TURNING POINT: The Mudcats played a crucial late-May home series versus Down East on 5/24 and entered the series at just 3.5 games back of the first place Wood Ducks. Carolina took the series opener in walk-off fashion on 5/24 while pulling within just 2.5 games back of the eventual first half champion Wood Ducks. Carolina then had a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning in game two of the series on 5/25 before losing 6-4 after Down East's J.P. Martinez hit a three-run homer off Clayton Andrews with two outs in the final frame. The Mudcats lost that game on 5/25 and went on to lose three out of four in the series while falling to 5.5 games back of first. Carolina sat at 29-19 before the club's ninth inning loss on 5/25, but finished the season going 36-55 the rest of the way.
AN APRIL TO REMEMBER: Carolina's 16-10 record in April was the club's best since 2008 when the then-Southern League and Florida Marlins affiliated Mudcats opened the year with a record of 17-10. Just three years earlier, the 2005 Marlins affiliated Mudcats opened the season going 18-4 in April. The 2005 and 2008 Mudcats both went on to reach the Southern League playoffs in their respective seasons... Carolina's 25 home runs hit in April were a new franchise high for most home runs hit by a Mudcats team in April since the 2004 squad hit 24 homers in the first month of their season.
FIRST QUARTER: The Mudcats went 21-14 over their first 35 games, or first quarter, of the 2019 season. That 21-14 (.600) start matched the 1994 Mudcats for the fourth best first 35-game record in team history. The 1995 and 2005 Mudcats own the franchise's best first 35-game team record in franchise history after both clubs started their respective seasons at 24-11.
PEAKING: The 2019 Mudcats reached as high as 13 games above .500 overall after totaling a 51-38 record on 7/9/19. They spent just one day at 13 games above .500, four games at 12 games up, six at 11 games up and reached 10 games above .500 10 times throughout the season. Before the 2019 season, the last time a Mudcats team sat at least 10 games above .500 overall was on 7/27/08 when the then-Southern League Mudcats were 58-48 in the overall standings.
BELOW SEA LEVEL: The Mudcats finished the 2019 season going 14-36 over the club's final 50 games and by losing five straight games to close the season while finishing the year at just 65-74 overall. It was the club's second straight season with 65 victories overall and marked Carolina's 19th season with an overall record below .500 (since 1991).
CAROLINA LEAGUE MVP: C Mario Feliciano was named the 2019 Carolina League Most Valuable Playeron 8/22 (was later promoted to Double-A Biloxi on 8/25). Feliciano was the first Mudcats player to win the MVP award since the Mudcats joined the Carolina League for the 2012 season. Feliciano was, however, the fifth player overall in team history to be named league MVP as Mark Johnson (1994), Jason Kendall (1995), Gaby Sanchez (2008) and Dave Sappelt (2010) were all named Southern League MVP during Carolina's Double-A and Southern League era (1991-2011). Feliciano also earned post-season All-Star honors at catcher. Feliciano finished the 2019 season 1st in the CL in home runs (19), 2nd in RBI (81), 1st in slugging (.477), 3rd in OPS (.801), 10th in batting average (.273), 8th in hits (120), 2nd in XBH (48), 2nd in total bases (210), tied for 6th in runs (62), tied for 2nd in 2-out RBI (32), 5th in wRC* (69) and 1st in ISO* (.205). *per fangraphs.com
CL PITCHER OF THE YEAR: RHP Noah Zavolas was named the 2019 Carolina League Pitcher of the Year on 8/22. Zavolas is the second Mudcats pitcher in team history to earn the Carolina League's Pitcher of the Year award, joining Cody Anderson who won the same award following the 2013 season. Former Mudcats pitcher Travis Wood was additionally named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher during his 2009 season with Carolina. Zavolas also earned post-season All-Star honors at starting pitcher. Zavolas finished the season 2nd in the CL in ERA (2.98), 4th in innings pitched (133.0) and 2nd in WHIP (1.14), 1st in BB/9* (1.56) and 1st in K/BB* (4.43). *per fangraphs.com
EXCLUSIVE COMPANY: Carolina League MVP Mario Feliciano led the CL in home runs (19) in 2019. Before Feliciano, the last Mudcats player to finish a season as the league leader in homers was Neftali Soto who homered 30 times for the then-Southern League affiliated Mudcats in 2011 (tied with Mobile's Paul Goldschmidt).
