Ken Carr/IBI

'Ducks Notebook: Papi Finding A Groove

April has come and gone and Akron is treading water in the standings as they continue to battle inconsistency on nearly all fronts. Just when a few of the slow-starting players start to get hot, some of the others cool off. The IBI's Jake Dungan recaps who's on a roll and who isn't in this week's RubberDucks notebook.

As the first month of the season comes to an end, the Akron RubberDucks are still trying to find a consistent rhythm both individually and as a team. After 22 games of play, the 'Ducks sit fourth in the Eastern League Western division standings and three games off the pace of the division-leading Curve. This week, a partial turning of the tables has taken place as Mike Papi has turned his season around to lead Akron's offense while their best hitters thus far, Francisco Mejia and Tyler Krieger, have struggled. On the mound, Julian Merryweather continues to lead the staff while most of the other pitchers are still battling chronic inconsistency.

Here's what happened this week with the RubberDucks...

Week In Review

  • 4/25 - Binghamton 4, Akron 3: Taylor (W, 1-2), Aviles (L, 1-1), Baldonado (S, 2)
  • 4/26 - Binghamton 4, Akron 1: Oswalt (W, 2-2), Pasquale (L, 1-1), Peterson (S, 1)
  • 4/28 - Akron 6, Bowie 1: Hill (W, 1-1), Grimes (L, 0-2), Sulser (S, 1)
  • 4/29 - Akron 5, Bowie 8: Long (W, 3-1), Brown (L, 0-1)
  • 4/30 - Akron 11, Bowie 2: Merryweather (W, 2-1), Means (L, 1-1)
  • 5/1 - Akron vs. Binghamton postponed (rain)

Player of the Week

Mike Papi, RF

Last Week: 4 G, 18 AB, 4 R, 7 H, 2 HR, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, .500 BA

Season to Date: 20 G, 65 AB, 11 R, 19 H, 3 HR, 1 2B, 9 RBI, 16 BB, 15 K, .292 BA

When he was selected 38th overall out of Virginia by the Indians in 2014, there was a lot to like about Mike Papi. Prior to being drafted, the Pennsylvania native was purring on a show at the collegiate ranks as he broke the Virginia school record for walks (61), tied the ACC record for single-season homers (11) and led the conference in RBI's (56) and total bases (119), earning him All-ACC honors and a spot on the Charlottesville Regional All-Tournament Team for 2014.

So then Papi gets taken by the Tribe and enters his professional career with all this upside, particularly with his eye at the plate and strike zone recognition, and through his first three seasons, he bats just .225 with 22 homers and 121 RBI's over 286 games, leaving many to wonder whether he could ever put it together as a pro. At the very least, his patient approach was still somewhat in tact as with 178 walks versus 264 strikeouts.

Well fast forward to 2017 where so far the 25-year-old is putting up numbers somewhat comparable to his college stats as he is batting .292 with three homers and nine RBI's over his first 20 games. That and he is still as patient as ever with 15:16 K/BB ratio, giving him an impressive .427 on-base percentage. His hot hitting over the last week has especially helped with seven hits in four games, including two homers, and an even number of strikeouts and walks.

If Mike Papi has, indeed, finally turned a corner and begun to live up to his potential, add another to the crowded list of outfield prospects as that area continues to be a position of strength for the Indians' farm system. Hopefully the unexpected off-day doesn't derail any momentum and the 'Ducks right fielder is able to carry it over into May.

Who's Hot

Julian Merryweather, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 1-0, 6 IP, 1 R/ER, 1.50 ERA, 4 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR

Season to Date: 5 GS, 2-1, 26.2 IP, 10 R, 9 ER, 3.04 ERA, 19 H, 5 BB, 27 K, 2 HR

Merryweather's hot start to the season and the implications it has had to his major league potential cannot be understated. While he was never too far out of the realm of being a top pitching prospect, he has already gone a long way in just five starts to demonstrate that his dominance in Lynchburg last season wasn't a fluke. He doesn't have numbers like the eye-popping 1.03 ERA from last year, of course, but his career-high 9.1 K/9 rate and 0.90 WHIP thus far are the type of stats that the organization is surely taking note of when they update their starting pitching depth chart.

Greg Allen, CF

Last Week: 4 G, 19 AB, 4 R, 4 H, 1 HR, 1 2B, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, .368 BA

Season to Date: 22 G, 78 AB, 15 R, 23 H, 1 HR, 4 2B, 9 RBI, 7 BB, 13 K, 8 SB, 0 CS, .291 BA

Like most of the other hitters in the RubberDucks lineup, Allen has had a start to the season with a few peaks and valleys. Overall, though, he's still putting up the type of numbers we've come to expect from him as he is batting over .290 with a team-high eight stolen bases without getting caught. And even though his strikeout rate has been a bit elevated over the first few weeks, the 24-year-old is still getting on base at a healthy clip at .380. Allen also hit his first home run of the season this week as part of a four-RBI game against the Baysox.

