Analyzing The Minor League Rosters: Lakeland And West Michigan


After going through the Toledo and Erie rosters just a few minutes ago, I wanted to make sure I finished these up today so everyone would have an idea heading into tomorrow what to look for. While Toledo has some interesting parts, and Erie really doesn’t, the two A ball clubs have plenty to watch for as the season rolls along. So without further delay let’s take a look at those rosters.

Lakeland Flying Tigers (A+)

There is no doubt that I have a little bit of jealousy for our old colleague James Chipman here. James is going to get to catch some of the Tigers best prospects throughout the season at Erie, and even some with potential to move up the list. The Tigers top 2 prospects, Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos start the season on the Lakeland roster, though Turner is likely to move up quickly once he gains strength in his shoulder.

While Turner isn’t likely to be there for long, 3 other guys who had really solid seasons for the Whitecaps last season will be in the Lakeland rotation; Alex Burgos, Kevin Eichhorn, and Brian Flynn. Two guys I expected to make it were Kyle Ryan and Josue Carreno, though I admittedly believed Carreno could repeat West Michigan. Ryan is young so it’s no big deal and he may come up as a domino effect takes place when Turner moves on to Erie or Toledo. Still, Burgos and company are worth watching in and of themselves.

The relief corps isn’t as exciting, but high octane thrower Bruce Rondon is going to be closing games, and is joined by Patrick Cooper who has pretty good stuff as well. Veteran Victor Larez looks to be a swingman, and lefty Shawn Tuefel could provide that as well.

Position wise is where the real fun begins. There are legitimate prospects at every position. Starting with catcher and James McCann. James Robbins will start at 1B, though a strong start by Aaron Westlake in West Michigan could push him. 2B will be manned by Hernan Perez, SS by Dixon Machado, and 3B by Nick Castellanos. The outfield is plenty exciting as well considering on most days it will consist of Avisail Garcia, Daniel Fields, and Tyler Collins. Even the two reserves in Wade Gaynor and Luis Castillo have some talent.

Biggest Strength:

There is plenty of offensive potential here. A lot of the Tigers top 30 prospects are on this roster to start.

Biggest Weakness:

Potential is just that. There are very few solidifying forces on this roster. In fact, it is really quite young for a high A team even with some of the guys like Garcia and Fields repeating. Machado, Perez, Castellanos and the outfielders are all young for the league.

Potential Surprise:

I am going with Daniel Fields and Wade Gaynor. Fields had plenty of people sour on him after a poor season and a little regression from his first year. Gaynor is going to be moved around a lot from all indications, and I’ve heard he has had a strong spring. We shall see.

West Michigan Whitecaps (A)

The roster of Lakeland is going to be a hard one to follow up, but the Whitecaps roster is making a good run at it. Part of that is because of holdovers, but part of that is because of who is getting promoted. There is a good balance here on the roster of offense and pitching, and I suspect that the ‘Caps will be one of the better teams in the Midwest League.

Offensively, the Caps are going to be led by the two 1B in the middle of their order, Dean Green and Aaron Westlake. While I don’t believe Westlake is on track to really even be a big league regular, he should hit enough in the Midwest League given his experience. Dean Green can really hit, and I suspect will be the full time DH. Steven Moya has good offensive potential, and there is some in the bat of Eugenio Suarez as well. Chad Wright should be a solid lead off guy who gets on base, and we all will get to check out the potential of Danry Vasquez, the Tigers Latin bonus baby from a couple years ago. Brandon Loy will team up with Suarez to handle the middle of the infield and provide above average defense.

Pitching is going to be led by rotation returnees Kyle Ryan and Josue Carreno. They will be joined by Thomas Collier, Luis Sanz, and Brennan Smith. There is some flexibility as Sanz and Smith have relieved as well, but I think the Tigers are going to start with Wilsen Palacios in that capacity. If they don’t it might be Sanz. Either way Collier and Smith have quality potential to add to Ryan and Carreno. The pen is going to be led by a couple of returning players in Michael Torrealba and Daniel Bennett. I would suspect that at some point Tigers fans will see Melvin Mercedes and super prospect Brenny Paulino joining the staff.

Biggest Strength:

I kind of mentioned it. Balance. There might not be the high end talent that Lakeland has, but there is a good mix of talent on both sides of the coin here.

Biggest Weakness:

Bullpen depth. Besides Torrealba and Bennett, the Caps bullpen is a little rough. Ryan Woolley has some talent, but I’ve got to see more.  Part of this is because Ramon Lebron is still out with injury, but also because Jade Todd is still somewhat of a question mark.

Potential Surprise:

Steven Moya. I liked what I saw of him in West Michigan last year, and I like what I saw in spring training. Yes, he still has a long way to go, but I think he could take a substantial step forward this season.