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The Sports Daily > Burning River Baseball
This Is Next Year: Under The Radar Hitters Stepping Up

AAA Columbus
by Gavin Potter

The Columbus Clippers took a step back week, going 1-5, and as a result, fell to 1.5 games back of Indianapolis in the International League West Division. On the year, the Clippers sit at 55-50.

Ronny Rodriguez had a huge week for Akron, going 10-25 with three home runs, adding to his big year in 2017. To date, he’s slashed .286/.353/.453, good for a 113 wRC+, which would be the second-best offensive year of the versatile Rodriguez’s career.

Adam Plutko turned in his best start in a month on Sunday, pitching 7 innings, and allowing just 2 earned runs and five hits. He did only strike out two hitters, but he was effective nonetheless, especially compared to his previous start, where he allowed 10 earned runs.

The Clippers will finish their weekend series on the road vs. Norfolk, the return home for a seven-game home stand against Indianapolis (figuring to have serious playoff implications) and Toledo.

AA Akron
by Jay Alan

The Akron RubberDucks continue their inconsistent play as they hit the 100 game mark for the season. The Ducks are 50-51, 5-5 in their last 10, and sit 3.5 games back in the Eastern League West. It seems to always be something different causing the Ducks problems. One day they will lose on a late home run, while the next game the pitching will let them down. Their play has been unpredictable, and well, average.

It is not too often that the RubberDucks face a former Indians Big Leaguer, but they are sure glad to see  Jerry Sands leave Canal Park and head back to Richmond. Sands played pretty well all weekend, and capped it off Sunday with a two-run home run in the top of the ninth. The home run put the Flying Squirrels up 4-2 and gave them the win in the last game of the series. The next day against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies the pitching really let the Ducks down, giving up 13 walks in all. Finally in game two of the series with Binghamton, Akron had some good news. Not only do they seem to lose a lot of games late, they manage to win a few late also. Tyler Krieger scored Eric Haase on a walk-off sac fly in the bottom of the ninth to win game one of a double header. In game two, it was back to inconsistent, with the Akron offense only managing four hits and getting shut out for the fifth time this year.

Luckily for Akron, their games Thursday and Friday against the Bowie Baysox at Prince Georges Stadium were rained out. Hopefully a few days off will help the Ducks to rest up and look more like the defending Eastern League Champions. Saturday and Sunday will now both be double headers to make up for the earlier missed games.

Advanced-A Lynchburg
by Justin Lada

Mother Nature got involved with the Hillcats week again but they managed to finish the week 3-3. They may have lost one of the best pitchers, Shane Bieber, to a promotion to Akron. Nick Pasquale did a nice job in his return to Lynchburg pitching five shutout innings with six strikeouts.

Triston McKenzie unfortunately had a rough outing this week getting tagged with seven runs in five innings striking out six and walking three. It was perhaps maybe just the second or third rough start of his career.

Gavin Collins only had three hits this week. Despite cooling off a bit he’s still putting up an .815 OPS since the promotion to High-A. Sam Haggerty continues to tick back upwards as well picking up four more hits this week over three games. He has an .831 OPS in the month of July with seven steals and now is 33-for-40 in steals this year, maybe rising his prospect stock a little despite being 23 in High-A.

At 20-14 Lynchburg sits atop the Carolina League North and already clinched a playoff spot from the first half.

Low-A Lake County
by Justin Lada

A 4-1 stretch this week may have been the best week the Captains have had in either half of the season in 2017. Ben Krauth was stretched out to four innings Sunday and didn’t allow a run, just a hit and three walks.  He didn’t get the win but the Captains led 6-0 when he departed thanks to Emmanuel Tapia‘s Midwest League leading 21st homer (and has 23 now) and Mitch Longo‘s sixth. Tapia homered in three games this week and drove in six. Tapia is at 128 strikeouts and 23 walks in 339 at bats. Longo meanwhile picked up four hits and six RBI this week and has a slash line of .343/.408/.552. Longo (Mayfield native) may like living at home right now but his slash line indicates that he may be helping the Hillcats in the playoffs in a few weeks.

Justin Garza managed to allow just three runs in five innings despite seven walks for a Captains win at South Bend. Brady Aiken won his third straight decision Monday but allowed four runs in five innings with three walks and four strikeouts.

