Posts By Danny Madden
In order for someone to improve, they need to see their low points and find a way to improve from that. In 2014, Double-A Akron outfielder Jordan Smith discovered first-hand what it felt like to be overcome by the competition. After hitting .293/.370/.402 with High-A Carolina, he followed up in his first season with the Rubberducks hitting .248/.300/.331.
Smith, 24, was drafted by the Indians in the ninth round of the 2011 June Amateur Draft by the Cleveland Indians. Smith is a 6’4” and 235 pound outfielder who’s been primarily playing right field for the RubberDucks. Usually this position is reserved for a player who can smack a ton of home runs, or at least hit for decent power. While Smith has never really panned out to be the power hitter that everyone though he would be, he’s been consistent of keeping his ISO over .100. At High-A Carolina in 2013, he hit 29 doubles, 6 triples, and 5 home runs. Granted, the home run count is bound to be lower due to the Carolina league not being a high home run league, but then comparing those numbers to his first season in Akron, it doesn’t look so great. He hit 2 home runs, 24 doubles, and 4 triples.
The Indians have been lacking a strong lefty starting pitcher in the last few seasons. Scott Kazmir was a good backend starter in 2013, and T.J. House was excellent for half a season, and abysmal in 2015. Justus Sheffield has quite some time before he’ll be in Cleveland, along with recently drafted Brady Aiken. Luckily, the Indians may have a gem of a lefty developing in Double-A Akron this year in the likes of Shawn Morimando.
Morimando, 22, was drafted in the nineteenth round by the Indians in the June Amateur Draft in 2011. Since that time, he’s spent parts of five seasons in the Indians minor league system, and is currently in Double-A Akron where he is putting together a season to remember. In 2014, before being promoted to Akron, Morimando had been cruising in High-A Carolina where he had an ERA of 2.99, a WHIP of 1.11, and a record of 8-3 in 18 starts with 70 strikeouts to 35 walks. He then continued to roll in Akron where in 10 games for the RubberDucks he had an ERA of 3.83, a WHIP of 1.42, and a record of 2-6 with 38 strikeouts to 17 walks.
The beat goes on.
The new Akron right hander, Adam Plutko, is currently enjoying his mid-season promotion to Double-A from High-A Lynchburg. He’s riding a two game win streak, and hasn’t given up more than two runs in this three starts thus far. He currently has a 1.59 ERA, 12 strikeouts, 1 walk and a WHIP of .76 in 17 innings so far in Akron. Before his promotion, he had an ERA of 1.27, 47 strikeouts, 5 walks, and a .70 WHIP in 49.2 innings. What is so impressive about Plutko is his ability to control the game by attacking the zone and not limiting the amount of free passes he issues. In his two years with the Indians, he’s only issued 36 walks to his 203 strikeouts.
The Indians bullpen has been one of the biggest weaknesses since the start of the season, but it’s about to get big boost with the return of veteran Scott Atchison, who could be returning any day now. He was placed on the 15-Day Disabled list with a sprained left ankle injury on May 28.
Atchison, 39, was a core part of the bullpen last year when he appeared in 70 games for the Tribe and posted a 2.75 ERA. As most people who follow the Indians know, manager Terry Francona loves to use his core bullpen guys like Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski, and Cody Allen. Atchison fell right into that group, and he’s been missed in the bullpen since being placed on the disabled list. Prior to being put on the DL, he had an ERA of 5.74 in only 15.2 innings.
The injury that Atchison sustained happened almost a month before he was actually put on the DL, and he tried to play through the injury at first.
As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. Well April was definitely a shower of struggles for the RubberDucks, which hoped to lead to a more confident and explosive team coming into May. Unfortunately, those showers did not bring the bountiful joys of what we all like to see in May. The RubberDucks ended the month of May with a record of 12-16, and are still searching to find some consistency.
The RubberDucks have yet to really have an explosive game where they really break loose, more or less on the offensive side of the diamond. They averaged about 4 runs a game in May, which can usually be good enough to win a game, but if you’re bullpen is blowing games, or your pitcher can’t make it to the sixth or seventh inning without giving up a bunch of runs, then you’re bound to lose a game now and then. That’s been the issue with the RubberDucks. Only eight times in May did they score more than five runs to allow their pitchers to have some breathing room.
Anthony Gallas is living out his dream of playing for his hometown team. Growing up in Strongsville, Ohio, Gallas was able to watch the Cleveland Indians ever since he was a kid. Now, he’s in Akron, and part of the team that he grew up with, and is starting to settle in at the top part of the RubberDucks lineup.
