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Fishing for Mudcats: Lindor springing forward

Fishing for Mudcats: Lindor springing forward
April 14, 2013
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Before we get started on the 2013 season, I want to give you a quick bit about the Carolina League. It’s a small league, as far as that goes, consisting of only eight teams split into two four team divisions. No, all of the teams aren’t from the Carolinas, but are from the general areas, with teams from three teams from North and South Carolina, three teams from Virginia, a team from Delaware and a team from Maryland.

The Northern Division consists of the Frederick Keys, the Lynchburg Hillcats, the Potomac Nationals and the Wilmington Blue Rocks, while the Southern Division plays host to our very own Carolina Mudcats, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Salem Red Sox and the Winston-Salem Dash.

The Lynchburg Hillcats are the defending champions, for those counting at home.

The Carolina League is mostly considered a pitcher’s league for a variety of reasons. You’ll hear the theories that it’s from the intimacy of the eight teams playing each other regularly (hard to figure if pitchers or hitters would have the advantage there, as I’ve seen stats for both), or if top pitchers just end up getting sent there, or if it’s the ballparks, or if it’s because players get shuffled in and out so much (like at nearly every level, but it does seem to be a “bridge league”), or if it’s just a trend. Whatever the reason, it has seemed to lean that way in nearly every year I’ve attended games.

Your Carolina Mudcats will begin their second season as part of the Carolina League, but the Indians themselves came to Carolina after a 25-year relationship with the Kinston Indians.

What format will Fishing with Mudcats take in 2013? I’ll start off with the same format as 2012, but plan on altering it as the year progresses, to make it more concise, and easy to read. I attend many of the games, and the plan is simply to give you the information that you don’t get to see or read about anywhere else. Too often, sites see a player once or twice, read about them a few times, and profess to know everything about them. The goal here at IBI is to get a body in the seats, watching these guys play. I can’t promise every game, but you can bet I’ll be at most.

This year’s version of the Mudcats looks to be as exciting as any over the past several seasons, as I previewed prior to the start of the season.  The Mudcats haven’t disappointed to start off the year, both with regards to their offense and their pitching.

Where we stand after Week #1:

Club W L PCT GB Streak
Lynchburg Hillcats (ATL) 5 3 0.625 - L1
Frederick Keys (BAL) 4 4 0.500 1 L1
Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC) 4 4 0.500 1 W1
Potomac Nationals (WSH) 3 5 0.375 2 W1
Club W L PCT GB Streak
Carolina Mudcats (CLE) 5 3 0.625 - L1
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (TEX) 4 4 0.500 1 W1
Winston-Salem Dash (CWS) 4 4 0.500 1 W1
Salem Red Sox (BOS) 3 5 0.375 2 L1

Week #1 Games:

5 vs. Winston-Salem, W 10-1 (WP: C. Anderson; LP: B. Blough)
6 vs. Winston-Salem, W 4-3 (WP: G. Sides; LP: M. Peterson; SV: J. Johnson)
7 vs. Winston-Salem, W 6-2 (WP: F. Jimenez; LP: C. Beck; SV: E. Tejeda)
8 vs. Wilmington, L 6-7 (WP: C. Fassold; LP: W. Roberts)
9 vs. Wilmington, L 1-5 (WP: S. Selman; LP: J. Cooper; SV: R. Yambati)
10 vs. Wilmington, W 12-1 (WP: C. Anderson; LP: A. Brooks)
12 @ Winston-Salem, W 9-7 (WP: O. Dew; LP: M. Peterson; SV: J. Johnson)
13 @ Winston-Salem, L 1-4 (WP: C. Beck; LP: S. Morimando; SV: C. Winiarski)

This Week’s Transactions:

4/4/2013 Carolina Mudcats placed C Alex Monsalve on the 7-day disabled list.
4/3/2013 Carolina Mudcats activated RHP Robert Whitenack.
4/1/2013 Joseph Wendle assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 Tyler Naquin assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 RHP Owen Dew assigned to Carolina Mudcats.
4/1/2013 Enosil Tejeda assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 LF Bryson Myles assigned to Carolina Mudcats.
4/1/2013 Charlie Valerio assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 Todd Hankins assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 Jacob Lee assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
4/1/2013 Anthony Gallas assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Columbus Clippers.
4/1/2013 Jake Lowery assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 SS Francisco Lindor assigned to Carolina Mudcats.
4/1/2013 Jordan Smith assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 Shawn Morimando assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 Cody Anderson assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
4/1/2013 Jerrud Sabourin assigned to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.

