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10.15.2010

Season Wrap-Up 2010: Kinston Indians

Nino Colla | Friday, October 15, 2010 | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
KINSTON INDIANS
Level: High Class A
League: Carolina League
Finish: 60-78 Overall (27-41 1st half, 33-37 2nd half)
Playoffs: Missed Playoffs (11 back 1st half, 2 back 2nd half)

POTY Feathers: SP Joe Gardner and RP Cory Burns


Garnder: .12-6, 22 GS, 122.1 IP, 2.65 ERA, 104/51 SO/BB, 1.11 WHIP
Burns: 1-2, 30 SV, 39.1 IP, 1.83 ERA, 56/13 SO/BB, 1.09 WHIP

Man these two... Both started at Lake County but finished with Kinston and boy did they finish.

Let's start with the closer and look at Cory Burns. Combined between Kinston and Lake County he saved 42 games, had a 1.96 ERA in 55 innings and struck out 81 hitters. Yes 81 hitters in 55 innings. He only walked 14, just one with LAke County in 14 games, and held hitters to a .212 average.

Burns was dominant at the back end for Kinston. His ERA was even better with Kinston, giving up eight earned runs in 40 games compared to four in 14 games with Lake County. The kid has some serious strikeout mojo working regardless of ceiling or whatever.

Gardner on the other hand toyed with Lake County. His numbers don't look incredibly impressive for six games but it became evident after a few starts that he needed a bigger challenge so the Tribe gave him one.

For his first professional season, not bad. Combined he had 13 wins and a 2.75 ERA in 28 starts. He struck out 142 hitters in 147 innings and his opposing average against? .197. Gardner knows how to pitch. He's a talented guy with some serious potential and when he got to Kinston, it was business.

OVERVIEW

Kinston, despite not really having any business to... Made the playoffs. Yes they had Joe Gardner and TJx2 in the rotation and Cory Burns in the bullpen. But the second half run the club made to get into the playoffs was incredible.

Kinston did make the playoffs after winning the second half thanks to Winston-Salem already winning the first half. They were dispatched in the playoffs, but the club fought hard just to get there and that is a credit to them and manager Aaron Holbert.

This is a team that started the year with Jason Kipnis and Alex White, two players that had arguably had the most success in the minor league system this year. But White and Kipnis were taken away sooner than expected, in addition to Nick Hagadone and Kelvin De La Cruz making their starts brief, Bryce Stowell progressing very quickly and Abner Abreu struggling at a concerning rate.

Kinston got a nice infusion of offensive talent in Jeremie Tice and Chun Chen, a big reason for their second half charge, but it was their pitching that really carried them from start to finish.

PITCHING

Like I said, their rotation started out pretty stacked. Alex White, TJ House, Nick Hagadone, and Kelvin De La Cruz could have rivaled what Columbus started with. But only three of those players stuck around longer than 10 games and the club not only survived, they thrived.

TJ House

House had a good season with Lake County last year and really separated himself from the House/Haley combo. This year as he jumped up a level he had much of the same results from last year, only the numbers are a little down, most likely due to the level of competition. One thing House did do is lead the team in innings pitched and strikeouts.

He may be in line to return to Kinston to start next season due to the log jam ahead of him, but he's still young (just turned 21) and might benefit from some consistent success at Single-A before moving on.

Joey Mahalic and TJ McFarland

I've lumped Mahalic and McFarland together for the specific reason of them being in the same position in terms of role. Mahalic was more of a swing man where as McFarland started in the pen and transitioned into starting full-time. Both though did work in the pen and starting and both were assets to the club.

McFarland had the better year, and probably outside of Joe Gardner and Cory Burns, the best year on staff. He won 11 games and made the Carolina League All-Star squad and carried a 3.13 ERA through 24 starts and five other relief appearances. Most of his wins came in the first half and he was downright dominant in 13 pre-All-Star starts with a 1.98 ERA.

Mahalic on the other hand dealt with some injuries but still managed to contribute in whatever role Kinston asked of him. After making just seven starts last year due to injuries, Mahalic was able to put in more work this season, making 20 starts and pitching in a career high 110 innings. He's about a year behind where he was at the start of last season due to missed time, but he still hasn't turned 21 and has some value to the organization.

Marty Popham and Austin Adams

Popims or whatever, as they became known to readers of the blog, moved up from Lake County to Kinston together as piggy backers. The duo from Mahoning Valley's stellar rotation of 2009 started with the Captains by rotating starts, while the other would come in for relief. Adams had the more successful stint in Kinston while Popham was used as a spot starter, pitching in every level of the organization this year.

