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Fishing For Mudcats: "The road goes on forever..."

Fishing For Mudcats: "The road goes on forever..."
May 2, 2012
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From the Bait Shop:

There are clearly two versions of the Carolina Mudcats. You see, there’s this version that plays at home, and it’s a version that can hit .300 as a team, drive the ball into gaps, manufacture runs, and just wreak havoc on teams coming into town. Then there’s this other team that takes over when the team heads out on the road. This is the team that resembles the past High A Tribe affiliate in that they can’t hit very much, and can barely manufacture a walk, let alone a run.

Unfortunately, Carolina spent most of the week on the road.

Offensively, this team couldn’t do much of anything. In seven games, they managed to score 27 runs. In their three wins, they scored 18 of their total runs, which doesn’t leave many for their four losses. They did manage to hit six homers, but would only walk 18 times, against 49 K’s. That’s just not going to get it done. Last week, the team hit .295 on the week, playing most of their games in the friendly confines of Five County Stadium. This week, they managed a .229 average, playing most of their games on the road.

Last week, the Mudcats’ starters were dominance, while the bullpen got laid out. So, of course, this week, the starters got beat up a bit, while the relievers pitched extremely well. Overall, Mudcats’ pitchers went 57 innings overall, giving up 52 hits and 27 earned runs, while walking 28 and striking out 50 batters. They had a 4.26 ERA overall, while the starters carried the bulk of that with 19 of the 27 earned runs. The most alarming stat for the starters were their 19 walks, versus only 23 K’s on the week.

Clearly the Mudcats are trying to find themselves. Are they the offensive juggernaut that resides in Five County Stadium, or are they the patsy’s that roam the Carolina League ballparks outside of Zebulon. Are the starters the strength of the team, or are the relievers?

Truth be told, there’s been so much upheaval in Carolina, it’ll be hard to say until sometime around July…just in time for that yearly influx of draft picks.

Let’s get fishing, before I start humming a Willy Nelson tune…

Where We Stand After Week #4:

Overall Record: 9-11 (3-4 this week), 4th Place in the Southern Division, five games behind Myrtle Beach and Winston-Salem.

Week #4 Games:

25 vs. Lynchburg, W 5-2 (WP: T. House; LP: R. Pacheco; SV: J. Flores)
26 vs. Lynchburg, W 8-5 (WP: D. Dickerson; LP: J. Jaime)
 27 @ Salem, L 2-7 (WP: B. Workman; LP: F. Jimenez; SV: M. Rivera)
 28 @ Salem, L 2-3 (WP: R. Pressly; LP: M. Rayl; SV: M. Olmsted)
 29 @ Salem, L 3-8 (WP: K. Couch; LP: M. Goodnight)
 30 @ Lynchburg, W 5-2 (WP: J. Reichenbach; LP: D. Delgado; SV: S. Armstrong)
1 @ Lynchburg, W 5-2 (WP: J. Reichenbach; LP: D. Delgado; SV: S. Armstrong)
(Completion of game suspended on 4/30/12)
 1 @ Lynchburg, L 2-5 (WP: J. Graham; LP: B. Brach)

This Week’s Transactions:

05/02/2012  activated RHP Jordan Cooper from the 7-Day disabled list.
05/02/2012  placed RHP Toru Murata on the 7-Day disabled list.
05/01/2012  assigned Will Roberts to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
04/30/2012  assigned RHP Kyle Blair to Carolina Mudcats from Lake County Captains.
04/29/2012  assigned LHP T.J. House to Akron Aeros from Carolina Mudcats.
04/25/2012  activated RHP Trey Haley from the 7-Day disabled list.
04/25/2012  placed RHP Jordan Cooper on the 7-Day disabled list. groin injury
04/25/2012  Jordan Casas assigned to Lake County Captains from Carolina Mudcats.

The Offense:

The Good…

Giovanny Urshela has one of the best gloves in the system at third base, and many have him pegged as a defensive specialist in the majors after a couple more years of progression. Urshela clearly didn’t get that memo, as his numbers are showing something slightly different. The third-sacker used a four-hit game to start off the week to help carry his weekly average to .429. Overall, Urshela played in five games, getting a hit in each game. Overall, he wen’t 9-for-21, with three runs, a double, a homer and four RBI. While certainly hitting at this level is something uniquely different than Akron and Columbus, there’s still definitely merit to any sort of offense in the defensively dominant Carolina League.

Anthony Gallas is the homegrown kid who got out and actually did something in professional baseball, with nine hits, three runs, two doubles, a homer and three RBI on the week. You have to love undrafted free agents who proves to be one of the better hitters in the system. Gallas opened up the year in 2011 lighting up Lake County with similar numbers before tapering off later in the season. Gallas started off the season slowly this year, but judging from his .409 average this past week, he’s clearly found his swing.

Tyler Holt continues to hit the baseball for the Mudcats, and continues to bide his time for a move to Akron, which is long overdue. Holt is 5-for-16 in five games, with two runs, a double, an RBI, five walks and three K’s. It’s amazing to see how different this kid’s approach is this season, compared to last season when the fiery outfielder struck out way too much, and didn’t get on nearly enough. Now, the kid is almost automatic.

