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The K-Tribe Chronicle: "Weather for today? Hot! darn hot, real hot, hot & wet!"

The K-Tribe Chronicle: "Weather for today? Hot! darn hot, real hot, hot & wet!"
July 13, 2011
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(Photo: Kinston Indians)
From the Reservation:

There's something that you can always count on during a North Carolina summer: a whole lot of heat. It's not normal heat either. It's that heavy, hazy heat that makes you feel like you've gained about 150 pounds from the thick, wet air. You know what I'm talking about.  We'd have days like that in Ohio maybe once or twice a year where you'd walk out your door and down your steps, and by the time you got to your car door, you were drenched in sweat.

I went to the neighborhood pool to cool off yesterday, and was bitterly disappointed when I jumped in the pool expected a chill, and found out that it was more like hopping into a Jacuzzi. I'm fairly sure I have third degree burns on the bottoms of my feet, and the 50 spf sun tan lotion did nothing but make the sweat cling even more based upon the burns on my shoulder. Yeah, another Carolina summer for sure.

This week, the temperatures hit triple-digits for the first time, and about the only thing hotter than the weather has been the Kinston Indians. While the weather in North Carolina isn't shocking, the play of the K-Tribe certainly has been.

Since Mid-May, this offensively challenged club has done nothing but win. They've gone 36-15 since May 17th, and have only lost back-to-back games once. This is a team that started off the season 2-8, and are now 13 games over .500. Like I said, things are heating up for Kinston in the Carolina League.

Now let's get driving, before I actually melt...

Where We Stand after week 13:

Overall Record: 50-37 Overall, 12-6 Second Half (4-2 the past week, first place in the Carolina League Southern division, 2 games ahead of Salem)

Week #13 Games:

July 2011

6 vs. Lynchburg, W 3-1 (WP: D. Pomeranz; LP: A. Shafer; SV: P. Guilmet)
7 vs. Lynchburg, Postponed: Rain
8 vs. Lynchburg, W 6-1 (WP: B. Brach; LP: C. Masters)
8 vs. Lynchburg, W 1-0 (WP: T. House; LP: D. Hale; SV: P. Guilmet)
9 @ Frederick, L 7-10 (WP: N. Moreau; LP: S. Wright)
10 @ Frederick, W 3-2 (WP: M. Popham; LP: R. Tanaka; SV: P. Guilmet)
11 @ Frederick, L 1-9 (WP: N. Haughian; LP: C. Cook)

This Week's Transactions:

07/11/2011 Trey Haley assigned to Kinston Indians from Lake County Captains.
07/09/2011 Drew Pomeranz assigned to Akron Aeros from Kinston Indians
07/06/2011 Argenis Martinez assigned to Kinston Indians from Lake County Captains.

The Offense:

I hate sounding like a broken record, but it's not like I have a lot of choices. The offense just is what it is, not very good statistically.  What they are good at are big hits in support of outstanding pitching. There still isn't a hitter above .300, and as a team, they are still last in almost every major category.

This past week, the team hit .227. Of their 40 hits however, nearly half were of the extra-base variety. They scored 21 runs, with eight doubles, a triple and nine homers. They walked 18 times, and struck out a hefty 47 times. You see what I'm talking about...they flippin' strike out more than they hit.  Yeah, it's not pretty.

The good news is that an old friend is finally heating up with the weather, and he left an impression that perhaps it's his turn to carry the team for a bit.

The Good...

I hope that you are sitting down as you read this, because Abner Abreu was outstanding this past week.  Abreu was recently named the Carolina League offensive player of the week, and for good reason. Over the past week since the last Chronicle, Abreu is 7-20, with six runs, a double, a triple, four homers, five RBI and two walks. All of his home runs were solo shots, but hey, they were home runs...from Abner Abreu. That's a big deal, considering he doubled his season home run total during the six-game stretch. Abreu's overall average remains a less-than-stellar .227 for the season, but Abreu has had a history of better play as the summer heats up, so perhaps he's about to re-enter the top prospect conversation.

Jeremie Tice can hit a baseball, and when he's gotten the at bats, he can be a consistent producer. Tice has never really showcased much power which will likely hold him back as a corner infielder/DH, but at the High A level, he can be effective. This week, Tice went 6-17, with three doubles and an RBI, with two walks and six strikeouts.