THE ALL-STARS: The Mudcats placed seven players to the Carolina League's Southern Division mid-season All-Star team with C Mario Feliciano, C Payton Henry, RHP Dylan File, RHP Noah Zavolas, RHP Rodrigo Benoit, RHP Matt Hardy and OF Joantgel Segovia all receiving nominations. Segovia and File, however, were not able to participate due to promotions to Double-A Biloxi before the All-Star break... C Mario Feliciano and RHP Noah Zavolas were additionally named post-season All-Stars at catcher and pitcher respectively. Feliciano was also named the league's MVP and Zavolas was the league's Pitcher of the Year.
WHERE THE BATTERS RANKED: Among qualified players at season's end, the Mudcats had several players rank among the Carolina League (CL) leaders in the following... Mario Feliciano finished the season 1st in the CL in home runs (19), 2nd in RBI (81), 1st in slugging (.477), 3rd in OPS (.801), 10th in batting average (.273), 8th in hits (120), 2nd in XBH (48), 2nd in total bases (210), tied for 6th in runs (62), tied for 2nd in 2-out RBI (32), 5th in wRC* (69) and 1st in ISO* (.205)... Ryan Aguilar finished the season 1st in the CL in on-base (.403), 1st in OPS (.812), 2nd in BB (70), 2nd in runs (71), 1st in wOBA* (.384), 1st in wRC+* (142) and tied for 3rd in wRC* (70)... Payton Henry finished the season tied for 4th in the CL in home runs (14), 3rd in RBI (75) and 1st in 2-out RBI (38)... Tristen Lutz finished the season tied for 6th in the CL in XBH (40), 8th in total bases (176) and tied for 6th in runs (62)... Rob Henry finished the season 8th in the CL in on-base (.356) and tied for 3rd in 2-out RBI (30). *per fangraphs.com
WHERE THE PITCHERS RANKED: Among qualified pitchers at season's end, the Mudcats had several pitchers rank among the Carolina League (CL) leaders in the following... Noah Zavolas finished the season 2nd in the CL in ERA (2.98), 4th in innings pitched (133.0) and 2nd in WHIP (1.14), 1st in BB/9* (1.56) and 1st in K/BB* (4.43)... Matt Smith finished the season 5th in the CL in ERA (3.67), 6th in WHIP (1.29) and 6th in K/BB* (2.84)... Nelson Hernandez finished the season tied for 1st in the CL in wins (11), tied for 2nd in games started (26) and 2nd in innings pitched (143.2)... Rodrigo Benoit finished the season tied for 3rd in the CL in saves (13)... Clayton Andrews finished the season tied for 6th in the CL in saves (11)... J.T. Hintzen finished the season tied for 3rd in the CL in games (42)... Cody Beckman finished the season tied for 6th in the CL in games (41)... Michael Petersen finished the season tied for 6th in the CL in games (41)... Matt Hardy finished the season 9th in the CL in games (39) and tied for 5th in wins (7). *per fangraphs.com
IN BUNCHES: The Mudcats were one of two Carolina League teams to have had four players reach double digits in home runs during the 2019 season. Those four consisted of Mario Feliciano and his league best 19 home runs, Payton Henry (14), Tristen Lutz (13) and Pat McInerney (10). Fayetteville also had four players reach double digits in homers... 3 Players w/10+ HR: DE, MB, POT, WS... 2 Players w/10+ HR: FRE... 1 Player w/10+ HR: LYN, WIL. Salem was the only CL team without a player with at least 10 homers this season... As a team, Carolina finished the season tied for 3rd in total home runs (92).
