first ever Future Games in Cincinnati over the weekend, he was told on Monday, July 13, that he has been promoted from High-A Lynchburg to Double-A Akron. The 22 year old University of San Francisco product will be taking his talents to Northeast Ohio.
Zimmer was the first round pick for the Indians in the 2014 draft. He split time in 2014 between Short Season Mahoning Valley and Low-A Lake County. In 48 games between the two teams, Zimmer hit .302/.400/.492 with 6 home runs, 12 doubles, 2 triples, along with 12 stolen bases. As impressive as 2014 was for the young outfielder, 2015 has shown vast improvement.
The Indians are well known for making some outstanding trades in the past. One of the more recent trades was when the Indians acquired Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles for reliever Esmil Rogers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Back in 2014, the Indians trading a struggling Vinnie Pestano for an also struggling Michael Clevinger from the Las Angeles Angels, and it looks like they may have from a diamond in the rough.
Clevinger, 24, was initially drafted by the Angels in fourth round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. He spent parts of 4 seasons in the Angels minor league system, and dominated at almost every level. He averaged a K/9 ratio of 9.18 while with the Angels. In 2014, prior to getting traded, he was posting an ERA of 5.37 with a record of 1-3 in 13 games with High-A Inland Empire.
The Indians found interest in Clevinger, when the Angels were seemingly giving up on him as he seemed to be lost on the mound. While Pestano had lost his job in Cleveland, the Angels wanted to give him a shot in their bullpen. Thus the Indians moved Pestano to acquire Clevinger, who was immediately sent to High-A Carolina for the remainder of the 2014 season.