There were moments earlier in the season when Tyler Holt looked like he was about to burst upon the scene as a top 20 prospect, but an extended slump has put his prospect status into question. This week, Holt seemed to break out of his early summer doldrums. He went 6-20, with three runs, a double, a homer, an RBI, four walks and two stolen bases, while striking out four times. When Holt is at his best, he can totally disrupt the opposing pitcher, and he appears to be heading back into the "Havoc" territory. One thing to take note in is Holt's tendency to be a bit hot-headed. He was thrown out of a game earlier this week, and while it was clearly unjust, he can lose his temper rather easily. The question is how much his temper controls his overall game?

Argenis Martinez made his Kinston debut this week, and in a rare scenario, hit much better than he did at Lake County.  He hit .219 at Lake County last season, and .235 in his stint there at the beginning of the year. In his first week at Kinston, he rolled out a .294 average with a run and an RBI, with two walks and two K's.  He added two stolen bases. Martinez isn't Mr. Offense, but if you ever see the kid in the field, you can see why he's made it to High A. He's smooth in the field, so the offense is a plus.

...the bad and the ugly...

Anthony Gallas managed a grand total of one hit during the past week.  He came out of the gate in Kinston hitting the ball well, but that didn't last very long.  The good news was that his only hit was a home run.  Of course, that's not going to cut it over the long haul. The question with Gallas is whether or not he's the player that came smoking out of the gate in Lake County, or is he the player that's stinking up the Carolina League. Remember, the CL is notorious for pitching this year, so the struggles shouldn't be that big of a surprise.  But if he can't hit them now, will he be able to if he advances? He went 1-16 this past week, with one run, one homer and 3 RBI.

I'm sure that Casey Frawley has impressed every manager that he's played for because of his style of play.  He's a rough player, you know, the kid that always is covered in dirt because he busy diving all over the field making plays. He's always had decent power as a shortstop, and that scrappiness can carry him far. Unfortunately, if he's going to continue hitting under .200, as he did this week, that scrappy play will only carry him so far. He went 4-23 with two runs, two doubles, a homer and two RBI. The free swinger struck out nine times without a walk.

Doug Pickens and Roberto Perez combined for a really bad offensive week at the catcher slot. They went a combined 4-29, with one run, three RBI, two walks and 11 K's. Perez's saving grace is his defensive play, and he has a cannon of an arm. With the abundance of catching talent in Lake County and Mahoning Valley, I suspect one or both of these two may be searching for a job. My best guess is that Perez will latch on with a guy like Monsalve or Lowery, and move up with them. We shall see.

Delvi Cid and Chase Burnette have both found themselves losing at bats, and deservedly so. Burnette went a grand total of 1-8 this week, with one run, one double, one walk and a strikeout. Cid went 1-7, with a walk and three K's.

...and the rest...

If the worst weeks of the year were like this for Adam Abraham, he would be a top 20 prospect. Abraham exploded last week, hitting nearly .400.  His current average is sitting at .256, but if he could manage to bring that up to somewhere between .256 and .380, you have a  player that's going to make an impact. I like Abraham. You can tell that he is a consummate professional, and that he takes the game extremely seriously. His talent is catching up with his ethic, so it will be curious to see how far he can go. This week, he hit .263, scoring six runs with two homers and three RBI. He walked four times, and struck out five.

The Bullpen:

From top-to-bottom, the strength of the Kinston Indians resides in the bullpen. You could make a case that their two best arms in Adam Miller and Tyler Sturdevant have already gone, but they just keep getting better. This week, thanks to two seven-inning doubleheaders and some solid starts, they weren't needed as much. They did manage to make the most of their time.

They made a total of 14 appearances for a total of 14 1/3 IP.  They only gave up seven hits, two earned runs and a homer, with seventeen strikeouts. They walked only three batters. Their ERA was 1.29.

The Good...

You can't really appreciate Preston Guilmet until you actually see him pitch. If you just watch as a casual observer, you may think he has a strange windup, and the velocity certainly won't overwhelm you. But then you'll gravitate back to that wind up and see the brilliance. When he takes the ball back, his arm is perpendicular to the ground, and hidden by his leg. When he brings his arm forward to the release point, it must seem like the ball comes out of nowhere. This week, Guilmet made a push to retake the saves lead in the Carolina League. He made three appearances for 2 1/3 innings pitched, and was absolutely perfect. He struck out three and recorded three saves. Overall, Guilmet has a 2.00 ERA with 23 saves. If the K-Tribe continues to win, this saves race could get interesting. Frederick's Sean Gleason has the league lead with 24 saves.

