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Hillcats Notes: Bieber Fever in Lynchburg

Shane Bieber has quickly turned into one of the Indians' top pitching prospects and could be on the major league radar sooner than you think. The IBI's Jake Dungan discusses Bieber's continued dominance on the mound and more highlights from Lynchburg in this week's Hillcats notebook.

The Hillcats are slowly but surely gaining momentum as they are now three games over .500 and just four games behind first place Salem for the division lead. Pitching continues to be the strength of Lynchburg's roster with the starting rotation delivering a quality performance almost every night and the bullpen doing what it takes to lock it down in the late innings. However, the offense is starting to pick up the pace one hitter at a time as the lineup is gradually becoming deeper and more consistent. Shane Bieber has barely missed a step since his promotion to Lynchburg as he is filling the void left by Thomas Pannone admirably while Connor Marabell's sudden departure to Columbus has left a hole in the Hillcats' outfield.

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

Week In Review

  • 5/12 - Lynchburg 3, Myrtle Beach 1: Chiang (W, 5-1), Steele (L, 1-3), Robinson (S, 1)
  • 5/13 - Lynchburg vs. Myrtle Beach postponed (inclement weather)
  • 5/14 - *Game 1* Lynchburg 0, Myrtle Beach 7: De La Cruz (W, 3-2), Esparza (L, 2-3)
  • 5/14 - *Game 2* Lynchburg 4, Potomac 5: Miller (W, 2-1), Garcia (L, 1-1)
  • 5/15 - Lynchburg 2, Winston-Salem 3: Beatty (W, 2-3), Angulo (L, 1-1)
  • 5/16 - Lynchburg 8, Winston-Salem 6: Lovegrove (W, 1-1), Riga (L, 0-2), Milbrath (S, 1)
  • 5/17 - Lynchburg 9, Winston-Salem 5: Hartson (W, 2-1), Thompson (L, 1-5)
  • 5/18 - Lynchburg 9, Winston-Salem 5: Chiang (W, 6-1), Easterling (L, 2-3), Angulo (S, 4)
  • 5/19 - Potomac 7, Lynchburg 11: Esparza (W, 3-3), Estevez (L, 2-3)

Player of the Week

Shane Bieber, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 6 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 9 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 1.50 ERA

Season to Date (Lake County and Lynchburg): 7 GS, 2-3, 41 IP, 17 R, 12 ER, 47 H, 1 BB, 41 K, 2 HR, 2.63 ERA

Bieber appears to have barely broken a sweat since starting out his professional career as he is now 2-3 with a 1.80 ERA in 16 combined appearances thus far (15 starts) across three different levels. After impressing in Lake County to begin the year going 2-3 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts for the Captains, the 21-year-old right-hander was chosen to take the spot in Lynchburg's rotation vacated by Thomas Pannone, whose own dominance earned him a promotion to Double-A Akron.

Well the bump to High-A doesn't seem to have fazed the former fourth round pick by the Tribe as he has pitched two very solid outings for the Hillcats so far going six innings in each stat while allowing only three runs (two earned) on 13 hits without walking a batter and striking out 10. Bieber's impeccable command is one of the qualities that led to the Indians drafting him out of UC Santa Barbara last year as he has only issued three free passes in 65 professional innings up to this point. This season, he has only walked one in 41 innings.

The only mildly concerning part of his season thus far is that his hit rate is at 10.3 per nine innings so far in 2017, up from the miniscule 3.8 mark from last year, although that was limited to 24 innings of work. Still, his propensity to not walk any batters has managed to keep his WHIP down at 1.17 on the year as he has so far managed to work around the baserunners he's allowed for the most part.

While not on the same dominant level of a Triston McKenzie or a Thomas Pannone, Bieber is still a guy with definite upside as he has been ranked #16 in MLB.com's top 30 Indians prospects and #18 in the 2017 IBI Top 75 Prospect rankings. As a college arm, don't be surprised to see him continue to move up quickly if his success continues, especially with his impressive command.

Who's Hot

Sam Haggerty, 2B

Last Week: 6 G, 28 AB, 2 R, 9 H, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 SB, 0 CS, .321 BA

Season to Date: 27 G, 104 AB, 21 R, 32 H, 9 2B, 7 3B, 10 RBI, 10 BB, 25 K, 10 SB, 1 CS, .308 BA

It's hard to say anything more about Haggerty that hasn't already been said. This guy has undeniably been Lynchburg's most consistent hitter and has turned himself into a true weapon at the top of the lineup. With his two stolen bases this week, he now has 10, which puts him two shy of his career best from last season of 12. So far in 142 professional games, Haggerty has stolen 25 bases and only been caught three times.