Other pitchers of note include reliever Dalbert Siri, who struck out six in two innings and allowed two hits (54 K’s in 30 2/3 innings) and former 5th rounder Sean Brady returned from injury rehab and pitched four innings allowing a run in his trip back.

The Captains finish up their roadtrip in West Michigan on Tuesday and come home Wednesday to host South Bend and West Michigan. They’re 17-16 this half and are currently 3 1/2 games behind a playoff spot for the second half.

Short-Season Mahoning Valley
by Caitlin Boron

The Scrappers have fallen out of first place through the week, sitting just half a game under West Virginia, who they don’t face again until mid-August. They’re 23-14 on the season and have won 5 of their last seven games.

If there’s one game over the week that might stick out a bit more than the others, it would be the 12-2 win over Williamsport on Friday night. Starting pitcher Francisco Perez got his third win of the season, going 5.2 innings, only giving up two hits and three walks with no runs and four strikeouts. Through eight starts and 42.0 IP, Perez holds a 1.02 WHIP and 2.57 ERA. He leads the team in starts (8), IP (42.0), and leads in wins among starters (3).

The bat that lead the charge consistently through the game was 2B Samad Taylor, who went 4 for 4 with a walk, a run and five RBI. Taylor has been scorching hot over his last ten games, slashing .333/.341/.524 & .865 OPS with 14 hits, 11 RBI, through 48 ABs. Taylor has stuck out since game one, showing his supportive defense and offense whenever given the chance.

Another player to keep an eye one, INF Ernie Clement, who’s on a fiery 14-game hitting streak, and righty reliever Jonathan Teaney who through 16.0 IP has struck out 25 and has only given up three ER on seven hits.

Going into their next week, the Scrappers finish up their series with Williamsport for a potential sweep, before playing Batavia at home and then taking off on a three-day road trip to Falcon Park to face Auburn

AZL Indians
by Joe Coblitz

The AZL Tribe only had five games scheduled this week and one of those was cancelled due to a monsoon on Sunday. With that, we’re really only looking at three games this week, two against the White Sox and one with the Rangers Wednesday. Of these, the first two were losses with the Sox scoring seven each game and the last a 5-3 win against Texas.

Henry Pujols is certainly the story of the week as he hit three home runs including two against Texas and he now has six on the season, second in the AZL. Pujols is a third baseman who is only hitting .234, but leads the team with .532 slugging percent. Like many players at this level, he has some issues with strike recognition and contact and will have to improve his K/BB ratio to advance.

On the pitching front, three pitchers who had a terrible start had great appearances this week as Luis Araujo pitched 1.1 scoreless on Monday, Luis Oviedo threw relief scoreless on Tuesday with just three hits allowed and four K’s and Juan Mota threw five scoreless in relief of Sam Hentges on Wednesday, striking out five and allowing just two hits. Speaking of Hentges, both he and Gabriel Mejia are progressing well through their rehab assignments and haven’t had further set backs.

DSL Indians
by Joe Coblitz

It was another short week in the DSL as the Indians-Brewers combo squad lost another one to rain, this time against the Indians full DSL squad. After that, it was more of the same as they went three straight games without a run scored, then put eight on the board in a win on Thursday.

With little offense to look to, it was their pitching that was of interest. Wilmer Mejia (yes, another Mejia) pitched five shut out innings on Monday with four K’s and no walks. While this was just his second career start, Mejia began the year throwing out of the bullpen and has pitched 12.2 innings in his last three appearances without a walk.

On Tuesday, it was Jahir Varela who was the hero, pitching three innings of scoreless relief after they had fallen behind 3-0. While the offense would hit safely just twice this game, Varela pitched well and has now allowed just five earned runs in 33.2 innings this year, four of which came in the same game. The DSL Indians-Brewers were two hit again the next day before exploding for eight on Thursday. Indians players were a big part of that as catcher Micael Ramirez hit three doubles and scored three times while Pablo Jimenez hit two doubles and knocked in three behind him. The Indians biggest offensive names were missing as Cristopher Cespedes has been transferred to the main Indians DSL team and Makesiondon Kelkboom remains on the DL.