The Offense:

The Sabour-Tooth Tiger has been unleashed upon the Carolina League, and heaven help us all. There are players that surprise from year-to-year, but Sabourin’s story really is a rags-to-sorta-riches story with the Indians. Unfortunately for the Mudcats’ first baseman, he plays in the same organization as Jose Ramirez, who shot through the stratosphere as a non-prospect-to-prospect. Sure, there are differences, and you can talk about position (middle infield vs. corner infield) and their age (20 for Ramirez vs. 23 for Sabourin), but at the end of the day, both came outta nowhere last year and made a name for themselves.

Sabourin continues to shine in 2013, as he’s leading the Mudcats with a .500 average in his seven games played since last weekend. He’s not a power guy, and not treated as such, but does possess the ability to pound doubles (26 last year, and two this year to start the season off) and get on base (OBP last season was at .369, and is at a ridiculous .600 so far). He’s not your prototypical first baseman, but boy, if he can hit .300 again this year, he can certainly be a productive member of this organization in the future. If he adds power at some point, look out.

Joe Wendle continues to be a guy to keep your eye on. The only knock you can have with regards to Wendle right now is that he’s about to turn 23, which I suppose could be considered a bit advanced for High A. Of course, when you take into account the fact that the Indians just drafted him last year, you realize that his progression is following along the right lines, and that if he continues to hit, his time in the Carolina League could be short.

Wendle is a winner, and lead the PSAC’s West Chester Golden Rams to a Division Two national title in 2012. He hit .399 that season, and he didn’t miss a beat for Mahoning Valley either, hitting .313, with three homers and 29 RBI in 49 games. He can play both second and third, and doesn’t look to be a liability at either, which would give him a leg up on guys ahead of him, who struggle in the field. He’s hitting a whopping .452 this early in the season, and is currently riding a seven-game hit streak and a three-game multi-hit streak.

Jake Lowery started off his 2012 season on fire for the Carolina Mudcats, before seeing his numbers drop off a cliff. This led to a demotion to Lake County to finish out his 2012 season, but did see the power-hitting catcher begin to regain some balance by the end of the season. This year, he’s starting off nicely, with a .308 average, to go along with a double and a triple in only four ballgames. Certainly, it’s a small sample size, but if he can keep it going, could be interesting. Especially if he can add that power game.

Francisco Lindor has a long ways to go this season before he proves to be ready enough offensively to jump to the next level.  He’s gotten off to the right start though, hitting .387 in the early going, with a double, two triples and five stolen bases in his first eight ballgames. He has made two errors this year defensively, but listen, the glove is there. I haven’t seen it yet this season in the minors, but everything I’ve seen prior leads me to believe that the big leagues aren’t in his far distant future.

The season isn’t made in the first few weeks, and it really will be interesting to see if he can carry this momentum throughout the year. Part of becoming a professional is gaining your legs during a long, tough season, and he clearly struggled with that at Lake County. Not to worry though. This kid is starting to put it all together, and there’s some serious buzz around him right now that he is really going to be something special.

Tyler Naquin is “the other” number one pick playing for the Mudcats early in the season, and he’s another guy to keep your eye on. You’ve all heard about his defense and his arm, which is starting to take a life of its own. My focus this week is his offense, which has certainly begun to take shape now that he’s healthy. He’s hitting .343, with two doubles, a triple and a homer in his first eight games. I’m still not really sure where he fits into this organization without the power, since the Indians clearly have centerfield options. Of course, if he forces his way through the organization the way some folks think, he could be the fourth outfielder as early as September. A more realistic timetable would be next year.

