Hillcats Notes: Loopstok Lighting It Up

It seems like every week Lynchburg’s lineup is being driven by one hitter on an insane hot streak. This week was no different as Sicnarf Loopstok has heated up in a big way. As a team, they’re starting to play better at home as they now have a .500 record at Calvin Falwell Field while maintaining their league-best road record of 16-7 as they still sit just two games in back of first-place Salem.

Here’s what else happened this week with the Hillcats…

Week In Review

  • 5/26 – Salem 4, Lynchburg 5: DeMasi (W, 1-0), Lau (L, 1-3)
  • 5/27 – Salem 4, Lynchburg 5: Garcia (3-1), Glorius (0-3), Angulo (S, 6)
  • 5/28 – Salem 8, Lynchburg 9: Chiang (W, 7-2), Weems (L, 5-2), Strode (S, 1)
  • 5/29 – Salem 4, Lynchburg 3: McGrath (W, 1-4), Hartson (L, 2-2), Poyner (S, 6)
  • 5/31 – Lynchburg 8, Potomac 7: Lovegrove (W, 2-1), Mendez (L, 1-1), DeMasi (S, 1)
  • 6/1 – Lynchburg 3, Potomac 1: Civale (W, 1-0), Baez (L, 1-6), Angulo (S, 7)

Player of the Week

Sicnarf Loopstok, C/1B

Last Week: 6 G, 16 AB, 8 R, 8 H, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 8 BB, 3 K, 2 SB, .500 BA

Season to Date: 39 G, 144 AB, 22 R, 41 H, 4 HR, 12 2B, 2 3B, 26 RBI, 14 BB, 42 K, 3 SB, 2 CS, .285 BA

There’s been no one hotter in the Hillcats lineup right now than Sicnarf Loopstok as he has batted an even .500 over the past week with two doubles and two RBI’s. Thanks to this hot hitting, the 24-year-old catcher and first baseman has managed to raise his batting average from .258 back up to .285, the highest it’s been since May 10th where it sat at .297.

What was really impressive about his week, however, was how patient he’s been at the plate drawing eight walks in 27 plate appearances while striking out only twice. Entering play on May 26th, the Aruba native had only six free passes versus 39 strikeouts in 33 games on the year. This sudden showing of patience is certainly a welcome sight since Loopstok is already only 11 punchouts away from tying last year’s career-high total of 53 in 71 games. He is also close to matching his 2016 walk total of 16, also a career high, as he now has 14 on the year.

Now that Loopstok appears to be settling in and figuring things out in Lynchburg, it has to be only a matter of time before questions start about when he will be bumped up to Double-A. After all, 2017 marks the third straight year in which the former 13th round pick has played either all or part of a season in the Carolina League. Plus, the Hillcats do have an abundance of catchers with him, Martin Cervenka and Daniel Salters. There’s only one thing standing in his way, however, and his name is Francisco Mejia as he currently has a claim on the lion’s share of catching time in Akron.

If a spot should open up in Akron, though, Loopstok would appear to be the most likely candidate for a promotion given his extended time and experience in Lynchburg and his impressive performance so far this season. For now, he will keep the beat going in the middle of the Hillcats’ lineup and, hopefully, continue to adopt this newfound patient approach at the plate.

Who’s Hot

Connor Marabell, OF

Last Week: 6 G, 20 AB, 4 R, 7 H, 1 HR, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K, .350 BA

Season to Date (Lynchburg and Columbus): 36 G, 125 AB, 19 R, 36 H, 3 HR, 9 2B, 14 RBI, 16 BB, 19 K, 4 SB, 4 CS, .288 BA

Marabell has kept up his hot hitting since returning to Lynchburg batting .350 with a homer and six RBI’s over the last week. His strikeout-to-walk ratio also continues to be impressive at 19:16, giving him a .366 OBP on the year. Despite his impressive numbers last year, the 23-year-old only posted a 37:67 ratio and .346 OBP in 130 games between Lake County and Lynchburg.

