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David S. Glasier has been covering the Lake County Captains since 2002, when ground was broken to build Classic Park in Eastlake. He'll keep you abreast of what's happening with the players and the fans as another season unfolds.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lake County Captains 2014 overview: troubled start to season

                                  "You are what your record says you are.'' Bill Parcells

     I kept thinking about that quote by the famously plain-spoken Pro Football Hall of Fame coach while considering how best to summarize the way the Lake County Captains have played through the first month of the 2014 season.
     The Captains are 9-21 at this writing. They are in last place in the MWL's Eastern Division with the worst record in the 16-team league.
      Since getting off to a 4-1 start, they are 5-20. Twice this season, they have lost eight straight games.
      Their team batting average of .225 is the lowest in the league, light years behind the league-leading .281 compiled by the Quad City (Iowa) River Bandits. Captains batters have struck out a league-leading 329 times. Next on the whiff list are the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks with 256 strikeouts.
    Going into the May 4 home game against West Michigan (a 6-4 loss), Captains hitters were batting .216 with runners in base, .212 with runners in scoring position, .177 with runners in scoring position and two outs and a numbingly poor .048 with bases loaded.
     Lake County pitchers are 12th overall with a team ERA of 4.49. The only pitcher with two victories is reliever Kenny Mathews. Mitch Brown, the Indians' second-round selection in the June 2012 draft is 0-5 with a 6.57 ERA in his six starts.
     The Captains have been charged with 51 errors, second-most in the league after the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps with 56.
     In summary, the pitching has been OK at best, the hitting mediocre for the most part and the defense porous.
     Small wonder the Captains are 9-21.
     They are what their record says they are: the worst team in the MWL.
     But as I'm constantly reminded, minor-league baseball is about development, not wins and losses. I am persuaded having players acquire a taste for winning and an aversion to losing is an important component of development, but that's an argument for another day and time.
     With the first half of the MWL season reaching its midway juncture, here are the positives I've seen in the development area.
      - Catcher Eric Haase, back for a second season with the Captains, is batting .221 but otherwise playing like a guy who wants to be promoted to advanced Single-A Carolina in short order. Haase leads the Midwest League with six home runs and has a .545 slugging percentage. He's doing solid work behind the plate, too.
     - Center fielder Clint Frazier, the highly-touted slugging prospect from Georgia,  has only one home run, four other extra base hits, six RBI and .385 slugging percentage in 65 at-bats over 17 games. His ratio of 21 strikeouts to 12 walks also leaves something to be desired. Numbers aside, Frazier passes the eye test every time. He'll bust out soon and demonstrate why the Indians made him the fifth overall selection in the June 2013 draft.
   - Shortstop Paul Hendrix (.293,  two home runs, nine RBI), has been on a tear of late. He's replaced error-prone Dorssys Paulino as the everyday shortstop.
    - Third baseman Grant Fink (.263, one home run, 11 RBI) is steady as a rock beyond a sometimes erratic throwing arm.
     - First baseman Nellie Rodriguez (.245, four home runs, 11 RBI) is 19 years old and still developing a power stroke that could set him apart from many prospects in the Tribe's farm system.
     - Left fielder Brian Ruiz (.254, three RBI), a Cleveland kid who played his high school ball at Lincoln West. is just starting to hit and is worth watching over the next month.
    - Right fielder Cody Ferrell (.250, three home runs, nine RBI)  has been consistently productive since the start of the season.
    - Starting pitcher Adam Plutko (1-0, 4.28 ERA) has given the Captains a chance to win in each of his six starts. The UCLA product isn't overpowering but knows how to set up and op put away hitters.
   - Starting pitcher Jordan Milbrath (1-1, 1.26 ERA), part of a piggyback team with Caleb Hamrick, has been outstanding in five of his six appearances.
   - Starting pitcher Robbie Aviles (0-1, 1.02 ERA), part of a piggyback team with Luis Lugo, is showing well in his second go-round with Lake County.
   - Relievers Wander Beras (1-0, 3.00 ERA), Kenny  Mathews (2-2, 2.04) and Trevor Frank (1-2, 2.27 ERA, three saves) have been super solid and extricated the Captains from some tough situations.
    Players who performances haven't matched expectations include Mitch Brown, starting pitcher Dace Kime (0-4, 8.86 ERA), second baseman Claudio Bautista (.213, one home run, 10 RBI) and Dorssys Paulino (.218, five RBI, 13 errors).
    The Tribe's player-development team apparently has decided a change of defensive scenery is in order for the 19-year-old Paulino, who was charged with 39 errors last season with the Captains and was on a pace to exceed that total this season.
    On May 5, the Indians sent Paulino to Goodyear,  Ariz. and extended spring training to make the switch to outfield.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Early-season view of Lake County Captains from David S. Glasier

