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Fishing For Mudcats: "Indulge in a second chance..."

Fishing For Mudcats: "Indulge in a second chance..."
July 1, 2012
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From the Bait Shop:

Preface: Stats used for this article were from June 21st through June 24th. Special thanks to the IPI staff for allowing me a break on my weekly notebook, as real life got a bit in the way. The Mudcats notebook will continue, as usual, on Wednesday afternoons.

The Carolina Mudcats just weren’t very good during the first half of the Carolina League season. While you could certainly talk about the move being a big deal, as the Mudcats were transplanted from Kinston after 26 years of service, but let’s get real. Most of these kids had never stepped foot in Kinston. Even if they had, Five County Stadium is a state of the art facility compared to Kinston’s Historic Grainger Stadium. While the dynamics of each stadium are different, this wasn’t a struggle based on a move.

This was more a struggle of personnel. This version of the Mudcats seems to lack the type of consistency needed in the lower levels to win a title. The offense has some stars, but there was never that couple of week span where each player could put it all together. You would have a couple of guys rake, but the rest of the team would sit in the dugout and watch.

The starting rotation is full of decent prospects, but there isn’t one guy that you can point to and say, “Hey, that guy is going to be a starter for the Indians some day.” They didn’t receive the type of overachieving you’d want from the rotation, and that put them in an overall hole.

The bullpen was a mixed bag as well. While you could make a case that the true stars were found in the pen, past a couple of guys, like the rotation, there really wasn’t a group of players that left you with a feeling of major league potential. Oh, there are a couple, but like I said, there really wasn’t the depth. There needed to be overachieving to both move up the prospect chart, and get some more wins. That just didn’t happen.

Last season, the Kinston Indians were led by Carolina League manager of the year, Mike Holbert.  Holbert seemed to get the most out of a team last season that had many similarities to the team playing in Five County this year. When Holbert left for the Braves organization after the season, the Indians made a bit of a splash, signing former major league manager Edwin Rodriguez to manage the club. Rodriguez had managed in the minors since 1999 with the following clubs: Hudson Valley Renegades (NY-P: 1999), Princeton Devil Rays (Appalachian League: 2000-2002), Florida Marlins GCL (2005-2006), Greensboro Grasshoppers (South Atlantic League: 2007-2008), New Orleans Zephyrs (2008-2010), Florida Marlins (2010-2011). Rodriguez had a pedigree, of course, but has struggled a bit with the talent handed him. It will be interesting watching what he does over the second half of the season to get these players winning ballgames.

Offensively, this club has really picked it up, albeit a four-game sample size:

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

AVG

Totals

116

22

37

10

1

2

16

9

20

0.319

There’s a couple of interesting things to take note of here. First off, nearly a third of the Mudcats hits were of the extra base variety. They also managed to only strike out 20 times, and while this is still a bit too many, overall, it’s much better than their averages over the first half of the year. If that walk total would start to creep up, this team has the speed to really make teams pay, with Greenwell, Cid, Holt, Moncrief and Rodriguez. You could even throw Tony Wolters into that equation. They put up over five runs per game on the board, and that will win you ball games, plain and simple.

 

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

ERA

Bullpen

13

17

6

3

1

11

1

2.08

Starters

18

27

11

11

7

17

4

5.50

The Bullpen was clearly the star of the show in week 12, as most of the pen that made appearances were lock-down good. You have to really like the walk-to-strikeout ratio as well, as they managed nearly a strikeout per inning (which isn’t the norm for this bunch), while walking only one batter overall. When the pen is pitching that good, this team is going to be hard to beat.

The starters have been either bad or snake-bitten this year, with this week being a mixed-bag. There was one good, true start, one good, short start, one bad, short start, and one bad real start. Yeah, it’s complicated in Carolina, but I’ll get to that with the player reports. The bottom line is fairly simple. When you give up 11 runs in 18 innings, you are going to struggle. Thankfully, the Mudcats offense found it’s groove this week, and bailed out the starters. The intangibles look decent though, as they managed 17 K’s in 18 innings. Again, this isn’t typical of this rotation. They were buoyed by a couple of large strikeout totals by their normal starters.

It was a good start to the “second season” for the Muddies, and hopefully, Edwin Rodriguez and company have figured things out.

Let's get fishing, before the while the fishin's gettin' good...

