One of the Cleveland Indians’ affiliates, the Lynchburg Hillcats have had a successful season in 2017. That success is not going unnoticed.
Cleveland Indians‘ affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats are having one of the best seasons in the Carolina League. With their success comes rewards and one main one was clinching a playoff spot for the sixth straight year.
After a loss to the Frederick Keys, the Hillcats punched their ticket thanks to the Salem Red Sox, who dropped both games of a double-header. In addition, given their 7-6 head-to-head record, Lynchburg’s season will be extended.
Now, for as far as the Hillcats can go, that is up to their play on the field. Going to the playoffs is great, but there is more. Six of their players (and hopefully future Indians players) have been selected to the Carolina North Division All-Star team.
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Headlining the group of all-stars is pitcher Triston Mckenzie who has been a strikeout machine in 2017.
McKenzie’s record isn’t all that it adds up to be. Despite only being 5-4, there are much higher expectations for McKenzie. He is ninth in ERA (3.28), tied for fourth in wins, seventh in innings pitched, and leads the league in strikeouts with 91. It doesn’t hurt anything that McKenzie’s WHIP is also 1.04 which is fourth best in the league.
Put all of that together and you have a pretty good pitcher in the making. As good as McKenzie is, there are still other players in the all-star game.
Closer Argenis Angulo and starter Shao-Ching Chiang were also selected as pitchers to represent the Hillcats. Angulo is an outstanding 10-12 on save opportunities in 2017. Hitters are only hitting .165 against him.
For Chiang, things are a little different. Chiang has an ERA in the upper 3’s but still has a record of 7-3. It is his ability to work late in games. In seven of his 12 starts he has pitched into the seventh inning or later. In two of those starts he pitched in 6.2 innings.
The Hillcats also have some guys who can hit the ball. Willi Castro a 20-year-old shortstop and a 23-year-old second baseman by the name of Sam Haggerty will get a chance to show why they are all-stars.
Castro is the 12th ranked Indians’ prospect according to MLB.com. So far in 2017, Castro has an average of .278, has driven in 30 RBI and hit five long balls. Castro also has a .325 OBP, .396 slugging percentage. and an OPS of .721. All are are highs.
Haggerty is Castro’s counter part in this year’s Carolina North Division All-Star game. Haggerty is not your everyday power hitter but for only being 5’11, he brings some pop to his bat. Leading the league in triples with 10, has helped Haggerty maintain a .475 slugging percentage. There is more to his game than just power, as he has swiped 20 bags while only being caught 3 times.
Last but certainly not least is catcher Sicnarf Loopstok. Loopstok is tied for the most home runs on the team with 8. He also leads the team in runs driven in with 36. Loopstok’s slugging percentage is .495 while his OPS is .862.
Despite those numbers, Loopstok lost the Carolina Division home run derby by only one home run. Loopstok slugged 17 in the first round. He won the second round in a swing off but then lost 15-14 to Jake Gatewood of the Carolina Mudcats.
Cleveland’s affiliate does not lack talent. For the Hillcats, now it is just about putting together all the pieces and kicking it into high gear come the postseason.
The all-star game will be hosted in Salem, Virginia on June 20th with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM.