The Scrapperbook: 2013 season in review
The 2013 Mahoning Valley Scrappers were defined by a couple of overriding themes: a lack of offense, dominant pitching, and a killer 12-game losing streak during which seemingly nothing went write for the boys of Niles, Ohio.
That 12-game stretch began on the backside of a doubleheader with the Jamestown Jammers on July 3rd and lasted until July 15th in a contest with the Vermont Lake Monsters. Starting the season at a respectable 7-9 mark, the Scrappers were outscored by a tally of 76-31 during the losing streak and fell to 7-21.
That lack of offense is what got the Scrappers off to a bad start and it never really picked up.
The Scrappers finished the season with a combined team batting average of .233, good for 10th out of the 14-team New York Penn League. While the batting average wasn’t the worst, the Scrappers just couldn’t get runners home, as they finished last in the NYPL in runs (219). The 219 runs the Scrappers plated was by far the worst in the NY-Penn League. Vermont was the second worst run scoring unit, but still finished the year with 25 more runs than the Scrappers.
While the run-scoring was certainly an issue, the Scrappers pitchers did a good job at run prevention. Mahoning Valley finished fifth in the NYPL in team ERA with a 2.96 mark, but that was only due to some bullpen struggles. As far as the starting rotation goes, two starters- Luis Lugo and Cole Sulser- finished the year with ERA’s below 2.00 and two more- Dace Kime and Kenny Matthews- finished with an ERA below 3.00.
The only starter not named on that list was Caleb Hamrick, who’s rough start bloated his ERA tremendously. In the final month of the season, however, Hamrick allowed just six earned runs in seven starts and brought his ERA down to a 3.20 mark on the season.
Had it not been for the bullpen, the Scrappers might have finished atop the NYPL in terms of pitching, but the bullpen is certainly an integral part of any baseball team. While certain guys got the job done on a consistent basis from the bullpen - especially Matt Whitehouse who pitched 37.1 innings with an ERA below 1.00 - there were definitely a few who struggled.
Relievers Harold Guerrero, Joshua Nervis, and Rafael Homblert all made tremendous negative contributions to the bullpen with each carrying an ERA above 7.00 throughout the year. Other bullpen guys such as Kerry Doanegot off to rocky starts, but brought their astronomical ERAs down as the season progressed.
Overall, the Scrappers finished amongst the top five in the NYPL in ERA, hits allowed, runs allowed, earned runs allowed, walks allowed, strikeouts, and WHIP.
The pitchers capped off their brilliant season in September by producing three shutout victories, including a combined no hitter that took place on September 1st against the Batavia Muckdogs. It only made sense, given their abysmal hitting and their stellar pitching, that the Scrappers would become the first NYPL team since 2008 to throw a no-hitter and be no-hit in the same season. The latter came just a couple of weeks before the former on August 18th against the Williamsport Crosscutters.
The Scrappers finished their season at 30-44 and as the second worst team in the NYPL. While the Scrappers woes were well-documented, some individuals did stand out in the 2013 campaign.
Nellie Rodriguez, INF
73 G, .287 BA, 75 H, 16 2B, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 32 R, 29 BB, .366 OBP, .452 SLG, .818 OPS
Rodriguez was far and away the best hitter on this Mahoning Valley roster. Frankly, it wasn’t even close. Rodriguez lead the Scrappers in 11 major offensive categories including at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, total bases, walks, OBP, slugging percentage, batting average and OPS. His dominant numbers earned him the cleanup spot in the Scrappers lineup early in the year and helped him to become one of the five Mahoning Valley players in the 2013 NYPL All-Star Game. While Rodriguez put up solid numbers in Mahoning Valley, he will look to improve upon those numbers and move up in the system going into 2014.
Cody Ferrell, OF
32 G, .279 BA, 31 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 36 TB, 9 BB, .365 OBP, .324 SLG, .689 OPS.
Cody Ferrell was not in the Cleveland Indians minor league system when the Scrappers season began on June 17th. The Indians signed Ferrell as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma City University in early July and Ferrell saw the field almost right away. Not signed to a big signing bonus like many of his teammates, Ferrell’s pressure was that much more, but that pressure may have forced him to out-produce his peers. Ferrell finished second on the Scrappers roster in batting average and on-base percentage, earning him a call-up to mid-A Lake County late in the year. While the Cinderella story took a small step backward in Eastlake, he still proved to be a very surprisingly solid signing by the Indians.
65 G, .272 BA, 68 H, 16 2B, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 104 TB, .326 OBP, .416 SLG, .742 OPS
Rounding out the Scrappers offensive stars of 2013 is Claudio Bautista, who was a NYPL All-Star along with Rodriguez. After two seasons in the Arizona Summer League, Bautista finally showed signs of life from the offensive end. In the early going, it was Bautista - not Rodriguez - who was carrying the offensive load and hitting the cover off the ball. Eventually, as the numbers show, Bautista slowed down, but was still consistent enough to maintain his place amongst the best Scrappers hitters this season. Bautista, like Ferrell, did earn some time with the Lake County Captains, but was pretty unsuccessful in his short stint there. Next season, Bautista will look to make that next big jump into the Captains everyday lineup.
11 G, 1-4, 1.97 ERA, 50.1 IP, 39 H, 15 R, 11 ER, 11 BB, 30 SO
Much like his offensive counterpart Rodriguez, Lugo was one of the only consistent stars for the Scrappers throughout the entire season. It was evident from his very first outing as the tall, lanky lefty produced at a very high level throughout the year as he allowed just one run and one walk per start while elevating his strikeout numbers as the season went on. For a majority of the year, Lugo lead the NYPL in ERA and earned himself a spot on the NYPL All-Star Roster. The most unfortunate part of Lugo’s season, however, was his lowly 1-4 record. Clearly, as the numbers indicate, Lugo was this team’s best pitcher and one of the better pitchers in the league, yet he only earned one win thanks to the lack of run support he received from the offense. The Indians took notice of Lugo’s success, regardless of his win total, and moved him to Lake County for his final three starts of the season. While Lugo has probably seen his last action in Niles, the starter has bigger and better things on his horizon.
