Down on the farm: Weekly checkin on Cleveland Indians affiliates
Editor’s Note: We have not given enough love to our affiliates all season, and given the number of top-level players we have at our various affiliates, we’ll begin doing so each week throughout the second half. Look for these updates every Saturday or Sunday. All numbers are through games played Thursday, July 21.
While the Indians are sitting atop the American League, let’s take a moment to recognize the talent the Tribe still has waiting in the wings.
– Columbus has come out of the All-Star break swinging, going 5-3 with a pair of walk-off wins since July 14. The first-place Clippers own a 4.0 game lead in the International League West division with a 54-46 record.
Infielder/outfielder Yandy Diaz owns an 11-game hitting streak, which is tied for the 4th-longest active streak in the IL. Diaz is batting .435 with five RBI, seven runs scored, eight walks and just five strikeouts during the streak.
The 24-ear-old Cuban has made 27 starts in the outfield for Columbus this season after playing the infield exclusively in his first two professional seasons. He has made just two errors in 68 total chances with five outfield assists.
Third baseman Giovanny Urshela has also been on a tear since the break, batting .361 (13-for-36) in his last eight games. The 24-year-old has hit safely in each of his last five games, going 11-for-24 (.429) with two homers, three RBI and five runs scored.
– Akron followed a three-game skid with a three-game streak to go 4-3 this past week. At 54-45, the RubberDucks are in a de facto tie for first place in the Eastern League’s Western division, trailing the Harrisburg Senators (53-44) by .001 percentage points.
Outfielder Bradley Zimmer came on strong this week, going 9-for-19 (.474) with three multi-hit games in his last five. Although he has struck out the fourth-most times in the EL this season (112), he leads the league in walks (55), is second in stolen bases (31) and has racked up the fourth-most extra-base hits (40).
The Ducks have also gotten some great performances from their bullpen of late. Right-hander Grant Sides has not allowed an earned run since June 5 (20.1IP) and has not allowed a run of any kind since July 2 (7.1IP). Righty J.P. Feyereisen has not surrendered an earned run since June 16 (12.0IP), and owns a streak of eight straight scoreless appearances (10.2IP).
– Lynchburg extended its winning streak to eight games with a 5-0 week. The Hillcats are 17-8 in the second half (62-33 overall) with a one-game lead over the second-place Potomac Nationals.
The Hillcats capped the week with a trio of shutouts, all started by southpaws, as Lynchburg allowed 11 combined hits over those three games. Luis Lugo started things off Monday as he fanned 10 and allowed just three hits over 7.0 innings, Justus Sheffield allowed four hits and three walks while fanning eight over 6.2 innings on Wednesday and Thomas Pannone held the Carolina Muscats to one hit and one walk with three strikeouts over 7.0 innings on Thursday.
Not to be outdone by their pitching staff, Lynchburg hitters batted .348 with 40 runs scored this week. Anthony Santander hit .391 (9-for-23) with four home runs, five runs scored and 10 RBI in five games. The 21-year-old Venezuelan outfielder leads Lynchburg with 21 RBI in 17 games in July.
– Lake County went 3-2 in an odd week that featured a doubleheader, consecutive off days and a postponed game. The Captains are currently fifth in the Midwest League Eastern division with a 10-15 second-half record (50-45 overall), 6.5 games out of first place.
Outfielder Nathan Lukes was arguably Lake County’s most effective hitter last week, going 7-for-20 with four RBI, four runs scored, one triple and three home runs in five games. A seventh round pick by the Indians in last year’s draft, Lukes is 13th in the ML with a .302 average.
Right-hander Matt Esparza turned in the outing of the week for Lake County hurlers, as he held Quad Cities scoreless on four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over 6.0 innings of work on Sunday in Iowa. His 3.09 ERA (33ER/96.0IP) this season ranks fifth among Midwest League pitchers that have thrown at least 90.0 innings.
– Mahoning Valley has struggled this season, sitting in fifth place and 10.0 games back in the New York-Penn League Pinckney division, but has turned it on in the last two weeks, winning seven of their last 11 games.
The Scrappers have been carried by their stellar starting rotation. Right-hander Triston McKenzie, the 42nd overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, is 3-2 with a 0.48 ERA through seven starts as he has allowed just two earned runs with 42 strikeouts in 37.2 innings this season. The 6-foot-5, 18-year-old leads the league in ERA, is second in strikeouts and sixth in innings pitched.
Cleveland’s second-round pick in last year’s draft, left-hander Juan Hillman, has also impressed, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA (7ER/33.1IP) through seven starts. The 19-year-old southpaw owned a 0.89 ERA through his first six starts before allowing six runs, four earned, on six hits and two walks over 3.0 innings in his last start on Thursday.
– The AZL Indians are off to a hot start in the desert as they lead the AZL Central division at 17-8. The Indians went 5-1 this week as they have won 10 of their last 12 games.
Infielder Jorma Rodriguez is third in the AZL with a .383 average, and is reaching base at the fourth-highest rate (.451). Nolan Jones, Cleveland’s second round pick in this year’s draft, has also performed well in his first professional setting. The 18-year-old third baseman is batting .333 (9-for-27) with eight walks and 11 strikeouts in his first eight games.
–TribeVibe contributor Robert Davidson