Lathan Goumas/The News & Advance

Hillcats Notes: Haggerty Still Locked In At The Plate

Sam Haggerty has been a force at the top of the lineup for Lynchburg to start the 2017 campaign. The IBI's Jake Dungan dives into his hot hitting as well as other key performances from this week for the Hillcats.

Lynchburg has been about as up-and-down a team as there has been in the Indians farm system. Not only have they gone 3-3 over the past week, but they are also 12-12 on the year putting them 4th in the Northern division and three games off the pace of first-place Salem. Sam Haggerty and Thomas Pannone have been the steady forces early on each side of the ball for the Hillcats while guys like Willi Castro, Andrew Calica and Matt Esparza are just starting to get it going on a consistent basis.

Here's what else happened this week with the Hillcats...

Week In Review

  • 4/28 - Myrtle Beach 9, Lynchburg 6: Thorpe (W, 2-1), Robinson (L, 1-3), Norwood (S, 3)
  • 4/29 - Myrtle Beach 3, Lynchburg 11: Chiang (W, 3-1), Steele (L, 1-2)
  • 4/30 - Myrtle Beach 10, Lynchburg 8: Bloomquist (W, 1-2), Strode (L, 0-1)
  • 5/1 - Winston-Salem 0, Lynchburg 5: Pannone (W, 2-0), Beatty (L, 0-2)
  • 5/2 - Winston-Salem 1, Lynchburg 0: Dunning (W, 1-0), McKenzie (L, 2-2), Bummer (S, 2)
  • 5/3 - Winston-Salem 1, Lynchburg 6: Hartson (W, 1-0), McRae (L, 0-4)
  • 5/4 - Lynchburg vs. Potomac postponed (Rain)

Player of the Week

Sam Haggerty, 2B

Last Week: 4 G, 19 AB, 5 R, 7 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, .412 BA

Season to Date: 19 G, 70 AB, 19 R, 23 H, 9 2B, 6 3B, 6 RBI, 12 BB, 18 K, .329 BA

When you look at the list of potential leadoff hitters among the Indians' top prospects, there are not many who fit that mold. There are guys who have tools that could be useful out of the leadoff spot, certainly, but outside of Greg Allen, nobody who you would say is or is near-perfect to fit that role. Well, there may just be someone else who can fit that bill currently down in Lynchburg by the name of Sam Haggerty.

Through his first 19 games, Haggerty has been a hitting machine batting .329 with 15 extra-base hits, six RBI's and 19 runs scored. Add in his eight stolen bases and .422 OBP and 23-year-old is about as perfect a fit for the leadoff spot as you can get, a fact which has not been lost on Hillcats skipper Tony Mansolino, who has slotted Haggerty in the leadoff spot in 14 of those 19 games.

"He's a prototypical leadoff hitter in a lot of ways," said Mansolino, "He has some power and has some control of the strike zone. I don't expect anyone to have a 1.100 OPS all year. He's going to cool off eventually, but he's got the ancillary skills to stay in that spot."

Now some may ask where did Sam Haggerty come from and why haven't we heard much about him until now? Well as a 24th round pick in 2015, he's not the kind of talent that's going to grab a lot of headlines right away. Then you add in the fact that he struggled in his first full season a year ago batting just .230 with four homers and 39 RBI's in 100 games with Lake County, your name gets buried even deeper among all the minor league players in the system. What changed between 2016 and 2017? An offseason of hard work and adjustments.

"I think some of that has to do with the approach," Haggerty explained, "I used to really hit and try and get into good counts, so I was typically a very patient hitter. This year, I've been more aggressive and haven't been looking so much for the 'perfect pitch', but just for a good pitch to hit, regardless if it's a curveball, a changeup or a fastball. If it's a good pitch to hit, I want to put a good swing on it."

Haggerty has been a valuable asset at the top of the Lynchburg lineup and arguably their most consistent hitter thus far in 2017. Hopefully he continues to reap the benefits of the changes he made to his approach and puts himself in the thick of the discussion of the top hitting prospects in the organization.

Who's Hot

Thomas Pannone, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 1-0, 7 IP, 0 R/ER, 0.00 ERA, 3 H, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR

Season to Date: 5 GS, 2-0, 27.2 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA, 10 H, 7 BB, 39 K, 0 HR

Pannone has still yet to allow an earned run through five starts as he impressing in all facets of the game whether it's the zeros he keeps throwing up, the limited amount of hits and walks allowed, or the strikeouts he racks up a nightly basis. It's only May, but it wouldn't be surprising to start hearing talk of an early promotion for the left-hander.