ALL THE Ks: Carolina batters combined to total both a Carolina League and franchise record 1,412 strikeouts during the 2019 season; marking the third straight season that the Carolina offense set a Carolina League and franchise record for strikeouts in a season. The 2018 Carolina offense totaled a then-record breaking 1,311 strikeouts last year, while the 2017 team totaled a then-record 1,245 strikeouts two season ago.
HITS AND Ks: The Carolina offense totaled 409 more strikeouts than hits (1,412 SO, 1,003 H) during the 2019 season. Carolina's difference in total strikeouts over total hits was the 2nd largest in Minor League Baseball. The 2019 Mudcats also joined the 2018 (1,311 SO, 1,049 H) and 2017 Mudcats (1,245 SO, 1,081 H) and 2007 Mudcats (1,219 SO, 1,149 H) as the four Mudcats teams in team history to finish a season with more strikeouts than hits.
BEANBALLS: The Carolina offense combined to total a Carolina League high and franchise record 107 hit-by-pitches during the 2019 season. The previous team record was 73 HBP set in both the 2010 and 2013 seasons. Carolina was additionally third overall in MiLB in most hit-by-pitches in 2019.
PLAYOFF DROUGHT: The Mudcats failed to reach the playoffs again in 2019, stretching their current playoff drought to eight (8) consecutive Carolina League seasons. Carolina has additionally failed to reach the playoffs in 11 consecutive seasons overall between their time in the Carolina League (2012-Present) and Southern League (1991-2011). The Mudcats last reached the playoffs in 2008 when they lost to the Mississippi Braves in the Southern League Championship Series… Current post-season droughts in MiLB (full-season teams): Buffalo (AAA): 14 seasons, New Orleans (AAA): 12 seasons, Carolina (A+): 11 seasons, Hartford (AA): 10 seasons, Louisville (AAA): 9 seasons.
WALK IT OFF: The Mudcats totaled six walk-off wins over the club's first 21 games of the 2019 season. Carolina went 13-8 over those first 21 games with nearly half of those 13 victories coming in walk-off fashion on 4/11, 4/28, 5/11, 5/20, 5/21 and 5/24. In all, Carolina totaled eight walk-off wins through the 2019 season; including three walk-offs coming on game winning home runs from Dallas Carroll on 4/11 and Mario Feliciano on 5/11 and 5/20.
WALK-OFF BIG FLIES: Mario Feliciano's walk-off home run to defeat Lynchburg on 5/20 was his second walk-off of the 2019 season and third overall walk-off homer of the year for the Mudcats. Feliciano also hit a walk-off, three-run blast on 5/11 to defeat the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Dallas Carroll, meanwhile, hit the first walk-off homer of the season (one month earlier) on 4/11 versus Wilmington. Carroll's walk-off earlier in 2019 was Carolina's first since Keston Hiura hit a walk-off homer on 5/25/18 versus Myrtle Beach. Before Hiura's walk-off big fly in 2018, the last walk-off home run in Mudcats history came in 2013 when Bryson Myles delivered a game-winning blast to beat the Winston-Salem Dash in the 14th inning at Five County Stadium on 7/18/13... Mario Feliciano is also the only player in recorded Mudcats history to total multiple walk-off home runs in the same season.
TO THE SHOW: Seven former Mudcats including RHP Devin Williams (2018), INF Isan Diaz (2017), OF Trent Grisham (2017), INF/OF Travis Demeritte (2016), INF Keston Hiura (2018), RHP Jordan Yamamoto (2017) and INF Dylan Moore (2016) were all called up to the big leagues in 2019. Williams, Grisham and Hiura all made their MLB debuts with the Brewers and did so on 8/7 at Pittsburgh (Williams), 8/1 at Oakland (Grisham) and 5/14 at Philadelphia (Hiura) respectively. Diaz and Yamamoto made their debuts with the Miami Marlins on 8/5 in New York (Mets) and on 6/12 vs. St. Louis respectively. Demeritte debuted with Detroit on 8/2 at Texas and Moore made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners on 3/28 in Japan versus Oakland... Williams, Grisham and Hiura, meanwhile, joined RHP Corbin Burnes and RHP Freddy Peralta as the five former Mudcats to debut with the Brewers since Carolina became Milwaukee's High-A affiliate in 2017.