Jose Flores, Francisco Jimenez and Kyle Landis all went two innings this week.  Landis and Flores both made two appearances, while Jimenez made one. Overall, the three pitched five total innings, giving up three hits and two walks, with six K's. These three are the backbone of the pen. They don't have the best arms, and likely won't find their way to the majors any time soon, but they are an important part of any pen. Clearly that's the case in Kinston.

Chris Jones scuffled a bit, but managed not to give up a run.  He went 1 1/3 IP, giving up a run and two hits, while striking out two.

...and the rest...

Rob Bryson has the most upside of any reliever in Kinston, and you could see him climb the ladder quickly if he keeps pitching well. This past week, he made three appearances in 2 2/3 IP, giving up one hit, one earned run and a homer, while striking out four. His overall ERA with Kinston is an impressive 0.69, and he could find himself in Akron soon. Remember, that's where he ended in 2010.

Trey Haley made his debut in Kinston, and immediately gave up an earned run in his two innings. Overall, he gave up two hits and an earned run, while striking out two with a walk. Haley's got as much upside as Bryson, but is still searching for consistent command. Haley can hit the upper 90's, and has a four-pitch arsenal. Clearly, they'll be taking one or more of those pitches away.

The Starters:

The Kinston starting rotation was a story of night and day. Overall, the numbers don't look overly impressive. The staff went 33 2/3 innings pitched, giving up 36 hits, 21 runs, 16 earned runs, six homers and 10 walks, while striking out 28 batters. The overall 4.28 ERA doesn't do the top of this staff justice for just how good they pitched.

Kinston received starts from six players this past week thanks to the promotion of top pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz. The top four starters combined for 25 2/3 innings pitched, 16 hits, three earned runs, one homer, seven walks, 23 strikeouts and a 4-0 record overall. That's an impressive 1.05 ERA

The bottom two starters went a combined 0-2, with eight innings pitched, 20 hits, 18 runs, 13 earned runs, five homers, three walks and five strikeouts. Their overall ERA was a bloated 14.63.

Clearly this rotation has talent, and when they keep the K-Tribe in games, the bullpen locks down the scoring. When you combine that with the clutch hitting that their offense provides, you have a dangerous team. With Giovanni Soto coming back soon, the staff will only get better.

The question is, will they stick with a six man rotation, or will a current starter move to the pen? It's likely that Steven Wright's time in the rotation is only temporary, but it is something to watch, especially not knowing how all the dominoes are going to fall with regards to the likely Gomez promotion, as well as Drew Pomeranz. Things could get very interesting.

The Good....

I just can't, for the life of me, figure out why Marty Popham ever spends time in the bullpen.  It's clear that he's just not the same pitcher as he is as a starter. No, he's not an overpowering type, but he does command two pitches in his fastball and slider that are consider plus to average. His fastball sits at 91-93, and he can hit 95 when he needs to. The development of that slider really has made him the quality starter that he is today. In this week's start, Popham went 7 2/3 innings, with seven hits, two earned runs, a homer, no walks and nine strikeouts. You have to like that BB/K ratio, as Popham is clearly becoming more consistent with his delivery, which he was hard to come by as a short-stint reliever. Since his return to Kinston, he's made six starts, going 3-0 with a 2.52. While you never know how that will translate as he moves up through the system (right Joe Gardner?), it sure is a good sign that they have another future major league starter on their hands.

Drew Pomeranz has left the building, and he did it with easily his best performance as K-Triber. Pomeranz really is an interesting pitcher. I've seen several of his starts this year, and there is a black and white quality to him. Overall, Pomeranz is about as cool as you can get on the mound which is advanced for his age. However, it's not quite as cut and dry as you would like to think. He can get frustrated, and while his overall demeanor pulls him out of the frustration quickly, he can have pockets of trouble. I've seen errors and walks throw him off for a couple of batters before the frustration dissipates, and he returns to his dominant form. Of course, his overall numbers are spectacular, and it was good to see him go seven innings in his last start. He gave up only three hits without a run, while walking two and striking out seven. He leaves Kinston with a 3-2 record, a league leading 1.87 ERA and an impressive 95 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched. Surely had he had any sort of run support, his record would have been vastly improved.

