The RubberDucks of Akron continued their hot start to the 2016 campaign with a 3-2 win over the Bowie BaySox in Thursday’s 6:35pm home opener in front of a rambunctious crowd of 7,671 at charming Canal Park. The win put the Ducks at 6-1 on the young season, including a perfect 4-0 over the boys from Bowie, Maryland.
Akron’s starting pitcher, Shawn Morimando, was in control, tossing six shutout innings while scattering six base runners and striking out six, including four in a row at one point. The 23 year old Morimando is in his third tour of duty in Akron, including all 28 of his starts in 2015 when he went 10-12 with a 3.18 ERA over 158.2 innings with a 1.29 WHIP and 7.3 K/9. He now stands at 2-0 in 2016 with a 1.50 ERA.
Right fielder Clint Frazier, Cleveland’s top amateur pick in 2013, broke a scoreless tie with a two out, two run homer over the 331 ft mark in left field in the bottom of the sixth inning. Frazier’s home run was immediately followed by a little league home run off the bat of left fielder Bryson Miles. The play was ruled a triple with Myles scoring on a close play at the plate after a wild throw made by the Bowie shortstop Adrian Marin. Louis Head, an 18th rounder from 2012, walked a tightrope in the 9th to earn his first save, allowing two runs to score and two more runners to reach before finally snuffing the Bowie rally.
Michael Brantley started in left field and played five innings, going 1-2 with a first pitch single to right in his 2nd at bat. Lonnie Chisenhall is scheduled to start in right field in Friday night’s rematch with Bowie. You have to imagine the young players in Akron are savoring their brief exposure to the Major League veterans this week.
Local baseball fans have easy access to the top two prospects in the organization (according to both mlb.com and fangraphs) as Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier roam the outfield in Canal Park this summer. A few notes on some of the highly ranked players starting the season in Akron:
- Bradley Zimmer – #1 organizational prospect and #26 overall on mlb.com’s list. Drafted 21st overall in 2014 out of the University of San Francisco, Zimmer is a strikingly long-limbed fellow who appears to have plenty of room to grow into his 6’4″, 185 pound frame. Zimmer’s 28% strike out rate nearly matches his 2015 numbers and is a bit of a concern, but if he improves his plate discipline, he looks like the full package of power, speed and athletic ability.
- Clint Frazier – #35 on mlb’s preseason top prospect list, Frazier put up some gaudy numbers in A+ Lynchburg last summer (.285/.377/.465 with 36 doubles, 16 homers and 15 steals) while improving his strike out rate from 2014. Known for both his crazy bat speed and his flowing red mane, Frazier hopes to remain in center where his bat will play better, but has the strong arm for right as well.
- Rob Kaminsky – stolen from the Cardinals last summer straight up for Brandon Moss, Kaminsky (#74 overall according to mlb) has one of the game’s great curve balls and projects as a mid rotation lefty. In his first taste of AAA, Kaminsky pitched five innings of one hit ball at Altoona on Monday and is 1-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA. He’s also the youngest RubberDuck at 21 years old.
- Adam Plutko – #14 in the organization, Plutko was a rotation-mate of both Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer at UCLA. Known as a control-oriented, low strikeout pitcher, Plutko has rebelled against those labels in two starts this season with four walks and nine strikeouts across only 6 2/3 innings over two starts. It’s been a tale of two starts, however, in his opening day win against Bowie (5 2/3 innings, 2 hits, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K’s) and his shellacking in Altoona (5 runs on 5 hits in just 1 inning).
- Shawn Morimando – taken five rounds after Cody Anderson, the organization’s #16 prospect may have an upside in the back end of a big league rotation, or perhaps as a lefty out of the pen. Morimando was sharp against Bowie tonight and at 23, could be up for a promotion to Columbus this summer.
- Nellie Rodriguez – #23 in the org and picked out of George Washington High School (where the Indians once picked up a precocious young outfielder named Manny Ramirez), what immediately strikes you about Nellie is his solid build (6’2″, 225 pounds and more linebacker than baseballer) and his power (34 doubles and 21 homers in 2015 at age 20). The rap on Rodriguez has always been his lack of contact (.245 AVG last year with 159 K’s) that offset the pop. He’s off to a familiar start through seven games (.214/.313/.500 with two long balls and 13 K’s in 28 at bats).
- Yandy Diaz – #28 in the org, he’s the guy pushing Giovanny Urshela from behind. The 24 year old Cuban has enviable plate discipline (78 BB’s vs 65 K’s in Akron last year) and an overall hit tool along with the potential for defensive flexibility that could see him through to the majors as at least a utility infielder. Diaz’s slow start with the bat so far this season (.154 AVG) has of course been offset by his patience (7/5 BB/K ratio and .333 OBP).
One Final Note
Bowie’s center fielder is a man named Mike Yastrzemski. Yep, grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who collected 3,419 hits, 452 home runs and 18 All Star Appearances across 23 seasons in Fenway Park. Yaz the younger put up a humble .246/.316/.372 line in Bowie last summer and at age 25, is currently 847 big league hits behind grandpa at the same age. How tired of that comparison do you think Yaz the younger might be?
Some additional photos from Thursday evening