Akron RubberDucks 73-69 (4th in Western Division of Eastern League)
The RubberDucks were cruising towards the playoffs until a horrific 2-12 run from August 19th eventually meant that they fell just one tantalizing game short. The fault didn't really lie with the pitching staff, which was outstanding, leading the league in IP and WHIP and second in ERA.
Mike Clevinger and Shawn Morimando were terrific in the rotation all year long, while Cody Anderson, Will Roberts and Ryan Merritt were all promoted, and both Adam Plutko and D.J.Brown didn't miss a beat after they came up from the Hillcats. Not forgetting some great relief performances, primarily from Jeff Johnson, Enosil Tejeda and Josh Martin.
The hitting didn't match up to the pitching, but there were still some good performances, as we shall see.
3B Yandy Diaz was the engine room of the Ducks' offense, racking up an outstanding .315/.412/.408 line and earning a promotion to the Clippers in the last week of the season. Early on it was all about OBP, but as the season wore on the 24yo added some power to his game and he actually hit four of his seven homers in August. Assuming that Giovanny Urshela sticks with Indians, Diaz figures to be the everyday 3B in Columbus next April.
OF Anthony Gallas is 27 already, and although he hit .266/.332/.457 in Akron, he struggled over 30 games in AAA. At this point he's a real longshot to make it to MLB.
LF Bryson Myles is nearly two years younger than Gallas, but at 26 he is still too old to be considered much of a prospect. He improved on his 2014 AA numbers a little, hitting .268/.367/.433, but faces a tough task advancing in a very crowded OF prospect situation.
INF Ronny Rodriguez was once a top 10 prospect in the organization, but his career had stalled over his first two years in Akron (particularly since he is no longer a regular shortstop). However, a career-best .286/.316/.491 has at least put him back on the map as a 23yo.
CF Tyler Naquin and SS Erik Gonzalez were promoted in June and will be covered in our Clippers review.
RHP Mike Clevinger was acquired for Vinnie Pestano at the 2014 trade deadline, having been a top Angels prospect at one time, prior to undergoing TJ surgery. That deal is looking like a total steal, as Clevinger capped a great year in AA by pitching the Clippers to two playoff wins, in each of which he threw 7.2 scoreless innings.
RHP Trey Haley has always had a reputation for wildness, and he seemed to have got that partly under control in Akron, allowing 11 walks while striking out 38 in 34 IP. However, when he finally got to Columbus for the first time (having been a 2nd rd pick way back in 2008), it was back to "normal" with 21 walks in 21 IP.
RHP Jeff Johnson enjoyed an All-Star season on his return from TJ surgery. The 25yo racked up 25 saves in 26 opportunities, while striking out 56 in 51.1 IP for a 1.05 ERA/0.90 WHIP. He could well be a FTC (Future Tribe Closer), but first the Indians will need to add him to the 40-man roster in November to avoid losing him in the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Josh Martin has been outstanding as a middle reliever in back-to-back seasons, but 2015 was his best season yet, as he threw 80 strikeouts in 67.1 IP over 44 apearances for a 2.27 ERA/0.98 WHIP.
LHP Ryan Merritt followed up his Carolina League "Pitcher of the Year" season with another solid year, eating a ton of innings in Akron before being promoted to Columbus for the last five games of the regular season and three playoff appearances.
LHP Shawn Morimando doesn't get much attention because of the other starting pitchers around him, but with 128 strikeouts in 158.2 IP (3.18 ERA/1.29 WHIP), the 22yo showed plenty of promise. Like Clevinger and Johnson, he will need to be added to the 40-man in November to avoid the Rule 5 draft.
RHP Adam Plutko began his second full pro season with eight completely dominant starts in Lynchburg, and then put up terrific numbers in Akron (2.86 ERA/1.02 WHIP with 90 strikeouts in 116.1 IP). He was MLB Pipeline's "Pitcher of the Year" for the Indians.
RHP Enosil Tejeda began the year with five solid relief appearances in Columbus, but quickly found himself back in Akron for a third season, where he put up an excellent 1.27 ERA/1.10 WHIP with 29 strikeouts in 35.1 IP. At this stage, it's not really clear what more the 26yo can do to earn a proper shot in Columbus.
RHP Will Roberts was promoted to AAA in mid-season and will be discussed in the Clippers review, while RHP Cody Anderson went from starting 10 games for the Ducks to becoming a regular member of the Indians' rotation.
Possible RubberDucks roster for 2016
CF: Zimmer (also RF)
RF: Frazier (also CF)/J.Smith
Rotation: (some combination of) Kaminsky/Cooper/D.J.Brown/M.Brown/Lugo/Aquino