The 2021 minor league season came and is now gone in a blink of an eye.
Back in May, the new High-A Central kicked off after a year layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the TinCaps’ first year at the High-A level. Previously, they were members of the Low-A Midwest League.
Also, new this season was week-long series with an off day on Mondays. This was a big contrast to the three or four-game series, which was the norm pre-Covid.
Below, let’s break down how the TinCaps fared in the High-A Central with team-by-team series performances.
West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit Tigers – East Division (58-62)
Head to Head: TinCaps 10 wins, 8 losses.
The opening week of the season was at home against the West Michigan Whitecaps. It did not take long for two of the organization’s top prospects to meet. Pitching for the TinCaps was the 12th ranked prospect in the Padres system, Ethan Elliott. The second batter of the game was Detroit Tigers’ top prospect Spencer Torkelson. Both players were not with their High-A clubs long. Elliott finished the year in Double-A, while Torkelson made it all the way up to Triple-A. The two teams both ended up winning three games apiece to kick off the season.
Lake County Captains, Cleveland Indians- East Division (65-55)
Head to Head: TinCaps 7 wins, 11 losses.
After splitting a home series, the TinCaps hit the road for the first time in 2021. They traveled to play the Lake County Captains (Cleveland Area). In the opening series, the TinCaps were a dismal 5-for-38 with runners in scoring position (13%). In three of the six games, they did not even collect a hit when runners were in scoring position. Fort Wayne left 32 runners stranded in scoring position the entire series. Needless to say, you will not win many ballgames with those numbers, and the TinCaps did not. Lake County beat them 5-1 overall in that series. The two clubs met three times last season. In June, they split a series 3-3. Fort Wayne had strong outings from Matt Waldron and Moises Lugo on the mound. Both players were promoted to Double-A San Antonio later in the season.
Lansing Lugnuts, Oakland Athletics- East Division (58-62)
Head to Head– Split 9 wins, 9 losses
Entering the third week of the year, the TinCaps came in with a record of 5-7. They welcomed the Lansing Lugnuts to Parkview Field. These teams split the season matchups as each series was split at three games apiece. In Game 1, Agustin Ruiz had three hits, two home runs, one walk, and a whopping 8 RBI’s. Ruiz put the High-A Central on notice and later in the year earned a promotion to Double-A. These clubs seem to be evenly matched. Lansing finished the year four games above Fort Wayne in the East.
South Bend Cubs, Chicago Cubs- West Division (52-67)
Head to Head- TinCaps 10 wins. 8 losses
These two clubs reside in the same state but are in separate divisions. The TinCaps play in the East division while the Cubs play in the West. These clubs met for three totals series, and the TinCaps ended with a winning record against the Cubs. However, it could have been better. There are two defining moments within the season where I believe the Cubs halted momentum. Both times the TinCaps did not respond well. The first time was in the first matchup of the season in which the TinCaps jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. However, from the sixth inning on, the Cubs score 12 runs to win the game 10-12. The second time was right after the TinCaps won a series in Great Lakes, who was leading the league at the time. Fort Wayne had momentum, with one of the league’s worse teams coming to Fort Wayne. They proceeded to lose the first three games to the Cubs.
Cedar Rapids Kernels, Minnesota Twins West Division (67-53)
Head to Head – TinCaps 3 wins, 3 losses
The calendar turned to June, and for the second consecutive week, the TinCaps hosted a West division team. The Kernels and TinCaps had similar records but went in totally different directions later in the year. The Kernels surged to the second-best record in the league. They faced the Quad Cities River Bandits in the playoffs. Quad Cities won the series in five games. The TinCaps split the one and only series this year with the Kernels.
Dayton Dragons, Cincinnati Reds- East Division (65-55)
Head to Head- Tincaps 8 wins, 16 losses
The Dayton Dragons finished tied for the best record in the East Division. Fort Wayne assisted mightily in Dayton’s late playoff push going 8-16 during the season against the Dragons. In the season’s final series, the TinCaps went 0-6 against the Dragons while being outscored 21 to 46 combined. Fort Wayne also did not have to face one of Dayton’s best players in Brian Rey. Rey started in High-A and was quickly promoted to Double-A and finally sent to Triple-A to end the year.
After dropping six straight to end the season, the Fort Wayne TinCaps finished in 10th place out of 12 teams. However, Fort Wayne ranked third in the league in attendance with 209,000+ fans for the year.
Also note, certain states opened up events earlier than others due to the pandemic. By process of elimination, the TinCaps will open on the road against the Dayton Dragons to begin the 2022 season. The home-opening series will be against the South Bend Cubs.