He made a great start in Akron in which he went six innings, giving up one run and striking out six. With Lake County he won three games with a 3.71 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 34 innings. He had some success with the K-Tribe, which is where he spent most of the season, by going 4-4 with a 3.92 ERA and 77 strikeouts.

Austin Adams had some success with Lake County, going 2-4 with a 3.54 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 53 innings... But it was in Kinston that he thrived. He made 12 starts, going 6-1 with a 1.53 ERA. His strikeouts per innings went down, but in more innings than at Lake County, his walks did as well and he gave up less home runs.

His July was stellar, going 3-0 with a 0.98 ERA. Adams really put himself on the map with his Kinston showing.

Travis Turek, Chris Jones, and Matt Langwell

Kinston had a trio of relievers leading up Cory Burns that simply found ways to get it done.

Turek is the one that struggled the most with a .269 average against and a 1.41 WHIP. But he was an innings eater, making 41 appearances and racking up nearly 80 innings.

Jones and Langwell were a great tandem at the back end. Jones started out in Lake County, made a start, but was quickly moved up to the K-Tribe were he was even better in 31 appearances out of the pen. In 67 innings he had a 2.39 ERA, a .234 average against, and 65 strikeouts.

Then there is the oldest of the bunch, Matt Langwell, who put his experience to good use and had the best overlooked numbers of them all. He kept runners off the base paths, point blank. He only walked 14 and his average against was .219 leading to a 1.04 WHIP, best on the team even ahead of Cory Burns. Unfortunately he is a little older, but after a great year last year in Lake County and just being drafted in 2008, there is no reason for him to have value moving forward.

Brian Grening and David Roberts

Dave Roberts is in a position similar to Langwell, only without the success. He's older, was drafted in the 2008 draft, only a bit higher than Langwell. He struggled this year in 74 innings pitched with Kinston with a 6.03 ERA. Not good numbers at all, especially someone taken as high as Roberts was..

Grening on the other hand is the exact opposite. He was taken way later, 38th round to be exact, in the 2008 draft and he's bounced around all over the place and still managed to find some success. Last year he was in all four levels of the organization, often a sign that the Indians don't have a ton of long term value for you. But Combined in all four levels he had a 1.68 ERA in 48 innings pitched. This year with consistent time in Kinston his numbers weren't as flashy, but he carries a good average against, he gets the strikeouts. He does have an issue with walks and the long ball, and that is ultimately what will kill a reliever, especially one like Grening just looking to make it somewhere.

POSITION PLAYERS

It was kind of a crap shoot at the start of the season for this team offensively, probably a reason it took a moderately good second half to make the playoffs. Virtually every single one of their important offensive weapons down the stretch started in Lake County or moved on to Akron.

Jason Kipnis and Jordan Henry were the names that started here and moved onto Akron fairly quickly. The cavalry from Eastlake will be highlighted here.

Doug Pickens

Throughout all the changes, Doug Pickens remained. First, catcher, they found him a spot because he ultimately was able to contribute in some capacity. After spending a majority of last season in Kinston, the former Wolverine returned and while his average dipped, his playing time increased.

Pickens if anything was consistent in his production in the first and second halves. No half of season had a drastic change and he remained one of the constant players on this squad from start to finish. He is getting up there in age though and is probably nothing more than a utility player moving forward.

Kyle Bellows

This team's RBI leader is in fact Kyle Bellows, the third baseman who still can't seem to take a picture with his eyes open all the way. Bellows skipped Lake County entirely after he knocked in 32 runs and hit 7 home runs for the Scrappers in just 54 games last year. This year he upped the average and hit ten home runs in 124 games. Not a world-beater but Bellows was a big producer in the second half of the season, knocking in 40 runs and going from more of a on-base guy, to a run-producing guy. Bellows just turned 22, so he's got plenty of room to grow.

More than anything, Bellows was a stud with the glove, committing just eight errors at the hot-corner. He's got good value with a modest bat and above-average defense.


Abner Abreu

This was the name to watch at the beginning of last season. Abner Abreu was the rising Latin star in the organization due to his youth (will turn 21 next week) and ceiling.

Well the past two years haven't been pretty. Last year was great in terms of production, he hit .305 and had a great .351 on base percentage. The problem was he got injured and played in just 63 games. The Indians pushed him though and gave him this year to start in Kinston. Rough first half, and I mean rough. He struck out 72 times in his first 58 games and while his numbers turned around in the second half, he still struck out130 times!

The expectations are that soon his power will fully develop and he will hit some home runs, but he only had four this year. I'm not sure if Kinston is his destination to start next season, but it certainly seems like a very real possibility given the outfield numbers and his youth.

Karexon Sanchez and Lucas Montero

Montero and Sanchez were the guys early in the year for Kinston. Sanchez spent the entire year at Kinston while Montero moved up to be a reserve/regular playing outfielder for the Aeros. With the Aeros Montero played in just 17 games and hit .241, but with Kinston he hit .265 with a .362 on-base percentage and 45 runs scored.

