The annual Winter Meetings concluded on Thursday morning with the Rule 5 draft. In the Major League phase, the Cleveland Indians selected left-handed pitcher Hoby Milner from the Philadelphia Phillies organization with the 27th pick (15th overall) of the first round to fill one of two vacancies on the 40-man roster.
The Indians lost one player in the Major League portion of the draft and four more during the Triple-A portion. Outfield prospect Anthony Santander, last with the Indians’ High-A Lynchburg Hillcats affiliate, was selected by Baltimore in the second round of the draft with the Orioles’ second Major League selection. Cleveland also lost pitchers Trevor Frank (San Diego) and Jon Fitzsimmons (Arizona) early in the first round of the Triple-A portion of the draft and relievers Grant Sides (Arizona) and Nick Maronde (Miami) in the second round.
More than five innings of shutout baseball from starter Sean Brady and a two-run home run from Yu-Cheng Chang late pushed Lynchburg past Potomac, 3-1, to win the Carolina League’s Northern Division Championship Series.
The Hillcats advance to the Mills Cup Championship and will face the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Saturday. The Pelicans knocked off the Salem Red Sox late on Friday night, 2-1, to clinch their third consecutive Southern Division Championship Series victory.
Any chance that Bradley Zimmer breaks camp with the Cleveland Indians at the end of spring training in 2017 may come down to how well he performs in Arizona this fall.
Zimmer, the Indians’ top prospect in the farm system, was one of eight minor leaguers named by Cleveland to participate in the annual Arizona Fall League as members of the Mesa Solar Sox. Joining Zimmer in the Mesa outfield will be Double-A Akron’s Greg Allen. High-A Lynchburg’s Yu-Cheng Chang will be on the roster at short. Three relievers – Trevor Frank (Lynchburg), Cameron Hill (Akron), and David Speer (Akron) – will get additional work in the Solar Sox bullpen, while right-handed starter Michael Peoples (Akron) will also be on the roster.
Akron’s Eric Haase is also on the club as one of the taxi squad members, activated just twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The Lynchburg Hillcats have charged back into the top spot in the Carolina League’s Northern Division as the Potomac Nationals have fallen apart.
The Hillcats wrapped up play on Sunday with a 33-24 record in the second half of the season and are tied with the P-Nats, who had dropped seven straight games and nine of their last ten before winning Sunday. The Hillcats have already secured a trip to the postseason with their first half divisional crown, but are going for the clean sweep. The club went 4-3 over the last seven days, with a pair of rainouts last Monday and Wednesday while the club visited Frederick. They played a pair of doubleheaders with the Keys instead, splitting both days, before taking the first two games over the weekend from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The Pelicans won on Sunday, scoring two in the ninth to tie it and one more in the tenth to walk off.
In other Hillcats chatter:
If you had told me four months ago that I’d still be writing about the Lake County Captains this late in the year, I would have laughed. Yes, I’m an optimist, but the first half of Lake County’s season led even the most eternal of optimists to shake their heads. The team won 27 out of their first 70 games — that’s a .386 winning percentage. They were, to be blunt, bad.
They about broke-even at home, going 18-17 in the first half while playing on the new field at Classic Park, but could not pull it together on the road. As they explored the Midwest, the Captains went a paltry 9-26.
Yet, somehow, they turned it around. And here I am, in the middle of September, writing a recap about a season that ended on Saturday, the 13th, when that same under-.400 team played for the Midwest League Championship.
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).