RubberDucks Notebook: Season-End Awards
Last Saturday, the RubberDucks were eliminated from the Eastern League Western Division Series with a 5-1 loss to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Akron got great pitching from its starters, but struggled to score over two runs in three of the four games against the Flying Squirrels.
The RubberDucks finished the regular season 73-69 overall, losing 10 of their last 11 games. The team had gone through ups and downs battling injuries, promotions and demotions and other setbacks out of their control. Despite the rough ending, Akron had a strong, fun, and highly competitive team to watch at Canal Park.
Here are my awards for the 2014 season:
Manager David Wallace
To say that Dave Wallace’s ballclub went through lineup turnover is an understatement.
Let’s take a look at the starting lineup Wally had to start out the season:
CF Tyler Naquin
2B Joe Wendle
1B Jake Lowery
RF Jordan Smith
LF Tyler Holt
Now let’s take a look at the lineup he ended with in the playoffs:
CF Ollie Linton
DH Bryan LaHair
2B Joe Wendle
RF Jordan Smith
1B Jake Lowery
Now it’s understood that a lot of teams go through the same things that Akron did, but when you see how much the RubberDucks had truly changed throughout the season, you have to give applause to Wally for keeping his guys focused on the big picture. It’s said that in the minor leagues that it’s more about player development than winning, and Wallace and his staff have done a tremendous job of doing just that.
Current Cleveland Indians Tyler Holt, Kyle Crockett and Bryan Price started out with the RubberDucks this season and are in the big leagues trying to help the Cleveland Indians in their playoff hunt. Highly touted prospect Francisco Lindor and third baseman Giovanny Urshela were in Columbus where they just finished their postseason. Major late-inning pitchers Tyler Sturdevant, Shawn Armstrong and J.C. Ramirez were with the Clippers as well.
In the middle of the season, Wallace lost Tyler Naquin and Joey Wendle to injury when both of them were locked in at the plate and were key pieces to the lineup.
The point is, Wallace always kept looking at the big picture and never lost faith. Whenever the team was on a winning streak, he’d stay levelheaded and prepare the same way he always would. Whenever the team was on a losing streak, he’d pick his guys up and keep the same mindset, and that is why Dave Wallace gets my vote for MVP of the RubberDucks this season.
Offensive Player of the Year:
Anthony Gallas, LF
73 G, 280 AB, .293 BA, .337 OBP, .536 SLG, .872 OPS, 16 HR, 49 RBI, 2 3B, 16 2B, 82 H, 35 R
With the way that Anthony Gallas finished this season, you wouldn’t think that he’d get this award. In fact in his last 18 games, the left fielder struggled as he hit just .179 and struck out 23 times. Clearly this gave the vibe that he had been fatigued ever since mid-August, and I believe that this must’ve been the case.
But enough of that little bit of negativity, let’s get to why I named him OPY.
Finally healthy after missing action last year with the Mudcats due to a torn labrum, Gallas started off well in Carolina and earned a promotion to the RubberDucks on June 11th.
As mentioned before, when Tyler Naquin and Joey Wendle went down with injuries, Wally was going to need a bat in his lineup to rely on. Enter Gallas.
The Strongsville native wasted no time in making an impact as he had multiple-hit games in three of his first four games with Akron, including his first Double-A homer in just his second game with the RubberDucks.
From June 26th to July 7th, Gallas had 18 hits in a 10-game hitting streak, including three homers and seven RBI. He was averaging .439 and slugging .805.
Gallas’s regular season numbers speak for themselves. He finished with the highest slugging percentage and OPS (min. 70 games), beating out Naquin in both categories. He also finished with a team-leading 16 home runs, which was also a career-high for him in one season at any level.
Defensive Player of the Year:
The Whole Team
This sounds very cliché but it’s the truth. As a team, the RubberDucks had one of the best defensive baseball teams in the minors. Lets start with the team’s assist leader Joey Wendle. The second baseman showed a lot of range this season, before and after his injury. Wendle turned 73 double plays with Francisco Lindor behind him with 62. He started out the year with Lindor beside him and ended with Erik Gonzalez in Lindor’s spot.
Going behind the plate, Akron had a solid trio of catchers, led by Tony Wolters and Alex Lavisky. Wolters was converted into a catcher last season at Carolina, and this year he flourished by not committing one single error behind the dish and catching 25 baserunners stealing. Lavisky did a great job as Wolters’ backup throwing out 23 baserunners.
Moving on to the outfield, Jordan Smith led the team in putouts (279) and assists (10). Before he went down with injury, Tyler Naquin had nine assists himself. Bryson Myles was errorless in 69 games.
And last, but not least of course, we can’t forget the man that plays every position besides pitcher: Justin Toole. The utility man started games at second, third and left field this season and is one of those players that can literally play any position you tell him to.
Pitcher of the Year:
Shawn Armstrong, CL
44 G, 51 IP, 2.12 ERA 15 SV, 6 W, 2 L, 12 ER, 3 HR, 39 H, 19 BB, 68 SO
This was a hard one to give out considering it is a bullpen arm and there were many good starters like Will Roberts, Joseph Colon and Duke von Schamann that certainly deserve credit for their performances.
However Armstrong was a guy that Wally relied on in many key situations, especially when he needed to either A) get a win or B) keep a game within striking distance.
In nearly almost all of the above situations, Armstrong would come through for his team. At the beginning of the season, he had an 11-game scoreless appearance streak where he struck out 17 batters and allowed just five hits in 11.2 IP.
The highest amount of runs that Armstrong ever allowed in an appearance was two, and that was probably because of a longball, but that was a rarity as he gave up just three the entire season.
Armstrong led the team in saves with 15 and finished fifth in the Eastern League.
Armstrong also had 68 strikeouts, fourth-most on the team. He was tied with von Schamann who had the same number.
His work did not go unnoticed as he earned a promotion to Columbus in mid-August.
Most Diligent Player of the Year:
Jordan Smith, RF
126 G, 459 AB, .248 BA, .300 OBP, .331 SLG, .631 OPS, 2 HR, 50 RBI, 4 3B, 24 2B, 114 H, 52 R
The 24-year-old from St. Cloud, Minnesota was an interesting prospect to watch in the 2014 season.
At the beginning of the year, he was visibly struggling at the plate. He struck out 22 times in April, his highest amount in one month.
As the months went by, Smith started to pick up his production at the plate. He really hit his stride in June and July where he hit .306 in those two months combined. On July 27th, he hit for the cycle on the road at Reading and really found himself at the plate.
Nearing the end of the year, his production went down but his glove was still very good in right field when the team needed it to be.
Smith is your classic example of a grinder, he didn’t give up when things got tough and he was rewarded by finally finding his stroke at the dish.
There are my awards for the 2014 Akron RubberDucks season.
I’d like to thank Tony Lastoria for the opportunity to cover the team this season, as it got me experience and opportunities to write for the Akron Beacon Journal this year. I’d also like to thank the Akron RubberDucks organization as a whole for allowing me to take in this great experience. Lastly, I thank YOU the audience of IBI for reading the content I’ve provided this season, it’s truly been a privilege and I’m glad to have given you coverage on the Cleveland Indians’ minor league system.
Spencer Davies is a student at the University of Akron studying Sports Management with a minor concentrating in Mass Communication. He has interned for the Cleveland Indians minor league affiliate Akron RubberDucks, IMG College, and has shadowed Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico. He currently is an on-air sports personality at WZIP-FM and works for the Akron Beacon Journal. Follow Spencer on Twitter @SpinDavies.