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Mahoning Valley Scrappers 2016 season in review

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The third installment of our MiLB season recaps focuses on the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who received strong contributions from the newly drafted Aaron Civale, Shane Bieber and Tanner Tully, among others.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Mahoning Valley Scrappers 37-38 (fourth in division)

The 14-team New York-Penn League is a short-season league that typically features second- and third-year players along with freshly acquired college draftees. The team plays at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio. They won their first and only league title in 2004, when they were managed by the current Tribe third base coach, Mike Sarbaugh. In 2015 they fnished a disappointing 31-44 despite fine seasons from Mark Mathias, Willi Castro, Daniel Salters, Matt Esparza and Brock Hartson, among others.

MVS alumni include Rookie of the Year candidate Tyler Naquin (2012), so one or more of the 2016 Scrappers might make the team around about June 2020 or June 2021! (In actual fact, given that both Cody Allen and Kyle Crockett started their pro careers with the Scrappers, one of the relievers might conceivably make it much sooner than that.)

To be completely honest, this year's Scrappers team underachieved, especially considering the incredible wealth of starting pitching they had. The team was buried quickly by an atrocious 6-18 start to the regular season which they tried to claw back from, just barely missing finishing above .500

Hitters

OF Andrew Calica (11th rd, 2016) After taking a week to settle in, he single-handedly turned the team's offense around. Calica sported an absolutely bonkers .388/.491/.568 batting line over his 40 games with MV before being promoted to Lake County. He was by far the most successful hitter this year out of the 2016 draft class. 

CF Gabriel Mejia led all Indians prospects in base hits once the short season began for Mahoning Valley with 85 in 65 games. Mejia will never be known for his power, but he has elite ability to get on the bases and is a terror on the basepaths. All in all, he stole 28 bases and was caught nine times.

LF Todd Isaacs displayed a massive improvement after a rough 2015 which saw him bat .214 in the AZL after being drafted in the 19th round. This year, he improved all the way up to .333/.384/.514 and tied for the team lead in home runs with six.

DH Mitch Longo (14th rd, 2016) made a promising start to his pro career as he began the transition out of catching. He primarily was a DH for MV, but did play a bit of outfield as well. Longo finished his season strong on an eight-game hitting streak including a 5-6 day at the plate in his final week to improve his batting line to .307/.349.409.

1B Emmanuel Tapia missed a big chunk of his 2015 season due to injury and was forced to repeat at Mahoning Valley in his age 20 season. While his batting average was down this year (.251), his power numbers were way up as he led the team in home runs (six) and doubles (14). His problem was he also led the team in strikeouts (77) and errors (15).

SS Luke Wakamatsu had very high expectations heading into the season but he struggled with a shoulder strain which eventually forced him to miss the last two months of the regular season. Thankfully, he's still just 19 years old.

Pitchers

Now here was where Mahoning Valley truly shined as their starting rotation was loaded with top prospects and several top 2016 college arms.

RHP Triston McKenzie flat out embarrassed hitters in the New York-Penn League to the tune of a 0.55 ERA while striking out 55 batters over 49.1 innings. He earned a promotion to Lake County in the final month and was named the short season Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America.

RHP Shane Bieber (4th rd, 2016) believe it or not, put up even better numbers than McKenzie. Bieber only made nine appearances in total, eight of them starts, although none lasted more than three innings. After giving up one run in his first start, he proceeded to finish the year on a 22-inning scoreless streak. He walked just two batters the entire year while striking out 21 and finished with an ERA of 0.38 with a 0.50 WHIP.

RHP Aaron Civale (3rd rd, 2016) just like Bieber, was primarily a three-inning starter. The only game he pitched more than that (3.2 innings), he had his worst start of the season where he gave up four runs. Overall, though, Civale was brilliant, only giving up seven total earned runs spread across 13 starts and 37.2 innings pitched. His final ERA was 1.67. 

LHP Tanner Tully (26th rd, 2016) was given an opportunity to start midway through the season and didn't blow it, stretching out to five innings per start in no time. He didn't have a very high strikeout rate, but he kept runners off the basepaths and finished the year with a 1.17 ERA over 46 innings pitched.

RHP Micah Miniard began the 2016 as the opening day starter for Mahoning Valley. He pitched well for the Scrappers, holding a 2.38 ERA after his first seven starts which earned him a midseason promotion to Lake County, where he struggled a bit. Miniard was an eighth-round pick out of high school in 2014 and still has plenty of room for growth.

LHP Juan Hillman was the only opening season starter to still be starting for MV at the end of the season. Hillman had an impressive stretch of starts early in the year where he pitched 24+ innings of scoreless baseball and had his ERA drop to 0.89 after the first month, but whether he got tired, there was an injury or teams simply figured him out, he did not finish the season well. Hillman was battered over the final month and a half of the season, finishing with an ERA of 4.43.

LHP Brady Aiken was promoted to Mahoning Valley despite not pitching well in the AZL and it paid off. Aiken had five starts for the Scrappers and three of them were very good, lasting five innings on three hits and giving up one run in each while striking out at least five. This was his first season back after Tommy John surgery so hopefully this was just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what he is capable of.

RHP Michael Letkewicz (23rd rd, 2016) was solid out of the bullpen, carrying a 1.74 ERA over 41.1 innings pitched, although his strikeouts were low, his walks were middling and his WHIP was pretty high (1.33).

Ben Krauth, Kenny Matthews, and Argenis Angulo were also stellar out of the bullpen and were promoted quickly to Lake County (and even to Lynchburg).

Jonas Wyatt appeared to have a very promising 2016 ahead of him but he missed the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Look out for him in 2017.

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