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Fishing for Mudcats: "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?"

Fishing for Mudcats: "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?"
April 11, 2012
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From the Bait Shop:

The 2012 season marks the beginning of an era in Carolina League baseball. Gone are the Kinston Indians, a staple of the Carolina League since 1986, who truly had one of the blandest names in all of minor league baseball. Seriously folks, when you roll out a minor league baseball team for the Cleveland Indians, what rocket-scientist in the organization said, “Hey, I know, let’s call the team in Kinston, the Indians!” Talk about your creativity, especially with names out there like the “River Bandits,” the “Nuts,” and the “Loons.”

Taking the place of the K-Tribe is truly one of the most storied names in all of Minor League baseball, the Carolina Mudcats. The Mudcats have been around since one Manny Acta played for the team in 1989 when they were located in Columbus, Georgia. After two years as the Columbus Mudcats, owner Steve Phillips brought his team to Zebulon, NC in 1991, creating the Carolina Mudcats. Over the years, the Mudcats have been the Double-A affiliate of the Pirates, the Rockies, the Marlins, and most recently, the Cincinnati Reds. The 2012 season marks their first season as a High-A affiliate in the Carolina League, and of course, their first with the Cleveland Indians organization. The Mudcaps cap has been one of the top five best selling minor league caps of all time.

For those that forget, don’t pay attention, or never knew in the first place, the Carolina League season really is a tale of two: with a first half champion and a second half champion in both a Northern and Southern Division. Carolina resides in the Southern, along with Myrtle Beach (Texas), Salem (Boston) and Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox). The Northern Division is home to Lynchburg (Atlanta), Frederick (Baltimore), Wilmington (Kansas City) and Potomac (Washington). At the end of the season, the first round of the playoffs pit the first and second half champions of each division against each other, with the winners playing in the championship series the following week.

It should be interesting to see what type of team manager Edwin Martinez brings to the equation. There is an intriguing mix of top offensive and defensive talent patrolling both the infield and outfield, to go along with solid, if not spectacular, pitching. This may be the best-rounded team to start the season in High A for Cleveland since their 2006 title.

While this team clearly can hit better than past versions (.287 as a team), it remains to be seen if the true strength of this team will be on the mound, or behind it.

Now let’s get fishing…

Where We Stand After Week #1:

Overall Record: 3-2, 1st Place in the Southern Division, a half game ahead of Myrtle Beach

Week #1 Games:

April 2012

3 vs. Cleveland, L 0-13 (WP: D. Lowe)
6 vs. Winston-Salem, W 11-2 (WP: C. Cook; LP: J. Petricka)
7 vs. Winston-Salem, L 2-7 (WP: A. Rienzo; LP: M. Rayl)
8 vs. Winston-Salem, W 10-9 (WP: C. Ehlert; LP: N. McCully)
9 vs. Wilmington, W 6-0 (WP: T. House; LP: G. Billo)
10 vs. Wilmington, L 2-3 (WP: S. Marimon; LP: D. Salazar; SV: L. Perez)

This Week’s Transactions:

04/10/2012  Clayton Ehlert retired.
04/10/2012  Carolina Mudcats placed OF Jordan Casas on the 7-Day disabled list.
04/04/2012 Toru Murata assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
04/04/2012 Kyle Landis assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
04/04/2012 Preston Guilmet assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
04/04/2012 Giovanni Soto assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
04/03/2012 Scott Barnes Scott Barnes assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Columbus Clippers.
 

