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.
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.
A first glance at the 2015 High-A Lynchburg roster will pull your attention to the all outfield prospects, but don’t overlook the pitching. The pedigree of Adam Plutko may be amongst the most intriguing of all the pitchers in the Cleveland Indians farm system. Drafted in the 11th round following his junior year at UCLA in 2013, the third year professional from Upland, California now has 20 starts at the High-A level.
Plutko is a prospect on the rise, but this should be no surprise following his college career. The leader of a UCLA team that captured the Bruins first College World Series championship in 2013, that pinnacle was bracketed by his freshman experience. That season he was part of a Bruins’ staff that featured two current major league starters in Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, and the Indians own Trevor Bauer as the team won the Pac-12 Conference. In Plutko’s sophomore year the team earned a birth in the College World Series and his junior year was capped by UCLA’s first national title on the diamond.
Adam Plutko knows success and the thrill of winning a championship. A national title winner at UCLA in 2013 under head coach John Savage, the 11th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians is in his second season in the organization and is making strides. A right-hander, Plutko had allowed only four earned runs over his previous 17.2 innings entering Tuesday’s action.
Thrilled to be a member of the Tribe family after his successful time with the Bruins, Plutko sat down and talked with DTTWLN about his college exploits, his current time with the Carolina Mudcats and his goal to pitch at Progressive Field one day.
DTWLN: How did you get into baseball and did you have a favorite team as a young boy?
Adam Plutko was drafted last year in the 11th round of the First Year Player Draft out of UCLA. Unlike most players making their professional debut in the same year that they were picked, the Indians held Plutko out until the 2014 season as they were concerned over the amount of innings he had already thrown for the Bruins in the 2013 collegiate season.
In 2013 Plutko was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player, helping the Bruins win the College World Series. Plutko was on the same pitching staff with the Bruins as Pittsburgh Pirates starter, Gerrit Cole, and the Indians own, Trevor Bauer. Plutko actually came into college with what most scouts thought better stuff than both Cole and Bauer, with a fastball that sat around 95 m.p.h. as a freshman. Plutko saw his velocity drop down to around 90 m.p.h. over time for the Bruins and witnessed Cole and Bauer also become first round picks. As a junior in 2013, Plutko had become the workhorse and the ace of a staff in which many didn’t have high hopes for. While Plutko and the Bruins proved many wrong in 2013, it still didn’t help his draft status as the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series because he wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Indians.
Akron RubberDucks second baseman was some kind of hot this past week. Joe Wendle went 11-21 for an obscene .524 average with three runs scored, three doubles, one triple, eight runs batted in and added a stolen base. Wendle got off to a slow start to the season having multiple hot and cold streaks. Over his last 26 games, however, Wendle has been consistently hot hitting .333 with eight extra base hits and 24 runs batted in during the time frame. Wendle leads the team with 41 runs batted in, one more than fellow prospect shortstop Francisco Lindor. Wendle has his batting average up to .264 with his recent surge but is still well below his career .307 minor league average coming into the season.
Wendle a sixth round pick in 2012 out of West Chester University has some uncanny similarities to a current Indians star Jason Kipnis. Both Kipnis and Wendle are listed at 5’11 190lbs, both bat left-handed and throw with their right hand. Take a look at the stats for both players in their first two years in the minor leagues.
The first half of the season is over, and it’s time for a clean slate for the Lake County Captains. In the Low-A Midwest League, a first-half winner is crowned for both the Eastern and Western Divisions, and the records are then wiped, paving the way for a second half of the season with completely new possibilities.
For the Captains, that restart could not have come at a better time.
Lake County finished at a Midwest League worst 27-43, a .386 winning percentage. They were 14 games back of the Eastern Division first half champions, the West Michigan Whitecaps (41-29), who are at least giving their parent organization, the Detroit Tigers, some wins and bragging rights (Justin Verlander’s younger brother, Ben Verlander, is on the Whitecaps roster, likely making family dinners a little tense). Being in first, the Whitecaps secured a playoff spot for the September post-season, with the South Bend Silver Hawks (40-29) also clinching a spot for the Eastern Division. In the Western Division, the Kane County Cougars finished first (45-25), followed by the Burlington Bees (38-31).
Lake County Captains right handed pitcher Robbie Aviles continued his impressive season to date as he made two starts this past week earning one win while throwing 13 innings, allowing just six hits, three runs, zero walks and striking out seven. Aviles—originally projected to be a first or second round pick out of Suffern High School in Suffern, New York—partially tore the elbow ligament in his right arm a week before the draft, undergoing Tommy John Surgery. The Indians took a chance on Aviles by drafting him in the seventh round of the 2010 Draft, not knowing if he would come back as the first or second round pick he was projected to be. Aviles was able to make his professional debut near the end of the 2011 season after a long rehab. It had to be wondered if Aviles would ever return to pre-Tommy John form that the Indians had gambled on, as he would struggle sporting a 5.22 ERA in the two and a half years after making his professional debut. Still only 22 years of age, Aviles seems to finally be back, as his 2014 season has been nothing less than spectacular ranking second in the Midwest League in both ERA 1.65 and WHIP 0.85 along with only allowing 32 hits and five walks in 43.2 innings of work. Indians fans are hoping that Aviles has regained the form that had him so highly touted before his injury.
If he had a choice, right-handed pitcher Adam Plutko would never pitch in cold Ohio weather.
“Coming from California, the weather helps that it’s starting to get a little warmer. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t play into my first couple starts this year,” Plutko admitted. “It’s nice that it’s getting warmer…That’s why baseball’s played in the summer and not the winter time!”
Plutko, who hails from California, pitched for three years at the University of California – Los Angeles on a staff that has included the likes of Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, who is currently with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. His experience in the warm weather certainly made the shift to Ohio – and cold weather ball – a bit intimidating. The challenge, however, never seemed to materialize. Plutko wasted no time in asserting himself as a pitcher that the Lake County Captains staff knows and can count on.
This season – the year of “Unfinished Business” and redemption, of proving that last season was only the beginning of a road to success. This notion, however, is not just limited to the Major League club. The Indians’ minor league affiliates are showing shades of the same theme heading into the 2014 season.
The 2014 Lake County Captains are no exception. Coming off a lackluster 2013, a season that fell below expectations and served to demonstrate the notion of “development over winning,” the 2014 Captains seem to be more in line for a successful season than they were this time last year.
The roster boasts a number of returning names, as well as some newcomers who spent 2013 with either short season Mahoning Valley or the Arizona League Indians. Surprisingly, last year’s first round draft pick Clint Frazier is missing from the roster, though it stands to reason that he will make his way to Lake County before the season gets too far underway.