Matt Whitehouse, RP

Last Week: 2 G, 5.1 IP, 0 R/ER, 0.00 ERA, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K

Season to Date: 7 G, 1-0, 16.1 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 2.20 ERA, 10 H, 3 BB, 13 K

Whitehouse is settling in quickly at the Double-A level and has become a key arm for the 'Ducks in the back of their bullpen. Since returning from Tommy John surgery last season after sitting out for practically all of 2015, save two appearances in Arizona Rookie League, the left-hander has barely missed a beat going 4-4 with a 2.49 ERA in 37 appearances at three different levels. The strikeout ball hasn't quite been there as much as it was last year, though, where he fanned 85 in 79.2 innings. So far, the 26-year-old has 13 punchouts through 16.1 innings.

Neil Holland, RP

Last Week: 2 G, 2.1 IP, 0 R/ER, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K

Season to Date (Akron and Lynchburg): 7 G, 1 SV, 8.2 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 1.04 ERA, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 K

Holland has been a nice, stabilizing presence in the Akron bullpen since the veteran side-armer came up from Lynchburg. So far in three appearances with the RubberDucks, the 28-year-old has yet to allow a run or a hit as he has only allowed one baserunner via a hit-by-pitch. In four previous outings in Lynchburg, Holland allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits in 4.1 innings. The Indians signed the right-hander in March after he had spent the first seven seasons of his career in the Nationals organization, where he was initially an 11th round pick in 2010.

Who's Not

Tyler Krieger, 2B

Last Week: 5 G, 22 AB, 2 R, 4 H, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 SB, 0 CS, .182 BA

Season to Date: 17 G, 67 AB, 12 R, 20 H, 1 HR, 8 2B, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 13 K, 6 SB, 0 CS, .299 BA

There was a rare occurrence on the RubberDucks roster this week in the form of Tyler Krieger struggling at the plate. Since being a fourth round pick by the Indians in 2015, the former Clemson Tiger has put up impressive numbers at every level posting a career .299/.376/.423 slash line in 145 career games spread across three levels. Even with his scuffles this week, the 23-year-old is still wreaking havoc on the base paths with two more steals to give him six so far without getting caught. Last season, Krieger stole 21 bases, but was caught 15 times.

Francisco Mejia, C

Last Week: 4 G, 17 AB, 1 R, 4 H, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, .235 BA

Season to Date: 17 G, 66 AB, 7 R, 22 H, 1 HR, 7 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 8 K, .333 BA

Like Krieger, this week brought about a rare cold spell offensively for Francisco Mejia as he batted just .235 in four games. The 'Ducks catcher did hit his first Double-A home run during that span and his overall numbers this season are still very impressive. While he's never been a bona fide slugger, the Dominican native did hit a career-high 11 homers last year marking the first time he has eclipsed double-digits.

Eric Stamets, SS

Last Week: 4 G, 10 AB, 4 R, 1 H, 0 RBI, 6 BB, 1 K, .100 BA

Season to Date (Columbus and Akron): 16 G, 44 AB, 4 R, 2 H, 3 RBI, 9 BB, 17 K, .045 BA

Stamets put together a somewhat bizarre performance this week in that while he continued to struggle putting the bat to the ball, he drew six walks while striking out only once. He also recorded his first hit since rejoining the RubberDucks. So far this season in 16 games between Columbus and Akron, the 25-year-old shortstop has just two hits in 44 at-bats, good for an average of only .045. Since coming back to Akron, though, Stamets has shown more patience at the plate drawing seven walks versus just five strikeouts compared to nine free passes and 17 punchouts in Columbus.

D.J. Brown, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 0-1, 1.2 IP, 8 R/ER, 43.20 ERA, 7 H, 3 BB, 1 HR

Season to Date: 5 G, 2 GS, 0-1, 1 SV, 15 IP, 17 R, 15 ER, 9.00 ERA, 24 H, 8 BB, 15 K, 5 HR

With the injury to Rob Kaminsky, D.J. Brown's role continues to toggle back and forth in 2017 as he has now been re-inserted in the rotation. Well, his first start since the latest switch did not go his way as he was tagged for eight runs on seven hits in Bowie while walking three and failing to record a strikeout. The right-hander has had an up-and-down year overall as he is now 0-1 with an even nine ERA in five games (two starts).

Transactions

-  4/26: RHP Dylan Baker activated from the 7-day disabled list.

-  4/26: Travis Banwart transferred to Columbus from Akron.

-  4/30: INF Ivan Castillo transferred to Lynchburg from Akron.

-  4/30: RHP Jordan Milbrath transferred from to Akron from extended spring training.

-  5/1: INF Mark Mathias activated from the 7-day disabled list.

-  5/1: RHP Jordan Milbrath transferred to Lynchburg from Akron.

Coming Up...

Monday's postponed game in Binghamton will be made up as part of a double-header on May 13th. In the meantime, the rain-shortened series against the Rumble Ponies will officially commence with Michael Peoples on the mound on Tuesday and Nick Pasquale slated for Wednesday. The 'Ducks will then return home to start a seven-game series against the visiting Altoona Curve and Trenton Thunder.

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


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