The Offense:

Player

POS

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

OBP

SLG

AVG

OPS

Justin Toole

2B

3

5

1

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0.800

0.800

0.800

1.600

Tyler Holt

OF

5

21

5

9

1

2

0

5

3

5

1

3

0.500

0.667

0.429

1.167

Jesus Aguilar

1B

5

21

3

8

3

0

1

4

1

2

0

0

0.409

0.667

0.381

1.076

Jake Lowery

C

5

18

3

6

1

0

1

4

3

6

0

0

0.429

0.556

0.333

0.984

Carlos Moncrief

CF

4

12

3

4

1

0

0

1

4

3

0

0

0.471

0.417

0.333

0.887

Tyler Cannon

SS

2

4

0

1

1

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

0.400

0.500

0.250

0.900

Anthony Gallas

OF

3

8

2

2

1

1

0

0

1

1

0

0

0.333

0.625

0.250

0.958

Delvi Cid

CF

4

13

2

3

2

0

0

0

1

4

1

0

0.286

0.385

0.231

0.670

Giovanny Urshela

3B

4

14

2

3

1

0

0

2

3

3

0

0

0.333

0.286

0.214

0.619

Ronny Rodriguez

SS

4

14

3

3

0

1

0

2

2

6

0

0

0.313

0.357

0.214

0.670

Jeremie Tice

DH

5

15

3

3

2

0

0

4

3

2

0

0

0.368

0.333

0.200

0.702

Dwight Childs

C

2

5

1

1

0

0

1

3

0

1

0

0

0.200

0.800

0.200

1.000

Tony Wolters

SS

5

21

3

2

1

0

0

3

2

7

0

0

0.174

0.143

0.095

0.317



51

171

31

49

14

4

3

29

24

41

2

4





Team

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

TB

BB

SO

SB

CS

OBP

SLG

AVG

OPS

Lynchburg

4

126

25

41

12

3

4

23

71

13

17

3

5

0.396

0.563

0.325

0.959

Frederick

4

133

29

43

6

2

6

27

71

11

28

4

1

0.384

0.534

0.323

0.917

Carolina

5

171

31

49

14

4

3

29

80

24

41

2

4

0.374

0.468

0.287

0.842

Myrtle Beach

4

129

14

32

7

3

4

12

57

13

30

2

4

0.340

0.442

0.248

0.782

Salem

4

135

15

33

7

1

1

13

45

12

34

4

2

0.315

0.333

0.244

0.649

Winston-Salem

4

134

24

31

6

0

3

21

46

27

40

6

3

0.367

0.343

0.231

0.711

Potomac

4

127

13

27

8

1

1

13

40

12

30

2

3

0.282

0.315

0.213

0.597

Wilmington

5

152

7

25

4

0

0

6

29

10

44

4

2

0.229

0.191

0.164

0.420

The Mudcats have an interesting team this season, that has a bit more offense than in years past. They lead the league in runs, but have also played one more game then every team except for Wilmington (who have scored seven runs in five games, or in other words, hit the ball like Kinston did last year).  They are also leading the league in hits, doubles, triples, RBI and total bases. They are in the top three in every other major category.

I’m not sure how much of this is the infusion of new players from Lake County and Mahoning Valley, or if it’s simply a new era in Carolina League baseball, but it would be nice to see this type of offense here at Five County Stadium. There certainly appears to be players here who could continue the trend as the year progresses, and Lake County has even more talent than Carolina, so there could actually be a bump.

I’m not going to hold my breath though. This is the Carolina League. Last season, only six players hit above .300, and only one of those players played in over 80 games. The Winston-Salem Dash led the league in hitting with a .253 average on the year.  Carolina is currently in third right now with a .287 average. Either times have really changed, or the offense is enjoying some sort of freakish honeymoon. I’m not sure which, but I’m going to enjoy the production while I can.

The Good…

Tyler Holt is an intriguing prospect, and he’s becoming more and more valuable as each day passes.  According to IPI’s Tony Lastoria, Holt has altered his batting stance, and it’s paying huge dividends early in the season. Holt has been known to be overaggressive at times, and he showed that by striking out 106 times in 2011, all at Kinston. With a little more patience, and a little more contact, Holt could surprise. He seems to be tabbed in the Trevor Crowe/Tim Fedroff category as a potential #4 outfielder, but if he can continue to create the havoc that he’s capable of, Holt may just turn himself into more than that. Expect a May call-up to Akron, if not sooner.