15 G, 3-2, 1.83 ERA, 54.0 IP, 37 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 9 BB, 60 K
After a shaky start to the season, Sulser - the Dartmouth College alumnus and 2013 Indians draft pick - emerged as this teams best pitcher down the stretch. With the absence of Lugo to Lake County, the Scrappers were in need of an ace and Sulser delivered. In his final two starts of the season, Sulser even made a bit of history. After the first inning of a start against Jamestown he pitched perfect baseball until a batter singled in the seventh inning. That was 11 innings of three-up, three-downs and 33 retired batters in a row for the Scrappers. In those games, Sulser piled up his third win of the season and 20 of his 60 strikeouts on the year, throwing ten in each game. While the location of his first start next season is yet to be determined, Sulser will look to build upon his strong finish going into 2014.
14 G, 4-2, 0.72 ERA, 37.1 IP, 22 H, 9 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 29 K
Matt Whitehouse was statistically the best pitcher on this staff and maybe in the NYPL. His role, however, may have prevented him from the acclaim he deserved. Whitehouse was used primarily as a middle reliever, making only four starts on the year, yet put up some of the leagues’ best numbers. In 14 appearances, Whitehouse only allowed three earned runs and four walks all year, earning him an NYPL All-Star bid and a team-leading four wins. While they were still good overall, Whitehouse’s last few appearances were a few of his worst. Of the three earned runs he allowed all season, two of them came in his final three outings. Whitehouse was certainly not a household name amongst the Indians prospects, but should he put up these numbers in the upper-levels of the Indians Minor League system, he will become a household name very quickly.
71 G, .200 BA, 48 H, 9 2B, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 57 TB, 15 BB, 76 K, .252 OBP, .238 SLG
While McAdams was a decent player for most of the Scrappers season, a bitter August sent the left-fielder into a massive tailspin. With a .276 average in June and a .276 mark in July, McAdams fell dramatically thanks to a .101 average in August and a .077 mark in September. In that putrid month, McAdams accounted for just nine of his 48 hits, struck out 32 times, and put together a .273 OPS. His last ten games were even worse and sent him down to the infamous Mendoza-line. In his final 32 at-bats, McAdams only managed two hits, two RBI and three walks, while he struck out 17 times. The most worrisome part of McAdams, however, was his lack of power. Drafted as a power-hitting outfielder, McAdams couldn’t muster enough strength to put a single ball over the fence in 2013. He did double on nine occasions, but overall his power numbers were not at all what the Scrappers or the Indians expected them to be. McAdams was the Indians 7th-round Draft Pick in 2012, but should he continue on this path, McAdams may not be a member of this Indians organization in the future.
44 G, .207 BA, 30 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 8 BB, 58 K, .248 OBP
The case of Juan Romero in 2013 is an interesting one. Romero was very much a power-hitter, but very little of anything else. When Romero made contact, the ball went a long way- as evidenced by the fact that 11 of his thirty hits were of the extra-base variety- but he didn’t hit the ball often. In 44 games on the season, Romero struck out 58 times and put together a measly .248 OBP. The biggest problem was his plate discipline. A free-swinger, Romero continually lifted the bat off his shoulder and took mammoth hacks at even the worst of pitches. On 11 occasions, those mammoth hacks lead to mammoth hits, but more often than not they lead to strikeouts. If Romero can develop some plate-discipline going into 2014, he could become one of the better power hitters in the system.
20 G, 2-1, 7.89 ERA, 21.2 IP, 17 H, 23 R, 19 ER, 24 BB, 29 K
Harold Guerrero’s time in the Cleveland Indians organization may be quickly exasperating, especially after his 2013 season. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indians in 2008, Guerrero has yet to progress past single-A Lake County, while having continually been optioned back to the Scrappers. This past season, Guerrero never got the call-up to the Captains - that’s how pronounced his struggles were. His biggest problems resulted from a lack of command, as he walked 24 batters in 21 innings. It was those walks that lead to the hits and the hits that lead to the runs, and that cycle never ended for Guerrero. His ERA was consistently the highest on the team and two separate times in his final 10 appearances, Guerrero allowed four earned runs without recording a single out. Guerrero is clearly a hit or miss pitcher and the big reliever might have missed his opportunity to gain any traction in the Indians organization.
11 G, 7.43 ERA, 13.1 IP, 19 H, 15 R, 11 ER, 2 HR, 4 BB, 7 SO
While Rafael Homblert finished with a very similar ERA to fellow reliever Harold Guerrero, Homblert’s problem was completely different. Homblert couldn’t get bats to miss his pitches. In 13.1 innings, Homblert allowed 19 hits and 15 runs, while walking only four batters. It was his inability to work out of jams and key situations that decimated Homblert’s 2013 campaign and earned him a spot on this “Rusty Rejects” list. As similar as their numbers were, the difference between Homblert and Guerrero is that Homblert has shown signs of promise, where as Guerrero has not. In 2012, Homblert finished with a 2.35 ERA in 30.2 innings with the Scrappers, therefore making 2013 look as if it was a bit of an anomaly in Homblert’s short career. If Homblert can’t return to his 2012 form in 2014, questions of his worth will definitely continue to surface and his future with this organization may be in jeopardy.