Fishing for Mudcats: Jordan Smith finds his groove
The Mudcats offense excels, while the pitching hits skid row
From the Bait Shop:
Another week equaled another struggle for the Carolina Mudcats. They could only muster two wins on the week, and continued to lose ground in the Carolina League South standings. With five weeks and 35 games of baseball left in the first half, it may be time to start thinking about the second half of the season. There are sure to be some changes on the roster going forward, and that could have an effect on the second half, although I’m not quite sure if it will be a positive effect.
Carolina’s offense really is an enigma. They continue to lead the league in hitting with a .271 average, and they backed that up by hitting a more-than-solid .276 on the week. Ten of their 13 players who had an at bat this past week hit .250 or better, so this is a team that can really hit the baseball. They are tied for second in the league in doubles, with 64, and had 14 in their six games. They’re first in the league in OBP, and fourth in slugging and OPS, so everything points to a solid output from this offense.
Here’s the disconnect.
They are third-to-last in runs scored, and second to last in home runs and RBI. They just can’t manage the big hits when they need them.
When you combine that with a pitching staff that continues to implode, that isn’t a good combination for winning baseball.
How bad was the pitching? The overall ERA for the week was 5.86, and it’s really hard to blame the starters, or the relievers. The starters came in with a 5.86 ERA as well, and the relievers backed them up with a 5.87 ERA. Hey, at least they are consistent.
The Mudcats’ pitchers are last in wins, earned runs and home runs allowed, and in the bottom three with ERA, hit batters and strike outs. They just aren’t very good as a whole, and the mediocre-to-badness really overwhelms the one or two solid performances that the team gets from week-to-week.
At the end of the day, this team is really backwards with regards to the Carolina League. This has been a pitcher’s league over the past several years, and generally you see solid pitching staffs, and weak offenses. This Mudcats team has a strong offense, and a weak group of pitchers. When you add the fact that the offense, as good as it is, struggles to score runs, you have a recipe for Carolina League disaster…
Let’s go fishing…
Where we stand after Week #5:
|Carolina League Northern|
|Lynchburg Hillcats (ATL)||18||15||0.545||-||W2|
|Frederick Keys (BAL)||18||16||0.529||0.5||L3|
|Potomac Nationals (WSH)||18||16||0.529||0.5||W3|
|Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC)||16||19||0.457||3||W2|
|Carolina League Southern|
|Myrtle Beach Pelicans (TEX)||22||13||0.629||-||W5|
|Winston-Salem Dash (CWS)||16||17||0.485||5||L1|
|Salem Red Sox (BOS)||15||18||0.455||6||L4|
|Carolina Mudcats (CLE)||13||22||0.371||9||L2|
Week #5 Games:
|May 2013 (all times local unless noted)|
|5 vs. Frederick, L 5-6 (WP: Z. Davies; LP: S. Morimando; SV: M. Prado)|
|7 @ Salem, L 4-6 (WP: M. Ott; LP: O. Dew)|
|8 @ Salem, Postponed: Rain|
|9 @ Salem, W 2-1 (WP: C. Anderson; LP: N. Striz; SV: J. Reichenbach)|
|9 @ Salem, W 4-1 (WP: G. Sides; LP: H. Quevedo; SV: E. Tejeda)|
|10 vs. Lynchburg, L 3-10 (WP: A. Holland; LP: J. Lee)|
|11 vs. Lynchburg, L 8-9 (WP: M. Chaffee; LP: O. Dew; SV: J. Cornely)|
This Week’s Transactions:
|5/7/2013||Joe Sever assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.|
|5/6/2013||2B Justin Toole assigned to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.|
Offensive Player of the Week: Jordan Smith:
Jordan Smith has found his offensive game. On April 22nd, Smith found himself struggling at the plate in the Carolina League, hitting only .150. In sixteen games up to that point, he only had one multi-hit game, and only had nine hits overall. It just wasn’t a pretty start to a guy that was a break-out star in 2012. Thank goodness we don’t base a year on a few weeks.
Since then, the Mudcats right fielder has been on a tear. He’s second in the league with a .377 average over that stretch, and has a league leading 26 hits. Over the past week, he’s picked up his game with a .391 average, including four runs, which was second on the team. He also added a team leading two stolen bases. His slash for the week was an impressive .391/.440/.478, giving him a .918 OPS.
There has been one complaint over the years with regards to Smith, and that’s his power potential. He has always had gap power, but the question has always been whether or not the 6’4” outfielder would ever acquire the home run potential that would justify him being a solid outfielder in the major leagues. He seemed to allay those fears last year, when he hit 23 doubles, seven triples and nine homers. He also drove in 74 RBI, all in 116 games.
While he’s hitting .377 since June 23, and while he’s scored 10 runs during that stretch, he’s only hit four doubles and a home run, and only driven in five. He’s also only walked our times, while striking out 12 times.
I suppose I’m nitpicking a bit at the numbers, but corner outfielders have to hit for power. Of course, Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley are the Indians’ outfielders of record, so perhaps Smith fits right in the wheelhouse.
The best of the rest:
There are only eight players in the Carolina League hitting over .300, just to put any of these numbers in perspective. Two of those players are Carolina Mudcats, but only one of them will make it on the positive side of the coin this week.
Luigi Rodriguez continued to excel with the Mudcats, going 6-for-21 on the week. He hit three doubles, drove in three, and scored two runs, while stealing a base. Where you always want to watch Rodriguez is that approach, and he struck out six times, against only two walks. His OBP was a solid .348 though, so you can temper the strikeouts with that thought.