Gallas, 27, was signed by the Indians as a non-drafted free agent in 2010. He went to high school in Strongsville, OH and then also attended college at Kent State University in Kent, OH. In 2014, he had a breakout season in High-A Carolina where in 58 games he hit .276/.331/.480 with 8 home runs, 21 doubles, and drove in 31 RBI. He was later promoted to Double-A Akron where he become one of the biggest offensive producers on the team. In 73 games with the RubberDucks he hit .293/.337/.536 and clobbered 16 homers, 16 doubles, 2 triples, and drove in 49 RBI. After losing Giovany Urshela and Francisco Lindor to promotions to Triple-A Columbus, Gallas became one of the most important bats in that lineup.
Rock bottom is defined as “the lowest possible level in life.” I’m pretty sure that this definition can be replaced by “Cody Anderson‘s 2014 season,” as that’s exactly how it seemed at the time. The big right hander has taken this season in stride though as he’s used it as a stepping stone to move forward, and he’s doing so gloriously.
Anderson, 24, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the17th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft in 2011. Originally drafted as an outfielder, Anderson has converted into one of the Indians most promising pitchers in their system, if not the most promising. This didn’t seem the case though in 2014, where Anderson had his worst season of his young career thus far. In 25 games he had a record of 4-11 with an ERA of 5.44. He only pitched in 125.2 innings, a K/9 of 5.8, BB/9 of 3.2, was serving up about 10 hits per nine innings. Let’s just say that everything that could have gone bad for Anderson did go bad.
As a new member of the Akron RubberDucks, Todd Hankins is making an early impression on his new teammates and coaches. With the ability to play all over the field, Hankins is always finding a way into manager David Wallace’s lineup.
Hankins, 24, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fifteenth round of the 2011 draft. He made his minor league debut with short season Mahonning Valley in 2011. In 65 games with the Scrappers, Hankins hit .246/.318/.672 with 10 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs along with 14 stolen bases. Hankins is a well-rounded player who can bring plenty of tools to the table.
Last season, we saw a lot of changes come to Canal Park. A rebranding of the team name, renovations throughout the park, and haul of new prospects ready to give their all in effort to someday make their way to The Show. After a hot start to the season, the RubberDucks hit some bumps along the way due to injuries to key players, player promotions, and some end of the season fatigue. They still worked their way into the Eastern League playoffs, but were eventually eliminated in the first round, despite their best efforts. Now in their second season as the RubberDucks, returning manager David Wallace looks to continue to compete with a lineup that seems just as deep as it has been in years past.
To start off the season in 2014, there were plenty of household named prospects like Francisco Lindor, Giovanny Urshela, Joey Wendle, and Tyler Naquin. While Naquin is returning this year, starting on the disabled list, the rest of the players listed have either been promoted, or traded to another team. The squad coming into this season is full of guys that many casual baseball fans may not have ever heard of before. Players like Todd Hankins, Bryson Myles, Erik Gonzalez, or Anthony Gallas.
“They might not be as well known outside the organization, but to us they’re right up there…When I’m making out the lineup, and it’s laughable who I’m putting down in the 7-8-9 hole. We’ve got [Tony] Wolters, Myles and [Alex] Lavisky tonight who could be middle of the order guys. It’s a real balanced lineup, but we feel like we could be a threat to score in any inning, with any outs.” Wallace said following Thursday night’s victory against the Binghamton Mets.
Did the Tribe Win Last Night? No they did not. On opening night, the crowd was entertained with a pitcher’s duel between two of the best pitchers from 2014: Corey Kluber, the reigning Cy Young winner, and Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. Kluber was almost perfect through seven innings, but a few misplaced pitches were just enough for the Astros to scrape a couple runs across the plate.
The first hit of the game for Houston was hit by club leader in hits, Jose Altuve, as he continues to build up what is already an amazing career that he has made for himself. George Springer followed up with a single for himself to drive in the first run of the game. Keuchel and the bullpen handled the rest of the game to get their first win of the season.
Let’s take a trip back to June of 2013.
This was a month that second basemen Jason Kipnis will never forget. During this time, Kipnis was arguably the best player the MLB. He practically forced his way on to the All Star team that year. In 27 games, he hit .419/.517/.1.216 with 12 doubles, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 9 stolen bases, and 25 RBI. He was absolutely incredible. Even though he didn’t provide this type of performance for the rest of the season, he was still a force to be reckoned with in the top of an Indians lineup that fought its way to the postseason.
Now, let’s take a look at 2014 Kipnis
If Carlos Santana wasn’t a fan of his musical counterpart, then he should at least be a fan of Johnny Cash.
As Cash states in his song, “I Walk the Line,” Santana also shows how good he is at taking a walk or two throughout the season. In 2014, he did it 113 times, in which he led all of MLB. Santana has always had good plate discipline, it’s probably his strongest and most consistent quality about him. In 2014, he had a 17.1% walk percentage, and prior to that he never had a walk percentage lower than 14.5%. It’s safe to say that Santana knows how to take a pitch or two.