Time for a team by team look at our minor league system. It’s been a while, and much has happened, and some guys have moved around, but not the guys many of you are looking for. Nick Castellanos is likely staying put in Lakeland until at least the All Star break, and we still haven’t seen the 2012 debut of Brenny Paulino yet, who is still working out in Lakeland in extended spring training.
Toledo (AAA) 24-26
Toledo hasn’t had a ton of continuity this season, mainly because the Tigers have dealt with some injuries, and have needed to shuffle some bullpen guys in and out of Toledo semi-regularly. Still, Toledo has struggled as of late, and since the last update has added “new” face Jeff Frazier. The offense is being led by Justin Henry and Brad Eldred, but has struggled for the most part outside of those two gentlemen, except when Danny Worth is down there as well. Henry is sitting at .324 with his batting average, and is getting on base at a .422 clip. Eldred has 18 homers on the season, despite really slowing down his pace from earlier in the season.
The starting pitching has had their three lefties going for most of the season in Adam Wilk, Casey Crosby, and Andy Oliver. Oliver and Crosby have continued to frustrate and tantalize at the same time. Both haven’t shown the consistency to command enough to get outs at the big league level, however, they are both averaging more than a strikeout per inning, suggesting they have the quality stuff to get past AAA. Injured lefty reliever Matt Hoffman just recently returned to help a bullpen that outside of non-prospect Chris Bootcheck and newly acquired Zach Miner, has really struggled.
Erie (AA) 24-23
While Erie struggled early in the season, they have played pretty good baseball as of late. Regardless of that however, there still isn’t a ton of prospects at Erie worth tracking at this point. Rob Brantly, a catcher in the Tigers system who is considered a top 10 Tigers prospect has dropped off some after his scorching hot start, but that was to be expected a little bit. Still, Brantly is hitting .310 on the season for the Seawolves, and continues to lead the offense along with Niuman Romero. Tony Plagman, who struggled mightily to start the year has caught fire as of late, hitting .310 in his last 10 games, including hitting for the cycle in one of those games. Wade Gaynor was also just recently called up.
Pitching wise, lefty reliever Ryan Robowski earned himself a promotion to Toledo with a sub 1.00 ERA, leaving fellow lefty Kenny Faulk as the primary guy out of the pen. Faulk continues his strong numbers since coming into the organization, posting an ERA of 1.96 so far, with a BAA of just .193.
Lakeland (A+) 24-24
Lakeland is pretty loaded as far as the Tigers farm system goes. As all of you probably know by now, Nick Castellanos is absolutely on fire. Castellanos, who I think we can safely say is the Tigers top prospect at this point, is hitting a scorching .414 on the season thus far. Fellow top prospect Avisail Garcia has had a recent interruption into his good season, by having to go on the D.L. with a hamstring issue, though it isn’t considered serious. LF Tyler Collins has cooled off quite a bit, and is down to hitting .280 after spending most of the year over .300. Hernan Perez, who got his average into the .275 range after a real slow start is slumping again, hitting just .206 in his last 10 games.
The starting pitching staff has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far. While Brian Flynn has been solid to pretty good, there hasn’t been much to be happy about except for a brief stint by Jacob Turner. Alex Burgos has struggled mightily with command, walking 35 batters in 48 innings, and has posted an ERA of 5.55 so far in 2012. The good news is the relief pitching has been good, led by Tyler Clark and Matt Crouse, who have posted ERA’s of 0.90 and 1.88 respectively. Closer Bruce Rondon has been spectacular as of late, not allowing a run in his past 10 appearances, and posting 15 strikeouts in 11.1 innings during that span. The important thing for Rondon is that he has cut down on his free passes, only walking 3 in that span.
West Michigan (A-) 22-29
The Whitecaps haven’t been posting a bunch of victories lately, struggling to score some runs. Offensively, the team welcomed back Steven Moya from a hamstring injury, who struggled early when he came back. He has bombed three home runs in the past 2 days, and is still hitting over .300 on the season, though the strikeout total has seen a substantial increase. Dean Green, after being mediocre in April, has had a fantastic May. For the month, Green is hitting .326 with an OPS of .924. While most of the focus has been from 2011’s catching haul has been on 2nd rounder James McCann, Whitecaps catcher Curt Casali has posted an OPS of .900 in 2012, and has shown an ability to manage the strike zone. Other 2011 draftees aren’t having the same kind of luck however, five of them; Brandon Loy, Aaron Westlake, Jason Krizan, Chad Wright, and Jason King are all hitting .239 or below, with none of them posting an OPS north of .700.
There isn’t much exciting to talk about pitching wise with the Whitecaps, though the staff has been solid. Starters Josue Carreno, Kyle Ryan, Thomas Collier, Wilsen Palacios and Brennan Smith have been solid but unspectacular. Michael Torrealba and Jade Todd are bright spots in a solid Whitecaps bullpen. Both pitchers strike out more than a batter per inning, and have ERA’s of 1.69 and 1.71 respectively.
VSL Tigers (Rookie) 4-8
Teams are bailing on Venezuela big time, and that has left just 4 teams in the league. While none of the big international signings are playing in Venezuela, there are some guys that are off to strong starts and will be worth tracking. 18 year old SS Jose Zambrano is showing the ability to control the strike zone and hit for average so far, posting a .386 line, with an OBP of .460. Catcher Jose Ovalles has 8 hits in 26 at-bats, with 6 of them being doubles.
Pitching wise, I wanted to track the young projectable kids on the roster, and there are three. Eduardo Jimenez is a 17 year old right-hander, who has started pretty strongly. In 14 innings, he has struck out 14, walking just 4 and posting an ERA of 1.93. Anthony Castro is also a 17 year old right-hander who has only started twice to this point. In his 6.2 innings, Castro has struck out 6, but walked 6 batters as well, giving up 4 earned runs to this point. The last 17 year old youngster, a lefty, Eudis Hidrago has made two appearances totaling 4.2 innings. He has struck out 5 batters, walking 3 of them, but has not allowed a hit or run to this point.