ROAD WOES: The Mudcats lost nine straight road games between 7/13-7/15 & 7/24-7/27 and went just 1-13 over 14 road games between 7/1-7/3, 7/10-7/15 & 7/24-7/28. They also started the second half just 4-14 away from home after originally starting the 2019 season 16-11 over their first eight road series.
WEEKLY HONORS: RHP Dylan File was named the CL's Pitcher of the Week for the week ending on 4/28 after pitching through 6.0 scoreless innings with 5 SO on 4/25 in Myrtle Beach (W, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 HB, 5 SO)... C Mario Feliciano was named the CL's Player of the Week for the week ending on 6/9 after hitting a league high 5 HR and totaling a league high 1.786 OPS between 6/3 and 6/9. Feliciano also slashed .429/.500/1.286 (9 H, 8 R, 27 TB, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 2 BB 11 RBI) during that week... RHP Noah Zavolas won his first of two CL Pitcher of the Week awards on 6/24 after pitching through a complete-game, two-hit shutout with a career best 11 SO on 6/13 in Potomac... Zavolas was again named the CL's Pitcher of the Weekon 8/5 after pitching through 6.0 scoreless innings with 8 SO on 8/1 versus Down East (week of 7/29-8/4). Zavolas also walked one and scattered three hits while combining with relievers Robbie Hitt and Anthony Bender on a five-hit shutout of the Wood Ducks.
NOAH NO-RUNS: Noah Zavolas was the first Carolina League pitcher to turn in a nine-inning complete-game shutout during the 2019 season after he pitched through a complete-game, two-hit shutout in Potomac on 6/3. Zavolas totaled a career best 11 strikeouts and began his complete-game gem with nine straight outs before allowing a lead off single in the fourth and a double with one out in the fifth. He then went on to finish his spectacular outing by retiring the final 16 batters faced in consecutive order... Zavolas was the first Mudcat to spin a nine-inning complete-game shutout since 2010 when LHP Matt Fairel (9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 SO), of the then-Southern League Mudcats, went the distance in a 5-0 Carolina victory in Montgomery on 7/23/10.
FOR THREE: Tristen Lutz's first inning triple on 5/3 in Wilmington was the first for the Mudcats during the 2019 season. Lutz's triple came in club's 29th game of the season making the Mudcats the last affiliated Minor League Baseball team to record a triple in 2019 (29th game).
STREAKING: Ryan Aguilar reached base safely in a team best 26 straight games from 4/14 through 5/13. The streak came to an end when he entered an extra-innings game on 5/14 in Lynchburg as a defensive replacement in the tenth and later struck out in his only at bat of the game in the eleventh. Aguilar hit .278/.420/.356 with a .775 OPS during the streak (25-for-90, 18 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 19 BB, 3 HBP, 28 SO).
BICKFORD'S RUN: Phil Bickford finished the 2019 season pitching through 26.2 consecutive scoreless innings (6 BB, 39 SO, 13.2 SO/9) dating back to 6/30. His last run allowed came after giving up a three-run home run that scored two inherited runners on 6/30 vs. the Nationals at Five County Stadium. That homer came off the bat of Bickford's first batter faced after he had taken over in the ninth in relief of Clayton Andrews; Bickford went on to record two outs after the homer and did not allow another run through the remainder of the season... Bickford additionally pitched through 13 straight scoreless appearances from 7/9 through 8/28 (26.0 IP, 6 BB, 39 SO, .108 AVG)... Among Carolina League pitchers with at least 30.0 IP, Bickford finished the season 3rd in K/9 (14.6), 2nd in K% (41.1%) and 2nd in xFIP (2.03) per Fangraphs.