The guy that just keeps hitting the baseball is Jerrud Sabourin. He matched Luigi with a 6-for-21 week, and matched Rodriguez with three doubles. He upped the ante though by scoring four runs, blasting a home run, driving in a team-leading four runs, had a team leading four walks, and did it all while striking out only three times. He’s third in the league in hitting as we speak, and needs to continue to add power to the equation. His .971 OPS led the team, and you really could have made a case that he was the OPotW.
Infielder Joe Sever joined the club this past week, and has hit in four of his five baseball games. Three of those four games were uneventful, one-hit games, but he added his first multi-hit game on Saturday night, and drove in two runs. He’s yet to hit an extra-base hit in the Carolina League, but he’s managed to strike out only once, against only one walk. He hit .333 on the week, which is a solid performance anywhere.
In the Mud:
Charlie Valerio only hit .188 for the week, but still did the peripherals. He had four RBI, three runs and two doubles, while walking three times against only two K’s. Francisco Lindor saw his average drop to .182 on the week, but like Valerio, his peripherals were still good. He scored a team leading five runs, drove in two, while walking twice against only one K. He also stole another base. He’s still third in the league in hitting, and continues to be one of the best players in the system. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his hot play through a hot Carolina summer.
Pitcher of the Week: Cody Anderson
Cody Anderson really is the one guy on this pitching staff that has the ability to be special. There are other intriguing players to be sure, but Anderson has remained consistent from the start, and fairly special, more often than not.
His 2.93 ERA is ninth in the league overall, and tops for the Mudcats on the season. They are a bit skewed after his last start, and he had given up eight runs over the past two starts, and 10 runs in three of his past four, but when he’s been on, he’s show signs of being a really good starter.
He’s really starting to locate his pitches quite well. He has 14 K’s over his past three starts, against only one walk, reversing an earlier trend of a weak K/BB ratio of 14:8. He’s now tied for the Carolina League lead with wins at 4, is second with 40 innings pitched, and tenth with a 1.15 WHIP.
He was the only Mudcat starter to get a win this week.
The best of the rest:
There really aren’t many guys worth mentioning here. J.D. Reichenbach pitched in two games for a total of only one inning, but he did manage to get the team’s only save of the week. Grant Sides made a two inning appearance, and gave up only two hits and a walk, while striking out three. He got a win for that showing, and Sides is one of those guys that has some upside as a reliever.
In the Mud:
You really could go on-and-on-and-on here…again. Last week’s pitcher of the week, Owen Dew, just got jack-hammered. In two appearances, he went 0-2. In his four innings, he gave up nine hits and six runs, while walking two against two K’s. Jacob Lee gave up six runs in his only start, going five total innings. Elvis Araujo gave up nine hits and five runs in only five innings. He did strike out five against only one walk, but clearly he was hittable…so why walk. Francisco Jimenez, Michael Goodnight and Joseph Colon all had ERA’s over 6 as well. It just wasn’t pretty on the bump this week.
Next Week’s Fishing Expedition:
|May 2013 (all times local unless noted)|
|12 vs. Lynchburg, 2:00 PM|
|13 vs. Lynchburg, 7:15 PM|
|14 vs. Salem, 7:15 PM|
|15 vs. Salem, 7:15 PM|
|16 vs. Salem, 7:15 PM|
|17 @ Lynchburg, 6:05 PM|
|18 @ Lynchburg, 6:05 PM|
The View Astern:
Tyler Naquin’s an interesting player, to say the least. He’s leading the team with 10 doubles, which is tied for third in the league, and he’s hitting a solid .292 with a slash of .292/.345/.438, but his strikeouts are starting to become a bit of a concern. His 32 K’s leads the team by a large margin, and he only has nine walks. His OBP is good enough to not be too worried, but you have to imagine that with a 32:9 ratio of K’s to BB’s, that the only direction this is going to go in the future is down. He struck out 26 times last year, against 17 walks, so perhaps this is a Carolina League thing.
The outfield in Carolina will be an interesting one to watch as the year continues. The current outfield of Tyler Naquin, Luigi Rodriguez and Jordan Smith is loaded with potential prospects. Bryson Myles is currently on the DL, and LeVon Washington is knocking on the door. I fully expect a June shakeup for these guys. I’m not sure if that means that Myles is demoted because of his injury issues, or if Naquin is bumped up because of his advanced skill-set, but look for Wash-Time to return to Carolina sometime between now and the all-star break.
I don’t know where this team is going to get a pick-up with regards to their pitching staff. On the starting side, some interesting players in Lake County are Ryan Merritt, Jake Sisco and Dylan Baker. I don’t see Baker moving up any time soon, but could see Sisco move up, since he’s older than the rest. I’m not sure if that’s developmentally where the Indians are with him though.
On the relief side of things, Louis Head, Francisco Valera, Michael Peoples and Nick Pasquale are all having phenomenal starts in Lake County. If things don’t step up soon in Carolina, you could see quick call-ups for one, or all of these guys as the Mahoning Seasons grows closer.
This could be a make-or-break week for the Mudcats. They have first place Lynchburg Sunday and Monday, as well as next weekend, sandwiching a home series against the Salem Red Sox. If they could manage to have a big week, they could get into the mix again…but that’s a stretch to say the least. Minor League playoffs are secondary entities next to developing players, but there always has to be that goal. It’ll be interesting to see if Dave Wallace can get this team going as the summer heats up.
Have a good week...everybody...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.