Jesus Aguilar has as much potential as any player in the system, but many experts are saying that Aguilar has more chance not to meet those expectations.  The knock on Aguilar offensively is two-fold. First, he strikes out far too much. Second, he can’t hit pitches down and way, and struggles when he gets jammed. So far this year, Aguilar has hopefully begun to silence the critics. In his first five games, Aguilar is hitting everything, including lacing a double down the left field line on a pitch down and away on opening night. He’s also only struck out twice. Not too shabby for the one, right handed power hitter in the system.

Carlos Moncrief has many of the same issues that plague Jesus Aguilar, and much like Aguilar, has started off hitting the cover off the ball.  He’s hitting .333, and has only three K’s vs. four walks.  Last season, Moncrief rolled out 158 K’s, while walking only 76 times. It’s still crazy early in the season, but the Indians’ brass, as well as the Mudcats coaching staff clearly have figured something out early in the year.

…The Bad and the Ugly…

I scratched my head a bit when I found out that Tony Wolters was called up to Carolina, skipping Lake County.  Wolters is all of 19 years old, and while he had an outstanding season at short-season Mahoning Valley, batting .292 and playing a slick shortstop. By all accounts, Wolters has a fantastic make-up, so with a glut of outstanding middle-infielders, Wolters was bumped up a level so that Francisco Lindor could debut at Lake County. To make a long story short, Wolters has struggled at the plate, hitting only .095. So, it should be a true test of Wolters make-up, but with that said, don’t be surprised if Wolters finds his way back to Lake County when Mahoning Valley opens in late June.

The Pitchers:

Player

W

L

ERA

G

GS

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HB

BB

SO

HLD

T.J. House

1

0

0.00

1

1

0

0

0

7

2

0

0

0

1

1

9

0

Michael Goodnight

0

0

7.94

1

1

0

0

0

5.2

4

5

5

0

1

3

7

0

Brett Brach

0

0

0.00

1

0

0

0

0

5.1

2

0

0

0

2

1

0

0

Clayton Cook

1

0

1.80

1

1

0

0

0

5

2

1

1

0

1

5

2

0

Cody Allen

0

0

0.00

2

0

0

0

0

4

1

0

0

0

0

0

8

1

Mike Rayl

0

1

11.25

1

1

0

0

0

4

7

6

5

1

0

1

5

0

Danny Salazar

0

1

7.36

1

1

0

0

0

3.2

4

3

3

0

0

3

3

0

Francisco Jimenez

0

0

0.00

1

0

0

0

0

3

1

0

0

0

0

4

0

0

Jose Flores

0

0

4.50

2

0

0

0

0

2

3

1

1

0

0

0

4

1

Clayton Ehlert

1

0

9.00

2

0

0

0

0

2

2

4

2

0

0

4

4

0

Dale Dickerson

0

0

5.40

2

0

0

0

0

1.2

1

1

1

0

0

3

2

1

J.D. Reichenbach

0

0

0.00

2

0

0

0

0

1.2

2

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

Team

W

L

ERA

G

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

HB

BB

SO

WHIP

HLD

GF

Carolina

3

2

3.60

5

0

1

0

45

31

21

18

1

6

25

44

1.24

4

5

Wilmington

2

3

3.64

5

0

0

2

42

43

18

17

5

4

13

37

1.33

1

5

Frederick

3

1

3.75

4

0

1

1

36

35

19

15

3

2

16

33

1.42

2

4

Lynchburg

4

0

2.25

4

0

0

1

36

27

9

9

1

0

11

34

1.06

2

4

Myrtle Beach

2

2

0.25

4

0

1

1

36

23

10

1

0

1

9

37

0.89

1

4

Winston-Salem

1

3

7.49

4

0

0

0

33

40

30

28

1

1

25

35

1.93

0

4

Potomac

1

3

6.00

4

0

0

1

33

40

23

22

5

4

14

19

1.64

1

4

Salem

1

3

7.09

4

0

0

1

33

42

28

26

6

2

9

25

1.55

0

4

 

 

The Mudcats strength over the past several years as the Kinston Indians has been their pitchings. Nick Hagadone, Alex White, T.J. McFarland and Drew Pomeranz have all called Kinston home, and with it came staff domination. This year’s team isn’t quite the same make-up, but this staff isn’t short on good pitchers either.