RECORD SETTING: Payton Henry totaled a Mudcats franchise record 22 hit-by-pitches during the 2019 season. Henry also tied the all-time team record for double plays hit into after grounding into 18 double plays through the 2019 season... Matt Smith allowed 17 home runs during the 2019 season; placing him third in team history in most homers allowed in a single season.
THREE TRUE OUTCOMES: Home runs, walks and strikeouts accounted for 39.0% of Carolina's plate appearances in 2019; the highest such percentage of the three true outcomes in the Carolina League and 5th highest in Minor League Baseball.
DUAL THREAT: After playing only as a pitcher during his first year as a pro in 2018, Clayton Andrews played as a two-way player for the first time in his professional career after pitching in relief and playing in center field with the Mudcats during the first half of the 2019 season. Andrews appeared in 21 games (27.1 IP) as a reliever and eight games as Carolina's starting center fielder in 2019. As a pitcher, Andrews went 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA (9 BB, 43 SO) and 11 saves. As a position player, Andrews hit .387/.424/.387 (12-for-31) and hit safely in six straight games between 6/4-6/29; including three straight multi-hit games on 6/16, 6/25 and 6/29. His first start in center came on 5/20 vs Lynchburg.
BACK STOP SPLITS: C Payton Henry and C Mario Feliciano almost fully split catching duties during the 2019 season with Henry starting 66 games behind the plate and Feliciano starting in 61... The Carolina pitching staff went 35-31 and totaled a 3.68 ERA (3.1 BB/9, 8.8 SO/9) in games started by and caught by Henry. Carolina's pitchers went 28-33 with a 4.19 ERA (3.1 BB/9, 8.0 SO/9) in games started by and caught by Feliciano... Henry additionally finished 2nd among Carolina League catchers in most caught steals (44) while catching 37.6% (44 CS, 117 ATT) of would-be base stealers. Feliciano caught 28.6% of base stealers (18 CS, 63 ATT).
KINGS OF THE NORTH: The Mudcats went 40-30 versus Carolina League Northern Division teams during the 2019 season; including marks of 20-14 in the first half and 20-16 in the second. Carolina went just 25-44 in games against their Carolina League Southern Division rivals, including a dismal 10-36 run vs. Southern Division teams from 5/25 (vs. DE, 2.5 G back of first before 5/25) through the remainder of the season.
NEW NAMES: The Mudcats introduced two new team identities before the 2019 season. The two new alternate identities introduced by the club for 2019 included the "Micro Brews" which payed homage to the Milwaukee Brewers and local craft breweries and "Pescados de Carolina" which was part of MiLB's "Copa de la Diversión" initiative celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture. Carolina went 3-4 as the Micro Brews in 2019 and 6-1 as Pescados de Carolina
COMEBACK KIDS: The Mudcats scored five straight two-out runs in the ninth to come back and defeat the Hillcats 8-7 on 8/17 in Lynchburg. The come back victory was Carolina's biggest of the 2019 season and was Carolina's second victory when trailing after the eighth.
OPPO-POP: Payton Henry's first inning home run on 8/17 in Lynchburg was both his 14th and final home run of the 2019 season and was his first hit to left field. Henry had not homered to his pull side in 2019 until 8/17 as all of his previous homers had gone to either center (2), right-center (3) or right (8).
NO-HIT: The Mudcats were no-hit by Jonathan Bowlan of the Wilmington Blue Rocks on 7/15 in Wilmington; marking the fourth time in franchise history that Carolina was held without a hit in a game.
EARLY FAREWELLS: C Payton Henry suffered a season ending leg injury on 8/27... OF Tristen Lutz left a game on 8/17 early with an apparent injury and did not return... Carolina League Pitcher of the Year RHP Noah Zavolas reached his season long innings limit in early August (8/14) and did not return... Manager Joe Ayrault and Hitting Coach Bobby Bell returned to their homes in Florida due to Hurricane Dorian on 8/30 and missed the final four games of the season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.