Just looking at the roster on paper coming into the season, the Lake County Captains figured to have some good, interesting pitching and nobody had any idea who was going to hit. They started out the season with three wins as some potential hitters emerged in Li-Jen Chu, Gavin Collins and Emmanuel Tapia. Bigger name prospects like Connor Capel, Luke Wakamatsu and Gabriel Mejia all struggled or suffered injuries which quickly sank the Captains, finishing in second to last each half of the season (27-42 1st half, 27-43 second half).
Tapia broke the Captains single season home run record by hitting 29. Overall the Captains had four players with double digit homers and two with 20 or more (Capel ended with 22)
The pitching that looked strong with names like Brady Aiken, Juan Hillman, Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale looked promising. But Aiken struggled all year with his command and has been unable to find the fastball velocity that made him a first round pick, sitting 88-91 with his fastball most of the year. His curveball remained a good pitch but he struggled to throw many pitches for strikes consistently. Hillman showed flashes in some starts but overall had a disappointing season and so far has yet to really flash the potential of a first round pick. Bieber and Civale pitched so well early that they didn’t last in Lake County long. They combined to make 15 starts and six walks (yes, six between the two over 15 starts) before being promoted. Bieber flew so quickly he wound up in AA Akron to end the year.
Injuries played a big role once the Captains good pitching flew the coup or struggled. Speedy Mejia was out most of the year as was speedster Todd Isaacs as well as Luke Wakamatsu and Mitch Longo. The Captains could have used Longo all year as he slashed .361/.431/.530 with 18 doubles, four homers and 18 steals in 19 chances while playing all over the outfield and hit in every spot of the lineup. He played in just 55 games.
Wakmatsu had a good second half power wise when healthy and is a great defensive shortstop. The bullpen was extremely good with Ben Krauth having a great year along with Henry Martinez, Alsis Herrera and Dalbert Siri.
Both LHP Sean Brady (2013 5th rounder) and RHP Zach Plesac made it back from Tommy John surgeries for some good second half outings, giving the Indians some hope for those two arms on the other side of arm surgery. Justin Garza also came back from surgery and had some good appearances in the second half of the season and should have something to build on for next year as it looked like he was finally starting to regain his command and confidence.
Bieber and Civale were clearly the class of this team talent and performance wise but they weren’t here long enough. Ditto for Longo, even though he raked when he was there. Tapia had 29 homers but struck out 180 times and only posted a .271 OBP. The only guy worthy who was there all season was Capel.
Capel’s slash line in the first half was .217/.309/.448 with 10 homers and six steals in 11 tries. He continued to work hard and make adjustments and came through with a second half performance of .271/.323/.504 with 12 homers and nine steals in 14 chances. His OPS only landed at .795 to end the year but it was a huge turnaround by Capel and he cut down his strikeouts from the first half from 58 to 50.
Bieber walked 10 guys in all year in 173 1/3 innings while maintaining a solid strikeout rate (22.4%) as he moved up to Double-A. He picked up ticks on his fastball this year and comes in up to 93, which is a a big step up for him. With his command he’s going to be ready soon to be a back end of the rotation option. Civale kept the walks down and also had a commendable strikeout rate (21.1%). I’m less sure about his future as a starter but he’s could easily be a very nice bullpen piece.
The one player I feel most comfortable about their future from a talent stand point is Siri. He posted an absurd 34.2% strikeout rate with his fastball that touches 96 and a nasty slider that can get to 90. The only remaining question about Siri was command. He walked 26 in 40 2/3 innings but just 10 in the second half. Health depending, as long as Siri hones his command, he’s a reliever you’re going to hear about very quickly next season.
Longo hit the hell out of the ball and did so in his brief time in Lynchburg too. The Indians may have found a gem of their bat in their own backyard but with all college hitters, it’s important to temper expectations until they have a few months into Double-A.
Collins looks like his catching days are over but he played a find third base, smacked eight of his 12 homers at Lake County with a .370 wOBA (weighted on-base average). Collins was touted as a good hitter in college and showed that this season. Longo got a lot of pub for eye popping numbers but Collins was one of the Captains best bats with a promising future this year.
Cause for Concern
The obvious answer here is Aiken. With a 16.9% walk rate in 132 innings and his fastball down into the high 80s-to-low 90s, the Indians risk of a draft pick so far as not been a promising bet. Hillman ending the year with an 8.7% K-BB rate was not good and only had flashes of good starts. But, he’s been healthy and is only 20.
Most Power: Tapia
Best Bat: Capel
Best Wheels: Mejia
Best Glove: Wakamatsu
Best Arm: Logan Ice
Worst Glove: Miguel Eladio
Best Control: Bieber
Best Stuff: Siri
Most Likely to be an MLB Pitcher: Siri
Most Likely to be an MLB Hitter: Longo