Results tagged ‘ Jason Kipnis ’

2016 Carolina Countdown – Lynchburg Hillcats

Believe it or not, the Dash’s season starts in just 15 days! To get you ready, we’ll be previewing every team in the Carolina League. Stay tuned over the next few days as we examine each of the Dash’s seven Carolina League foes.  Yesterday, we took a look at the Frederick Keys.   Now in the batter’s box, the Lynchburg Hillcats!

Introduction: The Hillcats were established in 1963, and after three years in the Southern League, the franchise moved to the Carolina League in 1966. This will be the team’s 41st season in the CL and second as an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Lynchburg has taken home seven league championships, ranking second behind the Winston-Salem franchise for most in league history. Their most recent CL crown came in 2012, beating Winston-Salem three games to one in the Mills Cup Finals. In total, there have been nine major league organizations affiliated with this franchise.

Last Season: Lynchburg caught fire down the stretch, going 27-10 to surge into a playoff spot. The team ultimately fell to the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the Northern Division Championship Series. With a regular season record of 72-68, the Keys were the only squad in the Northern Division with an overall mark above .500.

If chicks do indeed dig the long ball, then they were definitely into the Hillcats in 2015. Lynchburg mashed 98 home runs, by far the highest total among Carolina League squads (The Mudcats were second with 72). They also led the league in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, triples and total bases.

First baseman Nellie Rodriguez, the 2015 Carolina League Player of the Year, topped the league in home runs (17), RBIs (84), slugging percentage (.495) and extra-base hits (51). Center fielder Clint Frazier, the Hillcats’ other Year-End All-Star, finished second in the league with 16 bombs.


Nellie Rodriguez was named the 2015 Carolina League Player of the Year after an impressive campaign with the Lynchburg Hillcats last season.


Manager: Mark Budzinski returns for his second year as the skipper for Lynchburg. Before coming to the Hillcats, he guided the Lake County Captains to the 2014 Midwest League Championship Series in his first year as a Minor League manager.

Prior to managing, Budzinski played at the University of Richmond and was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 21st round of the 1995 Draft. He played professionally for 11 seasons, and spent the 1997 season in the Carolina League as an outfielder for the Kinston Indians (now the Carolina Mudcats).  After spending some time with the Indians, Cubs, and Brewers organizations, Budzinski made his MLB debut with the Cincinnati Reds on August 3, 2003. He would appear in four games before being sent back to Triple-A. His playing career ended in 2005.

Larry Day will join the team as the Hillcats new hitting coach, while pitching coach Rigo Beltran returns from last season.

System:  Despite finishing above .500 for a third straight season, the Cleveland Indians disappointed fans and experts alike who believed them to be a contender in 2015. A rough 7-14 start was too much to overcome, as they finished in third place in the AL Central at 81-80. Still, there’s a lot of upside with this club, and it starts with the youth on the roster.

Rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor established himself as one of the best young players in baseball, hitting .313/.353/.482 with 12 home runs in just 99 games. He finished second to Houston shortstop Carlos Correa for the Rookie of the Year award in the American League. Jason Kipnis returns at the second base to form one of the best up-the-middle combos in baseball. Also, the top four pitchers in the projected rotation (2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer) are all under the age of 30.


Francisco Lindor, runner up in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2015, will play his first full season in the big leagues in 2016. (Ken Blazer/USA Today Sports)

On the minor league level, while Baseball America rates Cleveland’s farm system as just the 16th-best in baseball, there are some promising prospects on the rise.  It took just over half a season for the Carolina League to get to know outfield prospect Bradley Zimmer. Rated the 26th-best prospect in baseball by, Zimmer hit .308/.403/.493 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs with Lynchburg. By the time he was promoted to Double-A Akron, Zimmer led all CL hitters in runs scored (60), stolen bases (32) and OPS (.896). He also swiped 44 bases in 51 attempts across both levels.

Frazier (’s 27th-best prospect) is also someone worth monitoring. The fifth-overall selection in 2013 by the Indians, Frazier was the first high school position player picked in the draft that season. The 21-year old terrorized Carolina League pitching last year, leading the league in hits (143), doubles (36), and total bases (233).

Best Promotion: On May 28, the Hillcats are having their 10th Annual Swing for a Cure Breast Cancer Awareness Night & T-Shirt Giveaway. All proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen of the Virginia Blue Ridge. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free commemorative t-shirt.

Fun Fact: Brady Aiken became the third No. 1 overall pick in draft history not to sign in 2014, when the Houston Astros reduced their original offer due to injury concerns. The southpaw had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus with Houston, only to have the team reduce their offer to $5 million after a post-Draft physical raised concerns about his throwing elbow. Instead of signing, Aiken enlisted in the IMG Academy post-graduate program (located in Bradenton, Fla.). Unfortunately, he injured his left elbow in his first outing with IMG after 13 pitches and underwent Tommy John surgery.

The Indians, undeterred from all that happened, selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 Draft.

Hillcats in Winston-Salem: Lynchburg visits BB&T Ballpark during the first month of the season, from April 26-28.The Hillcats don’t return to Winston-Salem until three months later, next playing at BB&T from July 28-31.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, who nipped the Dash in last year’s postseason.


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.


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.

New Carolina skipper Edwin Rodriguez managed the Florida Marlins for almost one calendar year (AP).

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.

Scooby Doo will spend a weekend in Zebulon this year.

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.

– Brian