The starters are all decent prospects in the Indians system, and while there isn’t one that stands out as someone that will be a top of the rotation guy, there were a couple of performances that deserve note, as well as a nice piece of bullpen work by a starter working in a piggy-back situation. The bullpen, likewise, isn’t loaded with top-end talent, like Columbus, but there are a couple of guys that will figure into the Indians bullpen situation as early as next year.  Overall, the staff is in the top three of most categories, and should remain there as the year progresses, even with call-ups looming down the road.

The Good…

My absolute favorite guy on the staff right now is Cody Allen, and while he isn’t a top ten guy, I believe he could be when it’s all said and done. Allen was dominant in 2011 in his first season in professional baseball. In appearances with Mahoning Valley, Lake County, Kinston and Akron, Allen went 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA over 54 2/3 innings. He gave up only 35 hits and 14 walks, while striking out 75 batters. Like I said, he absolutely dominated. This season, Allen opened up the season at the back-end of the Carolina bullpen, and in two appearances, looked exactly like the guy that dominated last season. He’s gone four total innings (two innings per appearance), giving up only one hit, while striking out eight, without walking a batter.  Cleveland drafted him 16th in 2010, and then redrafted him again in 2011 when he didn’t sign, only this time as the 23rd pick. This guy could fly through the system, as he’s already 23, and clearly gifted with some “stuff.”

One of the most frustrating, and likely frustrated, pitchers in the Tribe system has been T.J. House.  House has an electric arm, but hasn’t been able to harness it. House has been stuck in Kinston for the past two season, and started off his third season in a row at High-A Carolina. Perhaps he’s figuring things out. The power pitching lefty went seven strong, giving up only two runs and a walk, while striking out nine batters. House had seen his K/9 go down nearly a run last season, while his BB/9 went up over half a run. This year, things have started out a bit different. Maybe the 22-year old is ready to finally move up through the system, and as a future top-20 prospect, he could make some waves. Let’s hope the make-up catches up with the talent.

…The Bad and the Ugly…

Danny Salazar made his debut start with Carolina, and it certainly didn’t go the way he wanted. Salazar was on a limited pitch count, and he only made it through 3 2/3 innings, giving up four hits and three earned runs, while walking three, and striking out three. This is likely only a blip in the road, but the type of blip that ends up in the bad and ugly.

Michael Goodnight and Mike Rayl both struggled in their first start. Goodnight’s numbers are a bit misleading though, as he was pitching a no-no through five innings, before things fell apart in the sixth inning. Both Michaels showed a solid start to the 2011 season, before their seasons tapered off a bit. It will be interesting to see if they can expound upon last season, or will they turn into marginal prospects.

Week #1 Awards:

Hitter of the Week: Tyler Holt
Pitcher of the Week: Cody Allen
Player of the Week: Cody Allen

Here Comes Week #2:

11 vs. Wilmington, 7:15 PM 
13 @ Winston-Salem, 7:00 PM 
14 @ Winston-Salem, 7:00 PM 
15 @ Winston-Salem, 2:00 PM 
16 @ Wilmington, 6:35 PM 
17 @ Wilmington, 6:35 PM

Looking astern:

 Clayton Ehlert has retired from the Indians, which really is a curious thing. The hope from my perspective is that Ehlert had alerted the Indians prior to his retirement, that it was a possibility. Ehlert, while not a major prospect in the system, had a prominent role over the past season or so as a potential closer candidate for both Lake County and Carolina. The hope is that he let someone know prior, so that the Indians could have a plan in place to keep someone around that potentially could take his slot. If he didn’t, someone’s sitting at home after having been cut, and that shouldn’t happen. Of course, maybe Trey Haley is ready to roll.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

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