Where We Stand After Week #12:

Second Half Record: 3-1 (3-1 this week), 1st Place in the Southern Division

Week #12 Games:

21 vs. Wilmington, W 7-3 (WP: J. Cooper; LP: B. Pounders)
22 vs. Wilmington, Postponed: Rain  23 vs. Wilmington, W 9-8 (WP: J. Flores; LP: N. Rogers)
23 vs. Wilmington, W 6-5 (WP: J. Reichenbach; LP: T. Sample; SV: G. Sides)
24 vs. Frederick, L 0-5 (WP: T. Wilson; LP: W. Roberts)

Week #12 Transaction:

06/22/2012: RHP Grant Sides assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
06/22/2012: RHP Tyler Sturdevant assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
06/22/2012: LHP Kyle Petter assigned to Lake County Captains from Carolina Mudcats.
06/22/2012: RHP Cole Cook assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
06/22/2012: OF Jeremie Tice assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
06/22/2012: OF Delvi Cid assigned to Carolina Mudcats.
06/21/2012: LHP Francisco Jimenez assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Akron Aeros.
06/20/2012: LHP Francisco Jimenez assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
06/14/2012: LF Bo Greenwell assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Indians Extended Spring Training.
06/15/2012: CF Delvi Cid assigned to Mahoning Valley Scrappers from Carolina Mudcats.

The Offense:

Player

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

AVG

Justin Toole

3

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.667

Jesus Aguilar

8

2

5

0

0

1

3

2

2

0.625

Jeremie Tice

5

1

2

1

0

0

0

0

1

0.400

Giovanny Urshela

13

4

5

2

0

0

2

0

0

0.385

Bo Greenwell

11

1

4

0

1

0

3

0

1

0.364

Ronny Rodriguez

13

4

4

0

0

1

3

2

3

0.308

Carlos Moncrief

14

3

4

3

0

0

1

1

4

0.286

Tyler Holt

15

2

4

0

0

0

1

1

0

0.267

Delvi Cid

4

1

1

1

0

0

1

1

2

0.250

Tony Wolters

13

2

3

2

0

0

0

1

5

0.231

Tyler Cannon

9

0

2

1

0

0

0

0

1

0.222

Anthony Gallas

7

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.143

Jake Lowery

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

1

0.000

Totals

116

22

37

10

1

2

160

9

20

0.319

The Good…

What’s not to like about Jesus Aguilar. I know that there are plenty of scouts that have a problem with his swing, which can get long at times, but there is so much more to like about this kid than to hit him hard with. He has many plusses that we can talk about here, but a couple that get overlooked are his defense and his learn-ability, which is at a high level. I’m not sure that his long-ish swing will ever translate as much in the bigs as folks want it to, but when you look at how far this kid has come over the past year, you start to think that there may be more to him that meets the eye. He belted a home run in the short week, tied for the lead in hits with five (with the next guy I’m going to talk about), and walked twice (which also led the team, tied with RRod), while striking out twice. When those two numbers are equal, or even close to equal, you have to get excited. This is when Aguilar really took off last year, so he could really be making a push to Akron. When the Aeros go on their break, I fully expect Aguilar to start their second in Akron.

One of my favorite players on the entire team is Giovanny Urshela, and it has nothing to do with his offense. As I’ve always said, Urshela may be the best glove in the system at third base, and while he doesn’t necessarily project to be an offensive juggernaught, he is starting to show signs of having a little more than meets the eye at the plate. He was injured early this season and missed a month, so you have to wonder just how good his season could be at this point with more at bats. Urshela is the type of player that could ultimately move Lonnie Chisenhall to first base. He’s that good with the glove, and if his stick continues to improve, he could really make a splash as a right-handed stick. He’ll have to develop power, but if he does, he could be something special…and that’s not just hyperbole. He had five hits, tying him with the team lead with Aguilar, and roped two doubles, which was second on the team. His four runs scored were also tied for the team lead with RRod. He’s really becoming a Carolina League force.

If you aren’t rooting for Bo Greenwell, than you aren’t a human being. Greenwell isn’t a special prospect in the system, but he’s got talent and pedigree. Sure, he is reminiscent of a bunch of other Trevor Crowe-like prospects, but he just has a quality that makes you want him to succeed. He’s just a good guy, and has really paid his Carolina League dues over the past two seasons. Injuries set him back, but he’s back, and doing what he does best…hit the baseball. His Dad is former major leaguer Mike Greenwell, but Bo is nothing like his power-hitting father. Bo is a fleet-footed outfielder, who hits for high average, and gets on base a ton. He has great speed, and the only question going further is if it translates. Well, he tied for the team lead with three RBI, and was second in hits. Welcome back Bo, and let’s hope you finally get to Akron, and prove to this team that you are a real prospect.

While most folks were paying attention to Tony Wolters early struggles, the much less-heralded-but-potentially-more-talented Ronnie Rodriguez was busy struggling himself. That was then, and this is now. Rodriguez has really taken off since May 1st, and at the end of week #12, had his average up 70 points to .274. He’s showcasing big power in his smallish frame, and does have freakish athleticism at the middle infield position. He had two two-hit ballgames this week, and can just shake things up. As he gets a bit bigger, and fills out, he has some value as either a utility guy, or a guy that can start up-the-middle, should the Indians lose Asdrubal Cabrera in a couple of years, and trade away Lindor. He could be a sleeper star in the making.

