Carolina Countdown: Carolina Mudcats
First off, thanks to everyone for their efforts yesterday. Unfortunately, Bolt could not slay the defending Mascot Madness champion–Webster University’s Gorlok. Still, Bolt is incredibly thankful for all of your support.
Believe it or not, the 2012 Carolina League season begins in nine days. To get you set for the action, we are debuting a new feature in advance of the season. It’s the “Carolina Countdown,” and it will preview all seven Carolina League opponents for the Dash this season.
To kick things off, we will begin with the newest entrant into the CL: the Carolina Mudcats.
CAROLINA COUNTDOWN: Carolina Mudcats
Introduction: After 21 years in the Double-A Southern League, the Mudcats are at the Advanced-A level here in the Carolina League. During the shuffle this past offseason, the Mudcats replaced the Kinston Indians as Cleveland’s Carolina League affiliate. The Mudcats had been Cincinnati’s Double-A stop, but now the Reds have the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
Last season: The Mudcats didn’t wrap up their Southern League run in style. Carolina stumbled to a 53-86 overall mark, which was the worst in the SL’s Southern Division. However, this record is completely irrelevant because of the affiliation switch.
Manager: Edwin Rodriguez enters his first season with the Indians’ system. His name may sound familiar to big baseball fans, because he was the manager of the Florida Marlins for 360 days. Rodriguez replaced Fredi Gonzalez June 23, 2010, and resigned June 18, 2011. Rodriguez’s resignation began the process that ultimately led to Ozzie Guillen’s job with the new-look Miami Marlins.
System: The Indians’ system took a hit last year when the organization shipped its top two pitching prospects–Drew Pomeranz and Alex White–to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez. That trade, plus the promotion of top hitting prospects Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall to the big leagues, has helped to water down the Tribe’s system.
However, if there is a glimmer of hope, it is in the lower level of the minor leagues. Per Tony Lastoria of Indians Prospect Insider, top prospect Francisco Lindor should join Luigi Rodriguez (fifth-best Indians prospect according to Baseball America) and Tony Wolters (seventh) in Low-A Lake County. This trio could make it up to Carolina by season’s end.
Best promotion: From June 8-10, Scooby Doo will be at Five County Stadium to hang out with Mudcats fans. Unfortunately, the Pelicans are coming to town that weekend, so I won’t be able to hang out with Scooby.
Fun fact: From short season to the big leagues, there are six teams in the Indians’ farm system, and all but Carolina are in the state of Ohio. Triple-A Columbus is a two-hour drive south of Cleveland. Double-A Akron is less than an hour away from Progressive Field. Low-A Lake County is about the same. And short-season Mahoning Valley is near the Pennsylvania border, but it is still less than a two-hour trip to C-town.
Travel to Carolina: This is a pretty easy trip for the team and for Dash fans. Head east on I-40 and you’re there in a little more than two hours. It’s a 131-mile journey to Zebulon, which is the Dash’s second-shortest trip in the Carolina League.
Mudcats in Winston-Salem: These two clubs will share Opening Day April 6 in Zebulon. One week later, the Mudcats make their first ever CL road trip April 13-15 here at BB&T Ballpark. The Mudcats also invade Winston May 25-27 and July 23-26.
Tomorrow: The Frederick Keys, who won last season’s Mills Cup.