Minor League Report: Carolina Mudcats

Cole Sulser is a right-handed pitcher in the Cleveland Indians farm system. 

Tony Lastoria

The High-A Carolina Mudcats got off to a good second half start in the Carolina League winning three of their first four games but have since lost three in a row. They remain inconsistent as a team, but have had several standout performances over the past week and for the season.

Just the Facts

Carolina (3-4 second half, 32-42 overall) is in third place one game out of first place in the Carolina League’s Southern Division. After Myrtle Beach clinched the first half title and an automatic playoff berth, the Mudcats are one of three teams vying for the automatic playoff berth given to the best second half team in their division who has not already qualified.

The bats have been solid this season as the Mudcats rank 2nd out of eight teams in the Carolina League in hitting (.263), 5th in runs scored (322), 6th in doubles (130), 1st in triples (27), 6th in home runs (38), 7th in total bases (929), 2nd in walks (279), 5th in strikeouts (545), 6th in stolen bases (62) and 2nd in OPS (.720).

The pitching has in large part been the most consistent part of the team as they rank 4th in ERA (3.91), 8th for most hits allowed (572), 5th for most home runs allowed (40), 7th for most walks allowed (217), 6th in strikeouts (544) and 1st in WHIP (1.24).

Who’s Hot?

Luigi Rodriguez, Outfielder

15 G, .438 AVG (21-48), 11 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 12 BB, 7 K, 2 SB, 1.291 OPS

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Rodriguez has been playing very well this month and is finally starting to come into his own again as a prospect for the Indians. He’s been a top 10 level prospect in the past but slipped because of injuries and performance, but he is still only 21-years old and there is still some upside to him offensively. His plate discipline has often been his biggest problem, so the improvement over the last three weeks is great to see.

Ryan Merritt, Left-handed pitcher

2 GS, 1-0, 1.15 ERA, 15.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R/ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 10 K, .164 BAA

Merritt has simply been exceptional in his time at Carolina, and for his recent efforts he was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week. On the season he is now 7-2 with a 1.61 ERA, and in 84.0 innings has allowed 61 hits, 2 homers, 17 walks and has 64 strikeouts. The Indians often require their pitchers to get a significant chunk of a season in at the High-A level, but he’s showing he needs to be challenged at Double-A right now.

Shawn Morimando, Left-handed pitcher

3 GS, 1-0, 1.96 ERA, 18.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R/ER, 0 HR, 5 BB, 12 K, .148 BAA

Morimando has almost been equally as impressive as Merritt. In 14 starts he is 7-2 with a 3.14 ERA, and in 75.0 innings has allowed 52 hits, 5 homers, 29 walks and has 53 strikeouts. Unlike Merritt, he actually made it to Double-A Akron for a spot start last month and was outstanding going 6.0 shutout innings allowing 5 hits, 1 walk and racking up 6 strikeouts. Morimando and Merritt are two very promising left-handed starting pitchers who have mid-to-back of the rotation potential for the Indians.

Who’s Not?

James Roberts, Infielder

13 G, .231 AVG (12-52), 4 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, .490 OPS

After a good start to his season when he hit .323 in April his performance at the plate has steadily declined. He has done a solid job of filling in where needed, but his defense has been shaky (20 errors) and he has shown almost no power whatsoever with only five of his 59 hits going for extra bases. He has a .304 slugging percentage and a .028 isolated power which means his ability to hit for power is almost non-existent.

Erik Gonzalez, Shortstop

15 G, .230 AVG (14-61), 5 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 9 BB, 15 K, 3 SB, .607 OPS

Gonzalez had a big April hitting .341 with a .863 OPS, but has since really quieted down with the bat. He’s not showing as much power as he did last season, but he has actually shown more consistent bat to ball and a little better discipline at the plate — which may have eroded his power a little this season as a result. His glove work and skill at the shortstop position has been impressive, and the bat overall looks solid even with the dip in power.

Cole Sulser, Right-handed pitcher

4 GS, 0-2, 7.97 ERA, 20.1 IP, 23 H, 20 R (18 earned), 4 HR, 4 BB, 22 K, .274 BAA

A lot of the damage over his last four outings came in one outing June 19 when he went just 4.1 innings but allowed 10 runs (9 earned) on 10 hits, 2 homers, 1 walk and with 5 strikeouts. As is the case in the minors, pitchers will often stay in a game even in light of a large amount of hits and runs allowed in order to get their work in. That’s the biggest different between the minors and big leagues is the focus on development in the minors versus the focus on winning in the majors.

Parting Shots

– Outfielder LeVon Washington is having another strong season hitting .328 with 1 HR, 12 RBI and .846 OPS in 33 games. He missed about five weeks with an oblique strain and the injuries are the only thing that keep holding him back. If he keeps this up he has a chance to finish the season at Double-A Akron.

– Third baseman Yandy Diaz has been hitting well since his return from the disabled list. In 17 games the Cuban defector is hitting .303 with 0 HR, 8 RBI and .716 OPS. He got hurt on opening night and missed about two months, so he is still getting the feel for hitting and hit timing back, and when he does his good power potential should show more.

– Infielder Joe Sever is another player who got hurt on opening night and who has really provided a spark to the lineup since his return. In 17 games he is hitting .388 with 0 HR, 9 RBI and .886 OPS. He has some versatility to play most of the infield positions and has a solid bat.

– Right-handed pitcher Adam Plutko is off to a solid start at Carolina after being promoted there in mid-May. In his six starts there he is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA, and in 32.0 innings has allowed 27 hits, 4 homers, 7 walks and has 27 strikeouts. He has especially been on his last three outings totaling 17.0 innings and allowed just 3 runs.