Down On The Farm: Update Time


It’s been a while since I have done a “Down on the Farm” segment for you all, and in this one, I will be looking at the teams as a whole to this point in the season, instead of just last night’s games. Overall, it’s been a pretty strong season for the Tigers minor leaguers, and I just recently tabbed their organization as one that is on the way up.

Toledo Mud Hens, 19-11, 1st place I.L. West

The Mud Hens might have started slow this season, but they have really come together strong to lead their division. While Toledo is just 10-9 at home, they have excelled so far this season on the road, going 9-2. The Toledo offense has been led in large part by 1B/DH Brad Eldred, who recently got a cup of coffee with the Tigers. Eldred has 14 home runs and 36 RBI for the Mud Hens this season, and has been a mainstay in the middle of the order. Besides Eldred, the Tigers have gotten quality offensive contributions from guys like Danny Worth, Quentin Berry, Justin Henry and Matt Young. Berry, Henry, and Young are all setting the table with OBP’s of .400, .392, and .430 respectively. While those numbers are enticing, they are hardly something you could expect them to repeat at the big league level. Berry and Young in particular have high strikeout rates to go with that and little to no power.

The Toledo pitching staff was a point of excitement for fans and the organization. With guys like Andy Oliver, Casey Crosby, and Adam Wilk, the Mud Hens should win it’s fair share of games. Numbers wise, Oliver has looked pretty good for the Hens. His ERA is 3.78, and he has struck out 33 batters in 33.1 innings. However, Oliver still is finding it difficult to throw strikes on a consistent basis, walking 28 this season. Casey Crosby has been better as of late, but overall his line is 3-2 with a 4.55 ERA. Crosby has struck out 32 in 29.2 innings, but like Oliver has struggled with control, and walked 21. Wilk looks too good for Triple-A, posting an ERA of 1.06 so far, but unfortunately for him, he doesn’t look like a guy that can survive big league lineups more than once through. Thad Weber has also been strong in his starts with Toledo.

The bullpen has been led by a trio of fireballers, Jose Ortega, Brayan Villarreal, and Luke Putkonen.

Erie Seawolves, 13-17, 5th place E.L West

I didn’t particularly expect the roster that the Tigers put together in AA to be all that successful. In fact, 13-17 is a little bit better than I thought they would be. The strength of the Erie squad lies in it’s bullpen so far this season. What the Seawolves lack in talent in the starting staff, they make up for with their relievers. Mike Morrison, Ryan Robowski, Kenny Faulk, Jared Gayhart, and Robbie Weinhardt have all been at least solid, and in Robowski’s case he has been excellent. Robowski in 9 games and 15.2 innings has a miniscule 0.57 ERA, and 14 strikeouts.

Offensively, the Tigers are being led by Rob Brantly, who is the only real position prospect on the Seawolves at this time. Brantly is shining big time though. Brantly is hitting .372 on the season so far, smashing 13 doubles already with a trio of homers as well. He has done so showing a strong K/BB rate of just 10/7, and has an OPS of 1.013. While he hasn’t been a one man wrecking crew, he is easily the most exciting player in Erie. Jordan Lennerton has contributed to the offense by adding some much needed power, hitting 6 home runs so far. Lennerton lacks the contact ability to take his career much further though, despite being a solid defensive first baseman. Minor league journeyman Niuman Romero has been hot as of late, and is now hitting .328 on the season. Romero doesn’t have power, but has been getting on base at a .383 clip.

Lakeland Flying Tigers, 16-14, 2nd place, FSL North

We’ve kind of well documented that Lakeland right now is the place to be if you want to watch some up and coming Tigers. The offense 1-9 is intriguing, and a few of the guys have been really potent from the start. Nick Castellanos is leading everyone in hitting. Avisail Garcia is showing vast improvements. Tyler Collins is living up to his reputation as a guy that can hit. Hernan Perez has come on as of late. And even the weaker hitting guys like Dixon Machado are doing some things well. Machado shows a good eye at the dish, walking more than he strikes out. I haven’t even mentioned James McCann, who after a slow start, has been flirting with the .300 mark.

The biggest complaint one could have about the Flying Tigers squad is, that until Jacob Turner joined the staff, they do lack a dominating type pitching presence out of the rotation. Alex Burgos started the season strong, but has struggled as of late with his command, and gotten hit around a bit. Brian Flynn has been strong most of the season, but lacks the outstanding strikeout numbers, though he has walked just 4 batters in 34.2 innings. Kevin Eichhorn has been okay with a 3.75 ERA, but doesn’t have outstanding stuff. He himself has walked just 5 batters in 36 innings.

The bullpen isn’t great, but after a disastrous first few outings, closer Bruce Rondon has been shutting things down. In his last 9 innings, Rondon has allowed one run and struck out 15 batters. Two other guys that were off the radar before the season have emerged as well in Tyler Clark and Matt Crouse. Clark has an ERA of 1.23 in 14.2 innings this season racking up 16 strikeouts. Crouse a touch and feel lefty, has done it a different way, but has posted an ERA of 1.13 in his 16 innings thus far, but has struck out only 9.

West Michigan Whitecaps, 16-16, 5th place, MWL East

As their record would indicate, the Whitecaps are quite the balanced team. Not especially good or bad either on the offensive or pitching side of things. Steven Moya has emerged on the offensive side of things so far, but has been derailed by a hamstring issue. Curt Casali has shown good plate discipline and pop from the catching position, posting an OPS of .917 so far. Eugenio Suarez has been solid at SS and the plate, hitting .306 after a real slow start. Suarez shows some pop as well, and has an OPS of .819 on the season. Offensive minded players Dean Green and Aaron Westlake have struggled thus far, and so has young LF phenom Danry Vasquez.

Pitching wise, one thing you can’t accuse the Whitecaps starters of is not throwing strikes. Not one of the guys in the starting rotation has walked double digit batters yet, all posting walk rates of less than 3/9. While that is outstanding, they aren’t striking out a ton either. Kyle Ryan, Josue Carreno, Thomas Collier, Wilsen Palacios, and Brennan Smith are a fivesome that have mid-rotation type ceilings on them but will more than likely fall in as back of the rotation types. They are all relatively young though, so there is plenty of time left for them.

The bullpen has been led by Michael Torrealba once again. I usually don’t say this, but that guy doesn’t need any more time in West Michigan. Time to move him up. After a strong season last year in West Michigan, Torrealba has an ERA of 0.54 this season and is striking out a batter per inning.