At the opening of the 2015 baseball season Dace Kime was ranked as the #20 prospect in the Cleveland Indians system. The 23 year old 6’4” 200 lb. right-hander was drafted in the third round of 2013 out of the University of Louisville.
An avowed user of Twitter, Kime has the quintessential growth mindset, a hunger to learn, be it about the world around him, or the game which he so much enjoys.
“I like to learn, I enjoyed school and I’m going back to school even though I graduated this year.” he said. “I use Twitter as a medium to share my passion with people. When I tweet some weird stuff out, some people like it, some people don’t. In Frederick last week I had two physicists come up to me before the game. They were asking me stuff about black holes, about crazy things. It blew my mind, but it made my day.”
Luis Lugo stands 6’5” 200 lbs., an imposing figure on the mound. Ranked as the Indians #21 prospect by Baseball America, the young left-hander from Venezuela, who turned 21 just before the start of the season, has made significant gains in his proficiency on the mound this year.
The 2015 season is Lugo’s fifth in the Cleveland farm system. His offerings include a fastball clocked in the low 90’s, a change-up, a sweeping curveball, and a hard slider that was added to his repertoire late in the 2014 season.
Where he has really made gains this year is in his consistency.
“He’s starting to mature, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally.” said High Class-A Lynchburg pitching coach Rigo Beltran, a former Major League pitcher himself.
Over the past month or more of the season the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats players have been dominating in the Carolina League with four consecutive player of the week awards and a player of the month award. Only the most diehard aficionados of minor league baseball will know is that there is another significant award winner on the Hillcats roster, catcher Sicnarf Loopstok.
His award is for the Best Name in Minor League Baseball, otherwise known as Moniker Madness on Milb.com. Loopstok won the 2013 title joining such previous winners as Rock Shoulders (2012) and Seth Schwindenhammer (2011) by defeating Stryker Trahan, the Diamondbacks 2012 first round pick.
“It was a good experience.” Loopstok said about his run to the title. “I didn’t know I was in it, and then I started getting a lot of messages on Facebook, fans saying ‘Hey we are voting for you in Moniker Madness.’ so I checked it out.”
Looking at the High-A Lynchburg roster you might be inclined to skip past shortstop Ivan Castillo and gravitate towards some of the more familiar names on the roster, as the 2105 Hillcats have been host to nine of the Cleveland Indians Top 30 prospects according to Baseball America’s 2015 Prospect Handbook. Not only are there a number of top prospects, but Castillo usually occupies the ninth spot in the Hillcats batting order, thus he is not the first player on the roster you would examine.
Last week Castillo erased this relative anonymity by winning the Carolina League player of the week award following on the heels of teammate Clint Frazier, who earned this honor the week before. This makes the fourth Hillcats player to earn weekly honors this season.
For the week of July 20 – 26 Castillo put up an impressive offensive output. His triple slash line for the week was .524 / .583 / 1.000 in 6 games where he tallied eleven hits, five RBI’s, six runs, two walks and only two strikeouts.
“That was so exciting,” Castillo says about winning the award, “I’ve been working on my hitting and every time I go to the plate I have a plan. Now it’s paying off for me.”
For sports aficionados the red zone concerns the potential for a team to score. For the past several weeks this term might be one you could apply to High Class-A Lynchburg outfielder Clint Frazier, the #2 prospect of the Cleveland Indians system.
He became the third individual 2015 Hillcats player to earn Carolina League Player of the Week honors, joining Bradley Zimmer and Nellie Rodriguez. For the week of July 13-19 he hit at a .462 clip with a double, two home runs, five RBI’s, four runs, and four stolen bases.
Asked about earning the award, Frazier said, “Winning the (Carolina League) player of the week award was awesome. I think it was the first time I’d won such an award in pro-ball.”