I can’t help but talk about Carlos Moncrief. If you’ve followed my reports over the past year, you’ll note how high I rate him as far as pure athlete. I truly believe that past a guy like Lindor, there aren’t ANY players in this system with his tools. This guy has it all…power…speed…just a pure athlete. He has no idea what to do at the plate as far as taking and swinging though, and is a guy that will be lucky to have less than 150 K’s in a season. It’s frustrating, because if he could ever figure that part of his game out, even a little bit, he becomes a star in the system, a rare five-tool player that could explode in the upper minors if he gets it. He led the team in doubles this past week, as well as coming in second in…you guessed it…strikeouts.

The Bad and the Ugly:

Jake Lowery is one of my most favorite players on the team. He’s an incredible person, and has a power bat that the Indians sorely need to develop. With that said, he’s become the second fiddle in the Mudcats’ catcher rotation to Tyler Cannon, who had never played the position in the professional ranks until this year. He strikes out too much, and he’s really struggling with stamina so far this season. He can still turn things around, but boy, he’s really in a rut at this point.

Tony Wolters seems to be back in struggle-ville. He’s not playing horrifically bad baseball at this point, but he sure is struggling at the plate overall. He struck out five times, leading the team. Wolters is never going to be a power-hitter, so he has to get on base a bunch. If he doesn’t gain that consistency with the bat, he’ll never be more than a marginal prospect. He’s a great kid, and you have to root for a guy with his tools and make-up, but I still believe he’s a level too high right now. My hope is that he stays in Carolina next year, and regains the confidence and ability he showed off last year…and that the struggles from 2012 don’t become rooted as habit.

The Pitching:

Player

APP

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

ERA

Cole Cook

1

2 1/3

6

5

5

2

2

3

19.29

Dale Dickerson

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

0

9.00

Danny Salazar

1

3

2

0

0

1

2

0

0.00

Grant Sides

2

2

1

0

0

0

2

0

0.00

J.D. Reichenbach (W, 3-1)

1

3 1/3

2

0

0

0

2

0

0.00

Jordan Cooper (W, 2-3)

1

4

5

0

0

0

5

0

0.00

Jose Flores (BS, 2)(W, 1-2)

1

1 1/3

4

3

0

0

0

0

0.00

Kyle Petter

1

1

3

2

2

0

1

1

18.00

Michael Goodnight (L, 2-8)

1

7

9

1

1

2

7

0

1.29

Mike Rayl

1

5 2/3

10

5

5

2

6

1

7.94

Totals

11

31

44

17

14

8

28

5

4.06

As mentioned at the start of the article, the bullpen clearly carried this team, but there were some starts of merit to discuss going forward. Still, guys like Mike Rayl and Goodnight have to show some consistency from start-to-start, or this team just won’t be successful. There is another burgeoning star in the bullpen horizon, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

The Good…

I can’t decide if Michael Goodnight is going to be a really good, mid-rotation starter, or if he’s just destined to be a guy that goes back-and-forth as a good/bad starter. He’s a workhorse for sure, and leads the team in innings pitched after week #12, but just can’t seem to put together several good starts in a row. He gave up five runs on six walks in his start just before the break. His previous two starts were solid, but he gave up 12 runs in his previous three before that. His ERA has always hovered right around 4.00, but he’s never been a guy that’s consistently at 4.00 from game to game, if that makes sense. He seems to be a guy that either dominates, or looks like the really bad version of Jeremy Sowers. There just doesn’t seem to be an in between. We’ll see. Perhaps his next start will be something to build on.

Grant Sides may be the best reliever on the team, now that he’s been called up. This isn’t putting down Armstrong, as he’s a near 100 MPH fastball, and electric himself. I guess that my point is that the bullpen in Carolina just got really, really good. Sides was the only Mudcats pitcher that made two appearances, and he dominated both, and was near perfect. He saved a game, and is a much better option in that capacity than Jose Flores, who always seems to be either a pitch way from blowing his arm out, or giving up the longest home run in the history of baseball. Sides isn’t that guy. He makes guys miss, and miss a ton. He’s going to be a quick mover…count on it.

Salazar continues to be intriguing, and also continues to be a guy roped in by a pitch-count. He’s a top pitching prospect in the system, and absolutely will be a consideration for the top of any rotation he pitches in going forward. He had Tommy John surgery in May of 2010, and now finds himself in the magical post-two-year window in which pitchers seem to see a jump in velocity, and can resume normal pitching. He’s only made two starts of longer than three innings, and both were at the beginning of the season. He missed a month after that four-inning start in April, and hasn’t pitched more than three since. He’s only had one bad start since then, and has only given up four runs in the 19 1/3 innings since May 17th. He can be special, if he can stay healthy. If he can’t, might he be a dominant reliever?

