The Akron RubberDucks opened the 2018 campaign with plenty of interesting names on the roster. Triston McKenzie, Bobby Bradley, Shane Bieber, Willi Castro, Aaron Civale, Ka’ai Tom, and Tyler Krieger all appeared in the top-25 of BRB’s 2017 Cleveland prospect rankings. However, no RubberDuck impressed as much as Shane Bieber in Akron’s opening week. After starting nine games in 2017 for Akron and putting up stellar numbers (2.32 ERA / 2.18 FIP, 8.12 K/9, 0.83 BB/9), Bieber picked up right where he left off and then some in 2018.
Between his starts last Thursday vs. Altoona and Tuesday vs. Binghamton, Bieber dominated, pitching 13 shutout innings, while striking out 17 and walking none. Importantly, his fastball velocity reportedly sat around 92-94 mph, which gives him a much higher ceiling than other control orientated pitchers like Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt. If the 22-year-old continues to pitch anywhere near as well as he did last week, he’ll almost certainly appear in Cleveland before the year’s end.
However, Bieber wasn’t the only Akron player to have a strong first week. Aaron Civale did his best Bieber impression, pitching 9.2 innings last week, while allowing just one earned run, with 11 strikeouts and two walks. Once Triston McKenzie is healthy, Akron’s rotation will undoubtedly be among the most impressive in all of minor league baseball.
Like the Indians, Akron’s hitters struggled while playing in the cold weather. As a team, the Ducks only slashed .190/.274/.311 inÂ their first 7 games of 2018, but still managed to go 4-3, thanks in part to the stellar pitching mentioned above. Mark Mathias was the only regular position player with decent production for Akron, as he slashed .263/.417/.421 in six games last week.
After an off day Thursday, the Ducks will play in their home opener on Friday vs. Trenton, and the hitters will certainly appreciate the warm weather due in Northeast Ohio. The Ducks will then have six more games at home, before going on their second road trip of the season.