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Around the Farm: April 23, 2017: Haase's Slam Lifts Akron

In a swing reminiscent of last year's Eastern League playoffs for Akron, Eric Haase once again delivered in grand fashion on Sunday. The IBI's Jake Dungan discusses that and the other top prospect highlights from each affiliate.

Around the Farm takes a quick look at some of yesterday’s performances by Cleveland prospects throughout the system. The positions listed below are where the player was playing in yesterday’s game.


Columbus 4 7 1 Altoona 1 9 0
Buffalo 5 11 0 Akron 6 3 0
Potomac 4 9 2 Lake County 2 7 1
Lynchburg 3 8 2 West Michigan 5 9 1


Eric Haase (Akron, C): 1-2, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K. In a bizarre twist in the fourth inning of Sunday's game where Altoona starter Yeudy Garcia, who had struck out nine batters in the previous 3.2 shutout innings, suddenly lost his command and issued two walks, including one with the bases loaded, Eric Haase put the RubberDucks up big 5-0 with one mighty swing crushing a grand slam to deep center field for his first home run of the season. It conjured up memories of last year's Eastern League Finals where the Michigan native belted a grand slam in game one en route to an Akron victory and an eventual championship.

Matt Esparza (Lynchburg, SP): 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 WP. After scuffling a bit in his first few starts, Matt Esparza put together his best outing of the year, particularly on the strikeout front with nine in five one-run (unearned) innings of work for the Hillcats on Sunday. Strikeouts have been a big part of the right-hander's game as he now has 215 in 202.1 innings thus far in his professional career. After Sunday's game, Esparza has now fanned 20 in 20 innings of work so far this season. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn't hold his 3-1 lead as Lynchburg would go on to lose 4-3.

The Rest

  • Tyler Naquin (Columbus, CF): 3-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI. Naquin has been locked in since returning to Columbus as he is now batting .344 (11-for-32) in eight games with a homer, a triple, an RBI and five runs scored. The Indians optioned the AL Rookie of the Year finalist back to Triple-A after Lonnie Chisenhall returned from the disabled list. In six games for the Tribe, Naquin batted just .235 with only one extra-base hit, no RBI's and three runs scored.
  • Juan De La Cruz (Lake County, C): 3-4, 1 RBI, 1 K. De La Cruz put together his best hitting performance of the season racking up three hits on Sunday against Western Michigan. With Logan Ice and Li-Jen Chu on the roster, though, the Venezuelan native hasn't gotten much playing time with only three games appeared in prior to Sunday. His three-hit game did raise his average from .111 to .308 on the year.
  • Travis Banwart (Akron, SP): 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 4 K, W (1-1). In his best outing since returning to the Indians organization, Banwart earned his first win pitching five one-run innings against the Curve with a walk and four strikeouts. The veteran right-hander previously pitched in Columbus back in 2014 before spending the next two years pitching in Korea. The Tribe re-signed the 31-year-old during the offseason to a minor league deal.
  • Martin Cervenka (Lynchburg, DH): 3-4, 1 RBI, 1 K. Cervenka has been arguably Lynchburg's best hitter in 2017 as he continues to rack up hits left and right, including his first three-hit game on Sunday. While his current .349 average is not likely to be sustained all season, perhaps the Czech backstop has turned a corner at the plate as he batted a career-high .272 with six homers and 50 RBI's in 96 games between Lake County and Lynchburg.
  • Richie Shaffer (Columbus, DH): 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. Shaffer has been one of the Clippers' more reliable hitters this season as he mashed his third homer of the campaign and drove in two more runs to bring his total to 11 as he now leads the team in that category. The 26-year-old is also batting .308 with an impressive .431 on-base percentage and .558 slugging percentage in 16 games thus far.
  • Jodd Carter (Lynchburg, CF): 2-3, 1 R, 1 BB. While Carter has gotten off to a slow start this season, things may be starting to turn around as the 20-year-old outfielder has now recorded multiple hits in three of his last seven games, raising his average to .224. In 68 games for three different teams last season, Carter batter .264 with four homers and 24 RBI's.
  • Luke Wakamatsu (Lake County, SS): 2-4, 1 R, 1 K. Wakamatsu was one of the lone offensive bright spots for the Captains on Sunday as he racked up two hits and scored one of Lake County's two runs in their 5-2 loss to Western Michigan. His two-hit performance also marked the first multi-hit performance of the year as he has struggled so far this year batting just .182 with no extra-base hits and seven RBI's through 13 games.
  • Todd Hankins (Akron, LF): 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K. It's been slow going for Todd Hankins to start the season as he recorded just his fourth hit in 36 at-bats on Sunday to raise his average to .111. However, it was an RBI double to give him his first extra-base hit and third RBI on the young campaign. Strikeouts continue to be a problem for the Florida native, though, as his latest punchout was his 12th in just 11 games.
  • D.J. Brown (Akron, RP): 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R/ER, 2 BB, 2 K. With Rob Kaminsky on the disabled list, Travis Banwart and D.J. Brown are being pressed into service to fill his spot in the rotation in a piggyback role. On Sunday, Brown came on in relief of Banwart in the sixth and proceeded to pitch three shutout innings with a pair of walks and strikeouts. It was the right-hander's first scoreless appearance of the season as he had previously been tagged for nine runs (seven earned) in three outings.
  • Willi Castro (Lynchburg, SS): 1-4, 1 RBI. Castro has slowly been starting to string hits together with the Hillcats this past week recording a knock in five of his last six games, including a pair of multi-hit performances. He has also driven in all three of his runs in that span, including one on Sunday.
  • Chris Colabello (Columbus, 1B): 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K. Colabello drove in one of Columbus's four runs on Sunday as he has now had a hit in three straight games. So far in 15 games for the Clippers, the 33-year-old is batting .254 with two homers and seven RBI's.
  • Dominic DeMasi (Lynchburg, RP): 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R/ER, 0 BB, 1 K. DeMasi was the lone Hillcats reliever that did not give up a run on Sunday as Lynchburg's bullpen coughed up a 3-1 lead. The right-hander has pitched back-to-back scoreless appearances since giving up three combined runs in his previous two outings. He has yet to walk a batter, though, in five games thus far.
  • Yu-Cheng Chang (Akron, SS): 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K. Since his first three games of the season where he racked up five hits in nine at-bats, including three homers, and drove in seven, Chang has cooled off significantly recording only seven hits over his next 13 games, including a double on Sunday against Altoona. He has also seen a spike in swings and misses with 21 of his 22 strikeouts coming since that initial three-game hot streak.
  • Mitch Brown (Akron, RP): 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R/ER, 1 BB, 1 K. It was another inning of battling command issues for Mitch Brown on Sunday, but he managed to work through the final inning of Akron's contest with limited stress allowing just one walk and striking out one. So far in four appearances for the 'Ducks, the right-hander has seven walks against just four strikeouts.

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.

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