Tony Lastoria/IBI

Hillcats Notes: Triston McKenzie and his Fabulous Fourteen

If Triston McKenzie is indeed human, he's doing a pretty good job of hiding it, at least on the mound as his 14-strikeout performance this week has created a buzz throughout the Tribe fanbase. It was the highlight of the week for the Hillcats, as the IBI's Jake Dungan writes.

As rain continues to fall across the Mid-Atlantic region, postponements, doubleheaders and even cancellations are becoming regular occurrences throughout the Carolina League. The Hillcats were one of the teams to experience these outcomes over the last week as they played in a pair of twin bills and had their most recent game cancelled with no makeup date due to inclement weather. In the games they did play this week, however, Lynchburg went 4-3 as they are beginning to pick up ground in their division as they now sit just one game under .500 and in third place.

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

Week In Review

  • 5/5 - Lynchburg 6, Potomac 2: Chiang (W, 4-1), Baez (L, 0-4)
  • 5/6 - *Game 1* Lynchburg 3, Potomac 0: Esparza (W, 2-2), Estevez (L, 1-2), Angulo (S, 2)
  • 5/6 - *Game 2* Lynchburg 11, Potomac 3: Milbrath (W, 1-0), Reyes (L, 1-5)
  • 5/7 - Lynchburg 3, Potomac 4: Mendez (W, 1-0), Strode (L, 0-2)
  • 5/9 - Carolina 1, Lynchburg 4: McKenzie (W, 3-2), Harber (L, 1-2), Angulo (S, 3)
  • 5/10 - *Game 1* Carolina 2, Lynchburg 0: Burnes (W, 3-0), Hartson (L, 1-1), Griep (S, 3)
  • 5/10 - *Game 2* Carolina 3, Lynchburg 1: Torres-Costa (W, 4-1), Milbrath (L, 1-1)
  • 5/11 - Carolina vs. Lynchburg cancelled (Rain)

Player of the Week

Triston McKenzie, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 1-0, 6 IP, 0 R/ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 14 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA

Season to Date: 6 GS, 3-2, 32.1 IP, 11 R, 7 ER, 20 H, 12 BB, 44 K, 1 HR, 1.95 ERA

Only 25 games into his professional career, Triston McKenzie is already prompting the question, what can't he do on the mound? Through those 25 outings (24 starts) since being a CBA pick by the Indians in 2015, the right-hander has done nothing but dominate going 10-8 with a 1.62 ERA giving up just 82 hits and 37 walks while fanning 165 batters in 127.2 innings. That success was encapsulated by his last start where he pitched six shutout innings and struck out a career-high 14 batters against Carolina.

"I think everything was working," said McKenzie in regards to how he accomplished that feat on Wednesday, "I was just in one of those zones where everything felt like it was going right where it needed to be."

McKenzie was bumped up to Lynchburg at the start of the season in a bit of a surprising move as he had not yet pitched in full season ball, nor did he have a lot of time under his belt at Lake County as he had only made six starts for the Captains late last year.

"I feel like the Indians had a lot of faith in me, my talent and my ability to adjust to situations," explained the 19-year-old, "I think it's a good jump for me because it allows me to face better hitters and force me to adjust my game to the level of competition I was facing."

If he's had to make any substantial adjustments to the Carolina League, one wouldn't know it looking at his stats as the Florida native has gone 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA through six starts while posting a mere 0.99 WHIP and striking out 44 through 32.1 innings. Is this the emergence of the future ace of the Indians? Only time will tell, but there has been no obstacle McKenzie has failed to overcome to this point.

Who's Hot

Shao-Ching Chiang, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 1-0, 8 IP, 2 R/ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 2.25 ERA

Season to Date: 5 GS, 4-1, 34.1 IP, 11 R, 7 ER, 26 H, 4 BB, 19 K, 2 HR, 1.83 ERA

While Chiang has had to play third or even fourth fiddle in the Hillcats rotation so far, that hasn't stopped the right-hander from pitching just as impressively, if not more so in some respects as he currently leads the starters in ERA (1.83), now that Thomas Pannone has been promoted, and innings pitched (34.1).