     Experience is the great teacher, but sometimes,  lessons are lost on the student.
     That's why I'm wading in now with some ridiculously early impressions of the 2014 Captains.
     As I write this, the Captains (3-1) are in Iowa, playing the Clinton LumberKings, in their fifth game of the season and first road game.
     They've just scored three runs in the top of the first inning to chase Clinton starter Tony Burns. I don't remember last year's Captains doing that, so that's a good sign of the way this team is playing under first-year manager Mark Budzinski.
     Let me repeat that it's absurdly early, but here goes my first read on the Captains.
     Position players...
     - Starting catcher Eric Haase is playing like a man possessed. Haase was on Lake County all last season and clubbed 14 home runs. He thought he was going to advanced Single-A Carolina out of spring training, but that didn't happen. If he was peeved with the decision by his bosses in the Tribe's player development office, it hasn't showed in his off-field demeanor or on-field performance. Haase is tearing the cover off the ball at the plate and doing a much better job behind the plate defensively. If he keeps playing like this, a promotion to Carolina will come sooner rather than later.
    - First baseman Nelson "Nellie'' Rodriguez was in over his head last season when, at 19, he opened the season with the Captains. He was sent to Mahoning Valley in June and regrouped nicely, slamming a team-high nine home runs for the Scrappers. This season, Rodriguez is playing with much more confidence. He's banging the ball at the plate and smoothing it at first base. This is a big guy (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) with big-time power potential.
    - Second baseman Claudio Batista is another "repeater" who looks like a different guy this season at the plate and in the field. Bautista was OK with the glove last season, if memory serves, but he was over-matched at the plate. Just checked the box score from the Clinton game, and he's tripled and driven in a run to raise his average to .294 and team-high RBI total to five.
   - Third baseman Grant Fink looks to be the sort of solid, dependable player who grows on you over the course of a long season. Makes all the plays at third defensively and puts bat on ball.
   - Starting outfielders Cody Ferrell (center), Jorge Martinez (right) and Clevelander Brian Ruiz (left) all are getting the job done.
     Martinez hit .191 in a full season at Lake County last year, but the 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is batting .308 and playing with so much more confidence.
     Ferrell, soon to turn 24, is a guy worth watching closely. He's a tough kid from Oklahoma who has a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted out of Oklahoma City University. Conventional wisdom has it he'll lose playing time when uber-prospect Clint Frazier is ready to go after battling through a hamstring injury, but Ferrell is playing too well to be marginalized. Budzinski will find at-bats for him somewhere, somehow. Take that to the bank.
     Ruiz is a feel-good story waiting to happen. The former Lincoln West standout has good size (6-3, 180) and good baseball instincts. He hasn't hit much in two pro seasons before this one, though.
     The guys who've jumped out so far are starter Jordan Milbrath and relievers Kenny Mathews, Wander Beras, Ben Heller and Trevor Frank. Milbrath went the route in the nightcap of a doubleheader of seven-inning games, blanking the Lansing Lugnuts on two hits.
     As for the other starters and relievers, I need to see more of them before venturing opinions. What I have seen, happily, is that this staff goes after hitters and steers clear of nibbling. That's a good thing.
    Budzinski is an interesting case. Gets back into the game this season after eight years as a "civilian.'' Seems to be a confident, well-spoken guy who isn't afraid to say he's getting his baseball feet back under him day by day.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Another baseball season

        The winter that seemingly won't end is about to give way to another baseball season.
        It can't happen soon enough.
        This will be my 12th season covering the Captains and the first doing so under our new banner hashtag #baseball247.
        Here's a preview of what will happen this week.
        The Captains will break camp in Arizona after Saturday's final exhibition game. On Sunday, they'll fly to Cleveland and make the trip to Eastlake, arriving early in the evening.
         We'll introduce you to the roster that evening, as it's not hyperbole to warn that not even first-year manager Mark Budzinski and his staff won't be completely sure of their 25-man roster until they leave for the airport.
        Monday will be extremely busy. After settling into their apartments in the morning, players will come to Classic Park and move into their lockers in the home clubhouse. They'll have their first on-field workout followed by a photo-video session in the clubhouse.
        The schedule is less frantic on Tuesday. Arriving at the ballpark in the late morning, players will focus on a 5 p.m. exhibition game against the Class AA Akron RubberDucks. Weather permitting, the first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. The game is slated to last seven innings.
        Fans who take in Tuesday's game will be more familiar with the RubberDucks than the Captains. Probable starters for Akron will include former Captains Francisco Lindor, the highly-touted shortstop who played in Lake County in 2012 and is considered to be the top prospect in the Indians' minor-league system.
       Wednesday will bring another full-squad workout in the early evening.
       Thursday's early-evening workout will unfold simultaneously with The News-Herald's second annual "Captains Chat'' at Classic Park. Gates open at 5 p.m. The event begins at 6 p.m. Fans are invited to join us to watch the Captains' workout. Budzinski will atop by to speak with fans during the workout, as will several players and Captains radio announcer Craig Deas.
        The concession stand will be open during "Captains Chat'' and feature food and beverage items at discounted prices. Our first "Captains Chat'' last year went extraordinarily well and we anticipate more of the same this time around.
        To reserve your place at "Captains Chat,'' send an email to or call 440-975-8085.
        On Friday, the Captains open the 2014 season at home versus the Lansing (Mich.) Lugnuts. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
        To whet your appetite, here's a photo of the ballpark I took last Friday.
        David S. Glasier