Kieran Lovegrove, RP

Last Week: 3 G, 3.1 IP, 0 R/ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA 

Season to Date: 11 G, 1 GS, 1-1, 14.1 IP, 5 R/ER, 11 H, 4 BB, 13 K, 0 HR, 3.14 ERA

Following a similar path to teammate Leandro Linares, Lovegrove was a guy who initially came up as a starter and then moved to the bullpen after putting up inconsistent numbers. Well, this transition appears to be paying off for him this year as the right-hander has posted a 3.07 ERA while racking up a career-low 1.02 WHIP and fanning 14 batters in 14.2 innings.

Willi Castro, SS

Last Week: 8 G, 30 AB, 6 R, 12 H, 1 HR, 3 2B, 8 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, .400 BA

Season to Date: 33 G, 112 AB, 13 R, 30 H, 2 HR, 6 2B, 14 RBI, 9 BB, 19 K, 3 SB, 6 CS, .268 BA

Castro has been all or nothing so far in 2017, but right now he is locked in having hit an even .400 with a homer and eight RBI's over his last 10 games. In that span, Castro's average has increased 55 points going from .213 to .268. He is also now riding a six-game hit streak and has recorded a hit in nine of his last 10 contests.

Jared Robinson, RP

Last Week: 3 G, 1 SV, 4.1 IP, 0 R/ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA

Season to Date: 7 G, 4 GS, 1-3, 1 SV, 20 IP, 12 R, 11 ER, 20 H, 9 BB, 13 K, 2 HR, 4.95 ERA

Whatever was ailing Robinson that landed him on the disabled list appears to be behind him as he has dominated since his return pitching 4.1 shutout innings while allowing only two hits and a walk and striking out five. This impressive stretch has lowered his ERA below five for the first time since April 20th.

Who's Not

Martin Cervenka, C

Last Week: 7 G, 24 AB, 4 R, 5 H, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 3 K, .208 BA

Season to Date: 31 G, 111 AB, 15 R, 31 H, 3 HR, 6 2B, 16 RBI, 9 BB, 26 K, .279 BA

Cervenka's bat has cooled off a bit in May as he is batting just .235 with a .649 OPS so far this month compared to his .317 average and .827 OPS from April. While he only hit .208 this week, however, the Czech backstop has managed to draw six walks versus only three strikeouts.

Ka'ai Tom, OF

Last Week: 8 G, 33 AB, 5 R, 4 H, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K, .121 BA

Season to Date: 38 G, 133 AB, 20 R, 33 H, 2 HR , 7 2B, 2 3B, 18 RBI, 19 BB, 25 K, 7 SB, 2 CS, .248 BA

May has also not been kind to Tom as he has posted just a .219 average so far this month. His patience at the plate has not been affected, though. In fact, it's actually gotten better as his 11:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in May has far bested his 14:9 mark from April.

Daniel Salters, C

Last Week: 7 G, 26 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, .154 BA

Season to Date: 28 G, 99 AB, 11 R, 18 H, 2 HR, 4 2B, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 32 K, .182 BA

Unfortunately, the good fortune Salters seemed to have at the plate in Lynchburg last season seems to have eluded him so far in 2017 as he is still hitting below the Mendoza Line with his .154 average this week. He did finish the week on a high note, however, going 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI in the Hillcats' 11-7 win over Potomac.

Transactions

-  5/12: RHP Argenis Angulo transferred to Akron from Lynchburg.

-  5/12: RHP Leandro Linares placed on the 7-day disabled list.

-  5/12: RHP Jared Robinson activated from the 7-day disabled list.

-  5/15: RHP Argenis Angulo transferred to Lynchburg from Akron.

-  5/16: OF Connor Marabell transferred to Columbus from Lynchburg.

-  5/16: RHP Leandro Linares activated from the 7-day disabled list.

Coming Up...

Tthe Hillcats will continue their extended five-game series against Potomac as they are slated to play a double-header on Sunday to make up a yet another rained out game from April 22nd. Then they will head right back on the road for a quick three-game set against Wilmington.

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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