Jeremie Tice hasn’t played much this week, but did manage to go 5-for-7, with two runs, two double, two homers and five RBI in his two games. I’m not sure if the kid is hurt or not, but congrats on being one of the hottest players in the system. Tice is injury prone though, so this doesn’t look good for the DH/1B.

…The Bad and the Ugly…

Justin Toole was a defensive replacement in a brief move to Columbus, before returning to Carolina this past week to spell Tony Wolters. Wolters seemed to get the majority of the week off, with Toole replacing him, and unfortunately for Toole, he hit just as bad as the player he replaced. Wolters had been struggling as the second basmene, and Toole just picked up where he left off, going 1-for-20, with two runs, an RBI, a walk and four K’s. Nothing like rocking out a .050 average on the week to help boost your future in the system.

Ronny Rodriguez doubled Toole’s weekly hit output this past week. Of course, Toole only had that one hit. Rodriguez went 2-for-26, with a run and a double, one RBI and two K’s on the week. Rodriguez is one of the top prospects in the system, but will certainly need to figure things out at High A to continue in that role.

Jesus Aguilar had been one of the hottest Mudcats to start the 2012 season.  He came back down to earth this past week, one-upping Rodriguez by garnering three-hits in 21 at bats, with five runs, two homers and two RBI. It was good to see the power output in Aguilar late in the week, but he struck out nine times, against only three walks, which is a bit of a regression to the approach we saw last year from the big first baseman.

Jake Lowery is one of the better offensive catchers in the system, but had a reality check this week, going 4-for-22, with two runs and a double. Lowery has struggled  with his approach, and it really reared its head this week, as he struck out eight times in his six games, against only two walks.

The Pitchers:

The Good…

Shawn Armstrong has really stabilized the bullpen in Carolina after the promotion of every solid reliever to Akron. After a week in which the relievers had an ERA of over 6, Armstrong continued to dominate, going eight innings, with only four hits and a walk, while striking out nine. There are a bunch of elite arms in the pen up and down the system, and it’s clear that Armstrong has entered that conversation.

T.J. House made his final start at Carolina, and put out another solid effort in getting his second and last win of the season. He went six solid innings, giving up three hits and two earned runs, while walking three and striking out four. It wasn’t his best start, but again, it provided a glimpse at his current floor. That’s a bad game for House, who just isn’t the same pitcher he was over the past two seasons.

Trey Haley made a resounded return to professional baseball this past week, making his first relief appearances of 2012 after rehabbing in extended spring training. He pitched two near-perfect innings, giving up a walk, and striking out a batter. He has legit triple-digit velocity, and if he can stay healthy, may enter the discussion of top prospects with a solid season.

Kyle Blair got blitzed in Lake County in his last extended appearance, but was handled very effectively afterwards. He replaced House in the rotation, and promptly went four solid innings. The former fourth round draft pick could start to make some noise as a potential middle-of-the-rotation type of starter.

Jose Flores continues to pitch solid in the closer role. He did give up an earned run, but rebounded after that appearance with his fourth save.

Dale Dickerson had been getting lit up this season, but had two solid appearances this week, including a win. Dickerson is a middling prospect at best, and hasn’t done much this season to think he’ll be anything different.

…The Bad and the Ugly…

Francisco Jimenez has been hopping back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. This week, he just hopped right off the field after getting bashed as a starter, going 4 2/3, while giving up five earned runs and four walks, while striking out two batters. He’s better than that, but doesn’t really have anything special with regards to an out pitch. He’ll have outings like this between solid appearances, but I can’t imagine he has much to offer looking forward to Akron.

J.D. Reichenbach had his moment in the sun last year, becoming a hybrid reliever/starter last year from Lake County to Akron. This year he hasn’t had many moments worth repeating, and gave up at least one run in all three appearances, and four overall.

Kyle Petter was electric for Lake County this year, but has been a completely different pitcher in his time with Carolina this year. This week, he’s given up four hits and three earned runs in four total innings, and just can’t seem to get it together. There’s something there going forward, but maybe the call-up was a bit pre-mature.

Michael Goodnight and Mike Rayl really didn’t have their best weeks. Goodnight got lit up for three earned runs in three innings, while Rayl gave up three earned in five innings. Brett Brach gave up three earned runs in two separate five-inning starts as well.

Week #4 Awards:

Hitter of Week 4: Giovanny Urshela
Pitcher of Week 4: Shawn Armstrong
Player of Week 4: Shawn Armstrong

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
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
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

Here Comes Week #5:

May 2012
2 @ Lynchburg
 3 @ Lynchburg, 11:05 AM 
4 vs. Frederick, 7:15 PM 
5 vs. Frederick, 6:15 PM 
6 vs. Frederick, 2:00 PM 
 8 @ Myrtle Beach, 7:05 PM

Looking astern:

One of my favorite players in the system has always been T.J. House, but he just hasn’t managed to put anything together over the past couple of seasons at High A Kinston. I had essentially given up on the kid, but that’s why they still let the kids play the game after I write them off. House worked his butt off during the offseason, and his new approach has paid off with a promotion to Akron. Good luck to you T.J., and may your time in Akron be fruitful. There isn’t any room at Columbus this season, so House should be able to season that power-left-arm for the rest of 2012, so that 2013 will be a season to watch at Triple A. Congrats on the call-up big man.

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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