And now for our weekly look around the Class-A Midwest League.
Adam Plutko, a Californian righty for the Lake County Captains, took home the hardware (as we predicted right here) with a 13-strikeout performance in eight innings with just three hits against for a Game Score of 89. An 11th round pick, Plutko is showing some return on investment with a 3.31 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 49 strikeouts and 10 walks in 35 1/3 innings for the Captains, Cleveland’s Class-A farm team. As a college-age pitcher (22), Plutko may be moved up to High-A shortly after his very strong start in this, his first season of professional baseball.
Winning the Player of the Week award was the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ Chris McFarland who hit .440/.500/.880 with five extra-base hits (a double, two triples and two home runs) in six games last week. The 21-year-old second baseman who was drafted in the 18th round in 2011 is repeating the Class-A level for the Brewers and is showing a monstrous improvement over his 2013 numbers. It looks like McFarland has taken a step forward in ever category, matching his career high in home runs already (six) in fewer than half the plate appearances and he’s one stolen base away from a career high in that category too. He’s another player to keep an eye on for a promotion to High-A with a .298/.367/.529 overall slash line.
We have a tie! In the Eastern Division, the Dayton Dragons have slipped a bit and are in a virtual tie with the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Whitecaps, surging on the strength of their pitching staff, are the hottest team in the league with a 7-3 record over their past 10 games. West Michigan has a 43 point lead over Dayton and Kane County for the Best ERA in the league and have 30 more strikeouts over their closest competitor, South Bend (but have thrown 37 2/3 more innings).
In the Western Division, Kane County maintains a 2.5 game lead over Peoria although both have a 6-4 record over their past ten games and Peoria is currently riding a five-game winning streak, the longest in the Midwest League.
Glimmers of Hope
The worst team in the league is the Lake County Captains, the Midwest League affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. This can probably be explained (partially) by the fact that the Captains are one of the youngest teams in the Midwest League and feature a couple of top prospects who haven’t completely found their way yet. That is clearly the case of SS Dorssys Paulino (.219/.281/.305) and Clint Frazier, whose .756 OPS isn’t bad at all but he’s only hit one home run (despite five doubles and three triples) while hitting .262. Knowing Frazier’s upside, if he can hold his own and polish his skills in the first half, he could explode in the second. Adam Plutko is starting to turn things around after a slow start to his first pro season and is among the league leaders in strikeouts (51). Jordan Milbrath is also doing well, with a 2.13 ERA and 1.08 WHIP through 38 innings.
Western Division cellar dweller Beloit has a few players to get behind this year with OF Herschel Powell currently in second place in the batting race in the league. Powell, 21, has already earned a New York-Penn League Player of the Week award in his career and is hitting .349 with an outstanding .469 OBP. Starting pitchers Kyle Finnegan and Ronald Herrera have identical 2.56 ERAs in their 38 2/3 innings (each). While Finnegan has a lower WHIP (1.22), Herrera has the better strikeout-to-walk ratio at 2.78.
Leading the league in ERA is Kevin Ziomek (check out our interview with him) of the West Michigan Whitecaps. Ziomek sports a 1.38 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP with 33 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. His teammate, Austin Kubitza leads in strikeouts with 54 (as opposed to just 13 walks) in 41 innings and sports a 1.98 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
Burlington’s Elliot Morris is another pitching leader with a 2.08 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings while Dayton’s pair of Ismael Guillon and Nick Travieso are one and two in WHIP at 0.91 and 0.93 respectively. Minnesota prospect Kohl Stewart (Cedar Rapids) is tied with Bowling Green’s Jacob Faria with a 0.95 WHIP, good for a third place tie in the league.
On the slugging side, the two players with OPSs that exceed 1.000 are Paul Hendrix, 22, of the Lake County Captains and Clint Coulter of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Coulter leads the league in HR with eight while Hendrix has a 20-point edge in batting average which helps juice the OBP and SLG stats.
The leading base-pilferer in the league is still Mallex Smith of Fort Wayne (26) while Malcolm Holland (Great Lakes) is still in second at 22. They’re followed by a trio from the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Omar Garcia (21), Johnny Davis (14) and Chris McFarland (14).