Willi Castro, SS

Last Week: 4 G, 14 AB, 1 R, 6 H, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, .429 BA

Season to Date: 20 G, 66 AB, 5 R, 16 H, 1 HR, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 8 BB, 14 K, 2 SB, 5 CS, .242 BA

After a slow start to the season, Castro has found the on switch over the last week batting over .400 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. We'll see if he can get his power stroke going as well as he had a career-high seven homers, 21 doubles and eight triples in 126 games for Lake County and Lynchburg last season.

Andrew Calica, OF

Last Week: 6 G, 27 AB, 6 R, 9 H, 1 HR, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, .333 BA

Season to Date: 22 G, 81 AB, 10 R, 20 H, 1 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, 9 RBI, 11 BB, 19 K, 2 SB, 4 CS, .247 BA

After breaking records in Mahoning Valley last year with his .388 average in 40 games, Calica got an aggressive promotion to Lynchburg to start 2017. For a while, it was slow-going for the 23-year-old as he was batting below the Mendoza Line for most of the season, but his recent hot streak has helped get his numbers up to a more respectable level.

Leandro Linares, RP

Last Week: 2 G, 3.0 IP, 0 R/ER, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 0 BB, 5 K

Season to Date: 9 G, 2 SV, 10.1 IP, 3 R, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA, 8 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HR

Linares has been an underrated success story in his conversion from starter to reliever last year. He went from being 0-7 with a 6.55 ERA in the Mahoning Valley rotation in 2015 to 1-1 with a 1.21 ERA across three levels as a reliever last season. So far in 2017, the Cuban right-hander has yet to allow an earned run through 10.1 innings while walking only two and striking out 11.

Who's Not

Jared Robinson, RP

Last Week: 1 G, 0-1, 3.0 IP, 5 R/ER, 15.00 ERA, 4 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR

Season to Date: 4 G, 1-3, 15.2 IP, 12 R, 11 ER, 6.32 ERA, 18 H, 8 BB, 8 K, 2 HR

Unfortunately, it looks like the struggles that Robinson had last season have followed him into 2017. Last year, the right-hander went 2-2 with a 5.63 ERA in 18 appearances between the Captains and Hillcats. So far this season, the 22-year-old has posted a 1-3 record and 6.32 ERA as he was tagged for five runs in his last appearance.

Claudio Bautista, INF

Last Week: 5 G, 18 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K, .111 BA

Season to Date: 17 G, 57 AB, 4 R, 11 H, 1 HR, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 8 BB, 15 K, .193 BA

Bautista has been one of the colder bats in the Hillcats lineup to start the 2017 campaign as he only has 11 hits in 57 at-bats. The Dominican native is back with the Hillcats after batting .215 with seven homers and 36 RBI's in 89 games between Lynchburg and Akron.

Yonathan Mendoza, INF

Last Week: 5 G, 21 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 3 K, .190 BA

Season to Date: 19 G, 71 AB, 8 R, 17 H, 9 RBI, 5 BB, 12 K, .239 BA

After starting out the season as one of the hotter hitters on the team where he was batting well over .300 at one point. Since April 21st, however, the 23-year-old has seen his average drop from .293 to .239. Last week, he only batted .190 with no extra-base hits and two RBI's.

Billy Strode, RP

Last Week: 1 G, 0-1, 0.0 IP, 4 R/ER, -.-- ERA, 4 H, 0 BB, 0 K

Season to Date: 8 G, 0-1, 8.1 IP, 12 R, 6 ER, 6.48 ERA, 11 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HR

Strode had been one of the Hillcats' more reliable relievers heading into last Sunday's game as he had just a 2.16 ERA. Against Myrtle Beach on Sunday, though, the left-hander was tagged for four runs and the loss without recording an out.

Transactions

-  4/28: C Juan De La Cruz transferred to Lynchburg from Lake County.

-  4/28: CF Trenton brooks transferred from Lynchburg to Lake County.

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

-  4/30: 1B Anthony Miller placed on the 7-day disabled list.

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

Coming Up...

With Thursday night's affair in Potomac postponed due to rain, the Hillcats will have two double-headers coming up this week starting on Saturday against the Nationals. Shao-Ching Chiang, Matt Esparza, Thomas Pannone and Triston McKenzie will take the mound in this weekend series, after which they will return home four a four-game set against Carolina, which also includes a double-header set for next Wednesday.

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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