If you’ve been a regular at area minor-league ballparks over the last few seasons, chances are you’ve seen a player or two who will star in the historic World Series starting Tuesday in Cleveland.
UNC alum and pitcher Andrew Miller is one of 14 former North Carolina minor-leaguers who will suit up for American League champion Cleveland, while eight others are members of the National League champion Chicago Cubs.
Cleveland is looking for its first World Series title since 1948, while the Cubs – who are playing in a World Series for the first time since 1945 – are hoping to break a drought going back to 1908.
The Carolina Mudcats were affiliated with the Indians for three seasons from 2012-14, and six Mudcats from that era plus five more former Kinston Indians – Cleveland’s Carolina League affiliate before it moved to Zebulon – are now with the big club.
Three former Mudcats – closer Aroldis Chapman (Carolina 2011; 4 wins, 1.55 ERA in 2016), lefty Travis Wood (2009; 4 wins, 2.95 ERA in 2016) and left fielder Chris Coghlan (2008; 6 home runs, 30 RBIs, .188 batting average in 2016) – are members of the Cubs. Chapman has unquestionably the hardest fastball in baseball today, more often than not at over 100 mph and topping out at over 105.
Three erstwhile Durham Bulls – Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (in Durham from 2006-08; 18 home runs, 76 RBIs, .272 batting average in 2016) and southpaw Mike Montgomery (2013-14; 4 wins, 2.52 ERA in 2016) and Indians left fielder Brandon Guyer (2011-14; 9 home runs, 32 RBIs, .266 batting average) – are also in the series. Zobrist, who is among the game’s most versatile defensive players, also plays both corner outfield spots.
Cleveland was affiliated with Kinston from 1987-2011 before the three seasons in Zebulon.
Miller, who has 10 wins and an ERA of 1.45 this season, made one start for the Mudcats in 2008 when they were affiliated with the Florida Marlins in the Class AA Southern League. The MVP of the ALCS, who has entered postseason games in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, is with his sixth big-league club after coming over from the Yankees at the trade deadline.
The other former Mudcats now with Cleveland came up through the Indians’ organization. Center fielder Tyler Naquin (14 home runs, 43 RBIs, .296 batting average in 2016) and shortstop Francisco Lindor (15 home runs, 78 RBIs, .358 batting average in 2016), who played together in Zebulon in 2013, give the Indians young strength up the middle.
Right-hander Cody Allen (3 wins, 2.51 ERA in 2016), a graduate of High Point University, was with the 2012 team after spending 2011 at Kinston. Right-hander Cody Anderson (2 wins, 6.68 ERA in 2016) was another mainstay of the 2013 Mudcats, while southpaw Ryan Merritt (1 win, 1.64 ERA in 2016) was in Zebulon in 2013-14. Right-hander Mike Clevinger (3 wins, 5.26 ERA in 2016) was also a member of the 2014 Mudcats.
Former Kinston Indians who have made the climb to the Cuyahoga include right-hander Josh Tomlin (2007-08; 13 wins, 4.40 ERA in 2016), designated hitter Carlos Santana (2008; 34 home runs, 87 RBIs, 2.59 batting average in 2016) and outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (8 home runs, 57 RBIs, 2.86 batting average in 2016) who graduated from West Carteret High and Pitt Community College before his season at Grainger Stadium in 2009. Tribe catcher Roberto Perez (3 home runs, 17 RBIs, .183 batting average in 2016) and second baseman Jason Kipnis (23 home runs, 82 RBIs, .275 batting average) played together in Kinston in 2011.
Cubs right-hander Hector Rondon (2 wins, 3.53 ERA in 2016) pitched for Kinston in 2008.
Coincidentally three former Hickory Crawdads – Indians outfielder Rajai Davis (2002-03; 12 home runs, 48 RBIs, .249 batting average in 2016) and Cubs right-handers Justin Grimm (2011; 2 wins, 4.10 ERA in 2016) and Carl Edwards Jr. (2013; 0 wins, 3.75 ERA in 2016) will be in this Fall Classic.
Local ties in the World Series
LHP Aroldis Chapman, 2011 Carolina Mudcats
RHP Carl Edwards Jr., 2013 Hickory Crawdads
RHP Justin Grimm, 2011 Hickory Crawdads
LHP Mike Montgomery, 2013-14 Durham Bulls
RHP Hector Rondon, 2008 Kinston Indians
LHP Travis Wood, 2009 Carolina Mudcats
2B Ben Zobrist, 2006-08 Durham Bulls
LF Chris Coghlan, 2008 Carolina Mudcats
RHP Cody Allen, High Point University, 2011 Kinston Indians, 2012 Carolina Mudcats
RHP Cody Anderson, 2013 Caroina Mudcats
RHP Mike Clevinger, 2014 Carolina Mudcats
LHP Ryan Merritt, 2013, 2014 Carolina Mudcats
LHP Andrew Miller, UNC, 2008 Carolina Mudcats
RHP Josh Tomlin, 2007-08 Kinston Indians
C Roberto Perez, 2011 Kinston Indians
2B Jason Kipnis, 2011 Kinston Indians
SS Francisco Lindor, 2013 Carolina Mudcats
RF Lonnie Chisenhall, born in Morehead City, West Carteret High, Pitt Junior College, Pitt Community College, 2009 Kinston Indians
CF Rajai Davis, 2002-03 Hickory Crawdads
LF Brandon Guyer, 2011-14 Durham Bulls
CF Tyler Naquin, 2013 Carolina Mudcats
DH Carlos Santana, 2008 Kinston Indians