Argenis Angulo, RP

Last Week: 3 G, 2 SV, 3.1 IP, 0 R/ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA 

Season to Date: 18 G, 2-1, 7 SV, 23.1 IP, 4 R/ER, 14 H, 12 BB, 25 K, 0 HR, 1.54 ERA

Now firmly established as the Hillcats’ closer, Angulo has responded with a will racking up six saves in eight opportunities while pitching to the tune of a 1.54 ERA over 18 appearances. Walks are still a chronic issue for the 23-year-old right-hander as he has issued 12 free passes in 23.1 innings, but he doesn’t allow many hits (14), which has kept his WHIP down to a manageable 1.11.

Willi Castro, SS

Last Week: 6 G, 23 AB, 3 R, 7 H, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, .304 BA

Season to Date: 445G, 156 AB, 19 R, 45 H, 2 HR, 10 2B, 19 RBI, 13 BB, 29 K, 3 SB, 6 CS, .288 BA

It looks like Castro has made the right adjustments to become a productive hitter in the Carolina League as he wrapped up May batting .319 with a homer and 13 RBI’s. Now it’s just a matter of him keeping up this pace and continuing to make the necessary adjustments as teams and pitchers adjust to him. His defense is another story, however, as the 20-year-old already has 14 errors at short, putting him more than halfway to his career high from last year of 25. 

Jordan Milbrath, RP

Last Week: 2 G, 4 IP, 0 R/ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 0.00 ERA

Season to Date: 8 G, 1-1, 1 SV, 11.2 IP, 8 R, 4 ER, 10 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 0 HR, 3.09 ERA

Milbrath is yet another arm for the Indians who initially was thought of as a starter, but after two seasons of mixed results in Lake County was moved to the bullpen full time last year. So far in 2017, the results have been more promising as the right-hander has posted a career-best 3.09 ERA through eight appearances. His WHIP is still hovering around 1.50, as it has for most of his career, but his strikeout rate also remains strong with 14 in 11.2 innings thus far. 

Who’s Not

Shao-Ching Chiang, SP

Last Week: 1 GS, 1-0, 5 IP, 4 R/ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 HR, 7.20 ERA

Season to Date: 9 GS, 7-2, 60 IP, 22 R, 18 ER, 52 H, 9 BB, 39 K, 4 HR, 2.70 ERA

The only reason why Chiang makes the “Who’s Not” list this week is because of the lofty standards he has set for himself with his performance this season leading up this week. Prior to last Sunday, the right-hander had averaged nearly seven innings per start while posting a 2.29 ERA in eight outings. While he still earned the win last weekend, the 23-year-old still only pitched five innings while allowing four runs. Chiang did manage to strike out a season-high seven batters in that outing, though.

Kieran Lovegrove, RP

Last Week: 2 G, 1-0, 1.1 IP, 2 R/ER, 0 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 13.53 ERA

Season to Date: 15 G, 1 GS, 2-1, 18 IP, 9 R/ER, 14 H, 7 BB, 19 K, 1 HR, 4.50 ERA

The second of Lovegrove’s two outings last week led to a bizarre stat line in that he was charged with two runs without giving up a hit, but still earned the win. That strange appearance aside, however, the right-hander is still pitching fairly well in his second full season in the bullpen as he had a 3.71 ERA in his previous 14 appearances entering Wednesday. And even with Wednesday’s outing included, the South African native is still posting a career high strikeout rate of 9.5 per nine innings.


–  5/27: 1B Anthony Miller activated from the 7-day disabled list.

–  5/27: SS Ivan Castillo placed on the 7-day disabled list (retroactive to May 24th).

–  5/30: RHP Matt Esparza transferred to Akron from Lynchburg.

–  5/30: RHP Aaron Civale transferred to Lynchburg from Lake County.

Coming Up…

The Hillcats will continue their current road trip with two more games in Potomac and four in Salem, including a doubleheader on Sunday to make up a postponed game from April 27th. Triston McKenzie and Shao-Ching Chiang will get the nod for the final two games against the Nationals.

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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