Lake County Captains 2014 overview: troubled start to season
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.