Minor League Report: Carolina Mudcats

Shortstop Erik Gonzalez is proving himself to be a legit prospect and worthy of his addition to the Cleveland Indians' 40-man roster in the offseason. 

Tony Lastoria

The season is finally beginning to hit its stride as we are now three weeks into the season and the postponements have slowed as the weather improves. Here is a first look at how the High-A Carolina Mudcats are doing as a team and individually this season.

Just the Facts

Carolina (10-9) got off to a solid start but has lost four of its last six games and sits in third place and 3.0 games out of first in the Carolina League’s Southern Division.

The Mudcats have held their own offensively as they rank 3rd out of eight teams in the Carolina League in hitting (.254), 5th in runs scored (81), 5th in doubles (36), 2nd in triples (7), 4th in home runs (9), 4th in total bases (232), 2nd in walks (70), 7th in strikeouts (145), 3rd in stolen bases (19) and 2nd in OPS (.720).

The pitching is where Carolina has been strong as they are 1st in ERA (2.71), 8th (best) for most hits allowed (122), 5th for most home runs allowed (10), 7th for most walks allowed (46), 7th in strikeouts (143) and 1st in WHIP (1.03).

Who’s Hot?

Erik Gonzalez, Shortstop

.346 AVG (27-for-78), 12 R, 5 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 17 K, 4 SB, .904 OPS

This may be the most exciting performance to date in the system as at least in the early going Gonzalez is proving himself to be a legit prospect and worthy of his addition to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He’s doing it all as he is hitting for average, hitting for power, stealing bases and showing some impressive athleticism and slick fielding skills as shortstop.

Ryan Merritt, Left-handed starting pitcher

3-0, 0.37 ERA, 4 GS, 24.1 IP, 14 H, 2 R (1 ER), 0 HR, 6 BB, 18 K, .165 BAA

Merritt is the hottest pitcher in the lower levels in all of minor league baseball. He continues to be a performer and is just tough to put together a string of good at-bats against because of how well he mixes his pitches, controls them all so well, deception he creates and just has an aggressive mentality to go after hitters and pitch on the plate.

Louis Head, Right-handed reliever

0-1, 4 SV, 1.17 ERA, 6 G, 7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R/ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 15 K, .080 BAA

Head has been flat out dominant in the early going. Of the 23 outs he has recorded an astonishing 15 of them have been via the strikeout (65.2%). When you have a pitcher doing all the work on his own by bumping mid-90s cheese by guys on a nightly basis and performing at an exceptional ability, such a player won’t be around long and will be promoted.

Who’s Not?

Logan Vick, Outfielder

.154 AVG (8-for-52), 4 R, 0 2B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 13 BB, 18 K, 5 SB, .487 OPS

There is no denying Vick’s skill to see pitches and draw walks as he drew 95 of them last year and led the Midwest League in on-base percentage (.413). But he may also be patient to a fault as he is letting good pitches go by and getting himself into some bad counts resulting in a high strikeout rate and poor contact — thus the low batting average to date.

Kipnis finding more consistency for Indians

Torsten Boss, Second baseman

.098 AVG (4-for-41), 4 R, 2 2B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 9 K, 1 SB, .324 OPS

Boss is off to a rough start with his new organization. Since being acquired from the Orioles in the trade for Preston Guilmet a few weeks ago he has just three hits in 38 at bats with Carolina. He has been held hitless in seven of his 10 games with Carolina and just looks like a guy who is pressing trying to prove he fits in with his new organization.

Parting Shots

– Three of the top prospects in Carolina, outfielder LeVon Washington (strained oblique), right-handed starting pitcher Dylan Baker (broken ankle) and third baseman Yandy Diaz (broken hand) are all on the shelf. Baker is not expected back this season and Diaz could return very late in the year. Washington is expected to be out at least another week or two.

– Catcher Jeremy Lucas is off to a good start hitting .297 with 2 HR, 13 RBI and .882 OPS in 17 games. He is an offensive-oriented catcher who the Indians are also getting time at first base in order to keep his bat in the lineup.

– Outfielder Anthony Gallas may be old for the Carolina League at 26-years of age, but he is doing exactly what older players should be doing in Carolina as he is hitting .284 with 3 HR, 8 RBI and ,827 OPS in 17 games. That 2-17 walk to strikeout ratio is a concern, but he’s putting himself in line for a potential promotion to Double-A Akron later this season.

– Right-handed starting pitcher Cole Sulser just continues to perform. After a great showing at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley last season where he went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA and walked just nine batters while striking out 60 in 54.0 innings, he’s excelling again this season as he is 0-2 with a 3.22 ERA and in 22.1 innings has just two walks along with 20 strikeouts.

– Left-handed start pitcher Shawn Morimando continues to put up good outings. He has now made four starts and has looked every bit the high upside prospect on the rise that he is as he is now 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and in 22.0 innings has allowed four walks and has 17 strikeouts. He’s a left-handed pitching prospect to get excited about.