Brett Brach continues to throw impressive starts onto his resume, and this week he even flirted with a seven-inning no-hitter, which he carried into the fifth inning of the shortened first game of a double-header. Brach isn't a top prospect in the organization, but he certainly has served notice that he's a name that they'll have to look at should he continue his progression in the upper levels of the organization. This week, he went six innings, giving up only two hits, a run and two walks, while striking out two.

T.J. House also provided an outstanding start in the second game of Friday's doubleheader. House has a prodigious amount of talent, and with Pomeranz gone, he now has arguably the most upside to any other K-Tribe starter. He has a fastball in the upper-90's, and seems to be learning a bit more with regards to locating his pitches. He can struggle with control at times. He went five innings, giving up four hits and three walks, while striking out five. The three walks aren't indicative of how he pitched. He was really hitting corners, but just wasn't getting the calls. I've seen games in which he couldn't hit the strikezone at all. this wasn't one of them. Watch House, who could fly through the organization as a power pitching lefty. Yeah, his arm is that good.

...the bad and the ugly...

Steven Wright is certainly a project in this organization. His newly found knuckleball has proved mostly effective, but any good knuckleballer will tell you that there will be days it just doesn't flutter. So imagine the delite to hitters when a knuckleball comes floating in through the strikezone at about 70 MPH. That was the case for Wright in this past week's start. He only went four innings, giving up 10 hits, 10 runs (six earned), four homers and two walks, while striking out five strikeouts. It's unclear what the Indians have in mind for Wright, but it IS clear that they have plans for him, as he's made appearances in the four highest levels of the Indians organization this year. Of course, that's provided that he doesn't continue on the path of his last start.

Clayton Cook had been grooving through May and June as perhaps the best overall starter in Kinston.  Then came July. In his two starts, he's been lit up like a Christmas tree. This past week, he went four innings, giving up ten hits, eight runs (seven earned), a homer and a walk. This comes of an even worse performance on July 3 in which he made it out of the first inning, but didn't return after giving up two early runs. Cook has talent, but has to remain consistent with all of the quality depth at the position.

Week #13 Awards:

Hitter of the week:  Abner Abreu
Pitcher of the week:  Drew Pomeranz
Player of the week:  Drew Pomeranz

Weekly Awards

Week 1: 3B-Adam Abraham
Week 2: CF-Tyler Holt
Week 3: SP/RP-Toru Murata
Week 4: SP-Clayton Cook
Week 5: SP-Giovanni Soto
Week 6: RP-Adam Miller
Week 7: RP-Tyler Sturdevant
Week 8: NA
Week 9: NA
Week 10: NA
First Half: SP-Giovanni Soto
Week 11: Adam Abraham
Week 12: Adam Abraham
Week 13: Drew Pomeranz

Here comes week #13:

July 2011

13 @ Potomac, 7:05 PM
14 @ Potomac, 7:05 PM
15 @ Potomac, 7:05 PM
16 @ Potomac, 6:35 PM
17 vs. Winston-Salem, 4:30 PM
18 vs. Winston-Salem, 6:30 PM
19 vs. Winston-Salem, 6:30 PM

The Rearviewmirror:

Well, this will be Drew Pomeranz's second appearance in the rearview, as I jumped the gun a bit in early May, thinking that he was following the same path as Alex White. I was wrong, which was good for me, since I was able to watch the future Tribe front-liner for two more months.

Pomeranz isn't following the path of White, and that should suit him just fine. While I would say both White and Pomeranz possessed a similar disposition, I would also say that White seemed to have a bit more command of himself on the mound. I'm not saying Pomeranz wilts under the pressure, because he doesn't. What I am saying is that he has blips on the radar, and can lose focus for a batter or two. It never last long, and it has improved, but I would expect similar blips as Pomeranz continues to work on his secondary pitches.

With that said, he's advanced as a starter, and this promotion to Akron will likely set the stage for a Pomeranz watch starting somewhere in May of next year. I can't help but imagine a rotation with Alex White, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Drew Pomeranz at some point next season. For now, onto Akron for the Tribe's top pitching prospect.

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).

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