Shane Bieber, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 6 IP, 1 R/ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 1.50 ERA 

Season to Date (Lake County and Lynchburg): 6 GS, 2-3, 35 IP, 15 R, 11 ER, 38 H, 1 BB, 38 K, 2 HR, 2.83 ERA

While Thomas Pannone impressed in his first start in Double-A, Shane Bieber assumed his spot in the rotation and kept his impressive streak going pitching six one-run innings against Potomac on Sunday. In five starts for Lake County prior to his bump to High-A, the 21-year-old went 2-3 with a 3.10 ERA.

Connor Marabell, OF

Last Week: 6 G, 19 AB, 5 R, 6 H, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, .316 BA

Season to Date: 19 G, 66 AB, 13 R, 16 H, 2 HR, 4 2B, 7 RBI, 7 BB, 9 K, 2 SB, 2 CS, .242 BA

Marabell has had a bit of an up-and-down start to his season as he looks to recreate the success he had in Lake County last year. This week, he started to find his extra-base stroke as he had three doubles to give him four on the year thus far. Last season, the Florida native had a career-high 45 doubles over 130 games.

Brock Hartson, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 0-1, 6.1 IP, 1 R/ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 1.42 ERA

Season to Date: 6 G, 2 GS, 1-1, 1 SV, 30 IP, 10 R/ER, 27 H, 7 BB, 22 K, 0 HR, 3.00 ERA

While he was handed the loss in his one game last week, Hartson still pitched very well allowing just one run over 6.1 innings. The 23-year-old has served as the Hillcats' swing man on their pitching staff appearing in four games out of the bullpen and starting in two. All together, the right-hander has gone 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

Argenis Angulo, RP

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

Season to Date: 11 G, 1-0, 3 SV, 12 IP, 2 R/ER, 11 H, 7 BB, 15 K, 0 HR, 1.50 ERA

Angulo's recent dominance has turned him into an effective closer for Lynchburg as he now has three saves in five save opportunities. Last week, the Venezuelan right-hander pitched a pair of scoreless appearances while going a perfect 2-for-2 in save chances.

Who's Not

Willi Castro, SS

Last Week: 5 G, 15 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, .133 BA

Season to Date: 25 G, 81 AB, 7 R, 18 H, 1 HR, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 9 BB, 17 K, .222 BA

Just when it looked like Castro was starting to lock it in at the plate, his bat cooled off again as his average has dropped from .254 to .220. He has recorded hits in his last two games, though, and he also drew his first walk since April 30th in his last contest.

Claudio Bautista, INF

Last Week: 4 G, 11 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, .000 BA

Season to Date: 21 G, 68 AB, 4 R, 11 H, 1 HR, 3 2B, 5 RBI, 8 BB, 17 K, .162 BA

Bautista is still trying to get it going at the plate this season as he is batting just .159 with one homer and five RBI's through 21 games. Hopefully last week was rock bottom for him as he failed to record a hit or a walk while driving in one run and striking out twice.

Jodd Carter, OF

Last Week: 5 G, 16 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 0 RBI, 2 BB, 6 K, .063 BA

Season to Date: 26 G, 91 AB, 12 R, 21 H, 3 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 6 BB, 39 K, .231 BA

Carter was going strong for a little while as he finished April with a .270 average. Since the calendar has flipped to May, however, the 20-year-old has batted just .138 with a homer and an RBI in eight games. Strikeouts have been an issue for the Hawaiian native as well as he leads the team with 39 punchouts, putting him over halfway to his 2016 total of 72.

Transactions

-  5/5: C Sicnarf Loopstok activated from the disabled list.

-  5/5: C/1B Juan De La Cruz transferred to Lake County from Lynchburg.

-  5/5: SP Shane Bieber transferred to Lynchburg from Lake County.

-  5/5: SP Thomas Pannone transferred to Akron from Lynchburg.

Coming Up...

The Hillcats head back out on the road starting Friday as they travel to Myrtle Beach for a three-game set against the Pelicans. After that, they head back west to take on Winston-Salem in a four-game set.

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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