The number 38 seems to associate itself with High-A Lynchburg Hillcats left fielder Mike Papi. He and his best friend always had this number, as an inside thing, since his sophomore year of high school. He continued to wear it during his college playing days at the University of Virginia, and he was the 38th overall pick in the supplemental first round in 2014. He has kept the number 38 as he has played professionally, first for Rookie level Mahoning Valley, then the Low-A Lake County Captains and now the Hillcats.
Drafted by the Angels organization out of high school, he chose to attend the University of Virginia where he constructed a strong baseball resume. He captured the Atlantic Coast Conference batting title as a sophomore with a .381 average, and tied for the ACC lead in homeruns with 11 in his junior year, prior to being drafted.
The 1971 #1 single It’s A Family Affair by Sly and the Family Stone’s was about the highs and lows of family life. Playing on a professional baseball team is very much the same kind of experience. The 25 plus players, coaches, and staff on a team become a family over the course of the challenging and taxing 140 game minor league season.
Not only is the team a family, but the atmosphere that minor baseball franchises encourage is one of family fun. Team mascots, wacky or silly on-the-field promotions such as sumo wrestling or the dizzy bat race, and touring acts like the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo or Zooperstars are there to attract and create a family friendly environment.
It is not uncommon for professional baseball players to have bloodlines that come with baseball connections. The 2015 High-A Lynchburg Hillcats feature a handful of team members that have family connections to the game including two with the Indians organization, past and present.
Virginia native D.J. Brown’s season has featured a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. His career path has taken the High-A Lynchburg pitcher from a professional career that might never happen to a regular in the 2015 Hillcat pitching rotation.
The road of his dreams of becoming a Major Leaguer began in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He had always planned on attending James Madison University to the point where he did not apply to any other schools and is unabashedly enthusiastic about the Dukes and Harrisonburg, Virginia where the school is located.
“If you talk to anybody that went to JMU they are going to tell you the same thing, it’s the best college on earth.”
The tools of ignorance is a longstanding euphemism in baseball for the catcher’s gear – mask, chest protector and shin guards. Various sources have credited the origin of this term to either longtime American League catcher Muddy Ruel, or Yankee Hall-of-Fame catcher Bill Dickey.
Regardless of its origin, the words create a strong sense of irony, as there is nothing about being a catcher that relies upon ignorance.
For Eric Haase High-A Lynchburg’s primary catcher, mastering the skills needed to excel at catching is his way of life. As of June 7th he has already caught 274 innings in 32 games played during the 2015 season. The job of catching can be a grind, but Haase plans his offseason so that he can maintain his health for each new baseball season.
Luigi Rodriguez possesses an intriguing set of tools; power, speed, and defense. These tools have had him on and off the Cleveland organizations top prospect list for the past several years.
At the age of 16 he was signed out of a baseball academy in Santiago, Dominican Republic. The somewhat diminutive outfielder, he stands 5’11” and 160 lbs., first got noticed for his on-field performance at Low-A Lake County in 2012. He put up a slash line of .338/.406/.744 that included 5 triples, 11 homeruns and 24 stolen bases. The power speed combination garnered attention, but he has been unable to capitalize on these talents in the several years since.
That trend seems to be reversing itself this year with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats. He shares time in the outfield with the trio of number one picks, Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier and Mike Papi and of late has been manning the leadoff spot in the lineup for the Hillcats.
If someone described a draft pick as 6’1” 195 lbs. out of Rochester, Minnesota, most sports enthusiasts would assume you are talking about a hockey player. In this case the player is Mitch Brown, the Cleveland Indians 2nd round selection in 2012.
Rated the 14th best prospect in the Indians farm system, the 21-year old right-hander grew up with a love for the outdoors, not uncommon for those raised in the Northstar State.
“I love to fish and hunt,” says Brown. “I really like to spend time out on the lakes and when I’m home just hang out with my family.”
Joe Sever is not the amongst the most recognizable names on the High-A Hillcats roster, but this former Pepperdine Wave second baseman has been instrumental in catalyzing the team’s recent winning ways.
After beginning the season 9–19 the Hillcats have …