Offensive Player of the Week: Bryson Myles

When I first saw him play two years ago, I immediately said “Kirby Puckett.” It appears as though there are others that are starting to agree with me. He’s actually taller and bigger than Puckett, which is probably the one piece of the puzzle that is “hurting” him right now, as the stocky, speedy outfielder hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his nearly two seasons with the organization.

If he could just stay healthy though, I felt that he could put up numbers that would make him a special prospect…so you really have to keep his 2013 start in perspective, as we are eight games in.

In seven games, Myles is leading the team in homers (2) and RBI (11), and has seven runs, two doubles and two stolen bases. He’s the five right now, in five-tool player. If he stays healthy, he’s a top five prospect…easily.

In the Mud:

One of the guys with the most buzz heading into the season was Jordan Smith. The rightfielder is only hitting .207 early in the season, but I doubt very much that is something that remains. Tony Wolters was told he was staying in Carolina and moving to catcher late in spring training. He’s now hitting .185 to start off the season. He started off slow last year though, so perhaps we’ll see the soon-to-be backstop pick up as the weather heats up.

The Pitching:

The starting pitching has been special this year early, with Jacob Lee, Shawn Morimando, Jordan Cooper and Cody Anderson having solid moments. Morimando and Cooper are a combined 0-2, but Morimando has a 2.25 ERA, and Cooper has a 1.80 ERA to start the season. Lee’s ERA is 4.09, but his 14 K’s are second in the league. It just goes to show you how little wins mean in the grand scheme of pitching statistics. Morimando, Lee and Cooper all are interesting prospects that aren’t top ten guys, but have plus attributes that could move them up if they figure some things out in the next year or so.

Five relievers have ERAs at 2.25 or below, but four of those guys haven’t given up a run yet. Enosil Tejeda comes in at 2.25 in three appearances, while Jeff Johnson (3 games), Michael Goodnight (2 games), J.D. Reichenbach (3 games) and Owen Dew (3 games) all have ERAs in the land of zero.

Tejeda doesn’t have a plus arm, but has always been one of those guys that can get folks out. He’s had stints as a closer, and won’t be going forward, but that should give you an idea of his mentality. Reichenbach is more or less a minor league mainstay at this point, but has always had solid moments from year-to-year. Owen Dew missed 2012 thanks to Tommy John surgery, and while most folks won’t consider him a legit prospect, you just never know how one rebounds from that surgery. Michael Goodnight could boost his major league status as a reliever, and he has the stuff to be a great one. Jeff Johnson is the closer, and he’s been perfect in his three games. He’s more of a traditional closer for the Muddies, and can throw the ball by you. He’s not a top reliever…yet.

Pitcher of the Week: Cody Anderson

Anderson has made two starts in the early part of the season, and has been outstanding in both. He’s currently 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA, which is fifth in the league. He’s struck out nine, while only walking two hitters. His upside is high, and I really believe he could be a middle-to-top of the rotation starter just based on his velocity. You add to that his slider, which some call a cutter, a curve and a change, and a high learning curve, and you have a kid that could really take off in 2013. It’s early yet, but he has a nice skill-set.

In the Mud:

Grant Sides made some good strides in 2012, but got off to a really bad start this season. He gave up two earned runs in his first outing, and three earned runs in his second. Hopefully this is just a burp, and the big righty can take it to the next level. I think he may be the best reliever on the team.  Will Roberts was the one starter that struggled, giving up seven runs in his six inning stint. Francisco Jimenez gave a nice first performance, a three-inning outing that got him a win, but got lit up for two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning.Next Week’s Fishing Expedition:

The View Astern:

The 2012 season is officially on the back-burner for the Mudcats. While it was an exciting year, there was never a sense that the team had the pitching staff to make a move, the way that some teams have done in this organization at this level in the past. The starters weren’t very good , and the relievers that were good were gone in the blink of an eye. This team is a whole lot different. There’s a different feel, and while last year’s team had good players, this team has much better overall potential, especially with the pitching staff.

Lake County made it to the playoffs last year, and as long as the bulk of this team doesn’t move, a Carolina League title may not be out of the question. The real talent of the organization should start to make their presence known at Low A, High A and Double A. It’s not far away at all….

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

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