Montero is probably more of a organizational body due to his age, but Sanchez is showing otherwise. He probably isn't a major league talent but he's valuable to a minor league squad. He can play multiple middle infield positions and he shows a little pop with 37 extra-base hits. More than anything he, like Montero had a great on-base percentage, .378, which led the team (min. 175 at-bats).

Donnie Webb and Nate Recknagel

These two had a similar path this season due to injuries. They both were injured around the same time and ended up even rehabbing together in Arizona. Overall though Webb was able to make the most of it produce while Recknagel struggled.

"The Recking Ball" played in just 53 games, hitting five home runs with a .213 average and a forgettable .288 on-base number. He struck out 54 times and walked just 19 times, overall, it was a season to forget for the Michigan product.

Webb on the other hand was able to find some footing, matching Reck in home runs and managing to hit .267 with a very above-average on-base percentage of .364. I'm sure injuries had a part in him not matching or nearing not only his stolen base total, but his overall aggressiveness.

Jeremie Tice and Chun-Hsiu Chen

Here they are, the MVP's of the second half. Jeremie Tice and Chun Chen. Tice may have started in Kinston this year had he not battled injuries in 2009. The 2008 draftee ripped up the Sally League to the tune of nine home runs, 51 RBI and a .342 OBP in 66 games.

With Kinston he was just as much of a force, hitting five home runs and knocking in 28 runs in 51 games. His average and OBP numbers were virtually inline at both levels and Tice was really a productive bat moving from third to more of a first base/designated hitter role.

CC meanwhile was more of the breakthrough talent in the organization. He and Tice both went up to Kinston at the same time and like Tice, his numbers fell in line, if not improved with the move to Kinston. He hit six home runs at both levels, knocked in only nine more in six more games with Lake County, but more impressively was his OBP. He went from a .368 OBP in Lake County to a incredible .442 percentage with Kinston.

Chen scored more runs with Kinston in less games and really, his entire season looks so impressive with a .404 on-base percentage and a .315 average. The sky is the limit for this 2010 MLB Futures game participant.

Juan Diaz and Ron Rivas

Everyone Hates Ronald. Seriously... Who actually likes this guy? Rivas was awful defensively. I mean there is no words that can describe how bad he is defensively, it is downright comical. Rivas committed 30 errors in 82 games... 30 ERRORS! 30 people!

The next worst was Karexon Sanchez with 14 and he also plays the middle infield positions. Would you believe me if I told you he actually committed more though? Oh yeah in the five games with Akron that he played, he committed four more! 34 errors, 87 games. How pathetic is that?

That's why the trade of Russell Branyan that brought in Juan Diaz was such a great moment in this club's 2010 journey. Not only wasa Diaz not completely awful, he actually hit too. With Seattle's High Desert Single-A squad he hit .295 with seven homers and 41 RBI. The numbers didn't exactly translate over to Kinston in 61 games, but he still hit .271 with a homer and 19 runs batted in.

You can't help but be a little excited about Diaz's prospects as a hitter because this is what his full season stat line looks like: .284 average, .333 OBP, 8 HR, 60 RBI, 56 R, 10 SB in 131 games played.

Bo Greenwell

Son of former major league Mike Greenwell, Bo has been around the game long enough. He's also been around the Indians system long enough, so it was time to fly. After getting a little time in the Gulf Coast League after the Indians drafted him in the 2007 draft in the sixth round, Greenwell finally saw full-season baseball with 60 games in Lake County last year.

This year is his official first full-season in professional ball and boy did he make a statement or what. With Lake County he got off to an incredibly hot start and was named a Midwest League All-Star with Lake County. He hit .310 with 19 extra base hits and he scored 47 runs in 66 games. His .395 OBP was perhaps the most impressive part of his Lake County run.

With Kinston he couldn't maintain that .300 average, but he got off to such a blistering start in Lake County, you could understand why. Overall his numbers between the two levels are very impressive: .301 AVG, .380 OBP, 6 HR, 57 RBI, 78 runs, 25/36 SB, and 31 XBH in 131 games.

Greenwell is on the map and he should be in Akron soon, especially if he keeps hitting this way.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall the K-Tribe had a 73-67 record, they made the playoffs and while they exited in the first round, it can't be regarded than anything less than a successful season.

Like Lake County, Kinston is a squad that is getting its players plucked at some point in the season and they have to hope guys that come up from Lake County are going to be able to replace them if they want to win games. That happened this year with guys like Gardner, Tice, Chen, Burns, Adams, and Greenwell coming in and playing solid baseball.



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