Jordan Cooper pitched as the piggy-back-of-choice for Danny Salazar, and seemed to eat the same Cheerios. Cooper has been back-and-forth this season, and he’s had other appearances that have been even more dominant that this one. He had a one-hit, five K outing that turned my head back in Mid-May, so seeing big games from the reliever isn’t an oddity. He just is one of those guys that has trouble bringing it from night-to-night. I do wonder if his multiple roles as a long reliever/starter/short relief has got his head spinning. If he could put together more outings like this one, he could move into that relief tier right below those top four or five guys.

The Bad and the Ugly…

Kyle Petter has the ability to be a top-tier guy, but he just was overmatched in the Carolina League. Not everyone can make the move that Cody Allen did, and you have to give the Indians some credit for seeing his moving potential. Petter got jacked this week, and got sent down to Lake County. Rebound Kyle, and we’ll see you in 2013.

Cole Cook is another one of those guys that I just don’t see as a premiere sort of guy. Like many in the system, he’s bounced around like a pinball from level-to-level, and is used as a starter (as he was this week), a closer, a middle-reliever...everything you can think of. He made a start this week and just got the tar beat out of him this week. I have a feeling that Cook is locked and loaded as a guy that just moves around the system for his career. Perhaps he’ll pick up the knuckleball.

Mike Rayl is on the downside of the Michael Goodnight good/bad boomerang. Really, these guys are turning into mirror-images of each other, pitching good and bad in alternating fashion. This was his bad week…not much more to say about it other than that. Perhaps next week we’ll see more consistency…or inconsistency…which would be consistent?

Week #12 Awards:

Hitter of Week 12: Jesus Aguilar
Pitcher of Week 12: Grant Sides
Player of Week 12: Jesus Aguilar

The Archives:

Hitter of Week 1: Tyler Holt
Hitter of Week 2: Jesus Aguilar
Hitter of Week 3: Jake Lowery
Hitter of Week 4: Giovanny Urshela
Hitter of Week 5: Jesus Aguilar
Hitter of Week 6: Ronny Rodriguez
Hitter of Week 7: Tyler Holt
Hitter of Week 8: Tony Wolters
Hitter of Week 9: Jesus Aguilar
Hitter of Week 10: Tyler Cannon
Hitter of the First Half: Jesus Aguilar
 
Pitcher of Week 1: Cody Allen
Pitcher of Week 2: T.J. House
Pitcher of Week 3: Mike Rayl
Pitcher of Week 4: Shawn Armstrong
Pitcher of Week 5: Dale Dickerson
Pitcher of Week 6: Francisco Jimenez
Pitcher of Week 7: Shawn Armstrong
Pitcher of Week 8: Kyle Petter
Pitcher of Week 9: Kyle Blair
Pitcher of Week 10: Tyler Sturdevant
Pitcher of the First Half: Shawn Armstrong
 
Player of Week 1: Cody Allen
Player of Week 2: T.J. House
Player of Week 3: Jake Lowery
Player of Week 4: Shawn Armstrong
Player of Week 5: Jesus Aguilar
Player of Week 6: Francisco Jimenez
Player of Week 7: Tyler Holt
Player of Week 8: Tony Wolters
Player of Week 9: Jesus Aguilar
Player of Week 10: Tyler Cannon
MVP of the First Half: Jesus Aguilar

Here Comes Week #13:

25 vs. Frederick
26 vs. Frederick
27 vs. Frederick
28 @ Myrtle Beach
29 @ Myrtle Beach
30 @ Myrtle Beach

The View Astern:

Cue the Pearl Jam song, and if you haven’t heard it, you need to. With that said, it’s time to say goodbye to Jeremie Tice, and his massive offense. It’s ironic that Tice was never a player of the week in my rankings, which just goes to show you that my weeks don’t mesh with the actual weeks of the season. Tice was an exceptional Single A presence, but was always injured, always just a bit too old, and never at a position that translated. Then they moved him to the outfield, and guess what, he is now something worth talking about. Edwin Rodriguez commented at the beginning of the season that he thought Tice was the most polished offensive player on his team, and he was dead on. Now Tice gets a chance to do the same at Double A Akron, and as an outfielder. I’m telling you all now, if it translates, and he stays healthy, Tice could be a guy we’re talking about this year. Yeah, I realize it’s this year, and I’m talking about him now…but I’m talking about the Indians. With Columbus full of pop-gun outfielders, Tice could provide the Indians with a potential big-time offensive threat. I would love to see it. This guy is turning into a legit top 20 prospect. If he were three years younger, he’d be a top five guy right now…just because of his position, ability and potential going forward.

Time to pull up anchor folks, and head ashore…it’s getting to hot out here….

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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