Just over three weeks into Eastern League play, and the contenders and the pretenders are starting to show. In the Eastern Division, the Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) hold a one game lead for first place (11-4 record) while the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN) lay at the bottom of the league with a 4-10 record. Switching our eyes over to the Western Division, the Richmond Flying Squirrels (SF) stand alone at the top (10-6) while the Harrisburg Senators (WAS) continues it’s downward spiral to 4-10.
The Portland Sea Dogs saw three straight games get delayed due to weather this week, but went on to win five games in a row at one point this week. Offensively they’re still being lead by second baseman Mookie Betts, whose OBP continues to be tops in the league.
The Reading Fighting Phils (PHI), who sit second in the Eastern Division with a 9-5 record, went 3-3 this week with a postponed game in between. Reading’s worst loss came at the hands of the lowly Senators, where Reading’s bullpen really let the game slip away. Jay Johnson and Austin Wright combined to give up 7 runs in relief, but starter Severino Gonzalez took the loss.
The Akron Rubberducks (CLE) went on a 3-0 run to finish the week, sweeping their series against the Bowie Baysox (BAL) and combining for 13 runs in the three games. Bryson Myles continues to lead the team with a .366 AVG and Gabriel Arias has taken the lead at starting pitcher, posting a 1.80 ERA.
Hitting: Cam Perkins, OF, Reading Fighting Phils (PHI) (.415 AVG, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 7 SO, 1.117 OPS)
The Fighting Phils are off to a great start, largely in part to Cam Perkins’ hot streak. Perkins went 2-5 with a double and a home run on April 14th against Richmond, leading Reading to a 7-4 victory. While Perkins may not be wowing anyone with his power, he’s shown an ability to find his way on base in the past couple of days.
Pitching: Matthew Bowman, SP, Binghamton Mets (NYM) (2-0, 0.75 ERA, 15 SO, 2 BB)
Bowman continues to be the pitching catalyst for the Mets, having another strong week. On April 17th against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR), Bowman went for 7 innings, striking out 11 and only allowing 4 hits for zero runs. The former 13th rounder of the Mets is holding opposing batters to a .167 batting average on the season, and is developing into one of the better younger pitchers for the Mets system.
Team: Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) (11-4, .306 AVG, 3.31 ERA)
If you’re noticing a trend here, it’s that Portland is the real deal. They have the longest current winning streak (5 games) and have been scoring over 6 runs per game on the winning streak. Not only is Mookie Betts taking the reigns as offensive leader, but catcher Blake Swihart (.362 AVG, 9 RBI) and shortstop Deven Marrero (.342 AVG, 5 Doubles) have stepped up and given the team a boost. Henry Owens is the main piece on the pitching side, but Keith Couch and Mike Augliera have proven to be invaluable players. While it’s still early, the Sea Dogs look like the favorites to come out as the top team in the Eastern League.
Hitting: Tyler Naquin, Akron Rubberducks (CLE), (.200 AVG, 12 hits, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
Former 2012 first-round pick Tyler Naquin hasn’t gotten off to the best start for Akron, and his past week he didn’t help. On the week, Tyler went 6-27, only chipping in one extra-base hit, and one RBI. Naquin is struggling against lefties, hitting a cold .185, and he’s not doing a whole lot better against the right-handers, at .212.Cleveland certainly has high hopes for this kid, so it;s say to say that both Tyler and the organization are hoping that this is just a slump.
Pitching: Matt Purke, Harrisburg Senators (WAS), (0-3, 9.49 ERA, 6 BB, 9 SO)
Harrisburg’s nightmare of a season can be summed up in one stat-line, and that could be Matt Purke’s. He simply hasn’t gotten off to one good start this year, and the past week was no different. On April 18th against the Reading Fighting Phils, Purke lasted 4.1 innings, allowing 7 hits for 5 runs in that span, and walking 4. Matt has yet to make it past the fifth inning all season, and it’s not looking much brighter for the former TCU Horned Frog.
Team: New Britain Rock Cats (MIN), (.245 AVG, 5.45 ERA)
The New Britain Rock Cats share the worst record in the Eastern League with Harrisburg, all in part to a five-game losing streak from the Rock Cats. During the slide, New Britain dropped a three-game series to the surging Portland Sea Dogs. Their pitching failed them in this series, allowing exactly six runs in each of the three games. On April 18th, the Rock Cats were shut out, and only recorded three hits. The week wasn’t kind to New Britain, but they can still turn it around.
The Portland Sea Dogs seem to be the most complete team, with both top of the line pitching and hitting. That’s a double edged sword however, as the better their players play, the higher chances of them receiving a promotion, and leaving Portland, are likely. Harrisburg has yet to find their stride, still sitting in last place, same spot they were in last week. They have a solid roster on paper, with Matt Skole, Matt Purke, and A.J. Cole, but they haven’t been able to put anything together. Weather continued to stall some action once again this week, and we can only hope that Mother Nature doesn’t become the theme of the 2013-14 season. With the first few weeks in the books, it’s safe to say that we’re in store for an entertaining season.