Detroit Tigers: Happy Pancake Day! (As in, Joey Pankake)

Apr 2, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA; General view during a spring training baseball game at Joker Marchant Stadium between the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees was 6772. The Tigers won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA; General view during a spring training baseball game at Joker Marchant Stadium between the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees was 6772. The Tigers won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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Fat Tuesday. Read in the Bathtub Day. Pizza Pie Day. International Pancake Day. Today is a special day. So, let’s take a moment to look at a Detroit Tigers prospect with one of the best names in all of baseball: Joey Pankake. His name is so much fun to say that even the folks at Yahoo Sports agreed. Who is this guy with the great name? And what’s happening with him in the Detroit Tigers organization?

Pankake is a young minor league player who has spent two years with the Tigers organization. In 2014, he played with the Connecticut Tigers in the short single-A season. Last year, he spent the entire season with the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps. Pankake played second base all season with the Whitecaps and quickly became a fan favorite and minor celebrity in the Grand Rapids area. He appeared on billboards in the area and his name frequently popped up on news reels about Whitecaps games. He also had numerous female fans who flocked to Fifth-Third Ballpark to catch Pankake at the plate.

He was such a hit in the West Michigan area that the team created a special menu item playing on his name. The menu item was called “The Joey Pankakes” and included pancakes with bacon, pulled pork, and syrup. It was a popular choice with fans and was available all season. No other player on the team had an eponymous menu item.

The popular Pankake had a successful season with the Whitecaps. The team was full of young players dedicated to success and their support from the West Michigan community is legendary. Pankake was one of the team leaders who helped bring the team the Midwest League Championship. In the 126 games he played in the regular season, he had a batting average of .268 with an OPS of .720. He was not a power hitter like Mike Gerber, but he did knock in 58 RBIs (the second most on the team – after Gerber’s 76 RBIs).

In the post-season, Pankake dominated the team with 7 RBIs and a .297 average. In the 10 postseason games, he scored 6 runs and stole 2 bases. He went 11 for 37, hitting 2 doubles and 1 home run. In one game alone, against the Lansing Lugnuts, he earned three RBIs. His play in the postseason garnered the attention of the Minor League Baseball organization that awarded him the honor of being the Offseason Player of the Postseason for the Midwest League.

As of publication, Pankake is on the roster for the Whitecaps for 2016. He will most likely continue at second base, unless he is sent up to the Erie Seawolves. The 6’2, 185 lbs. player had his 22nd birthday in November. He played for the University of South Carolina, completing three years. In his last year, he earned the honor of being named to the SEC All-Defensive Team and he became the 26th player in USC history to have 200 hits. He was drafted in the 7th round by the Tigers, but in 2001, the Texas Rangers drafted him in the 42nd round. Pankake chose college instead.

In March of 2015, he joined the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland for Spring Training, but he did not make the active roster for the season. If the young Pankake continues to play second base and hit well, he could eventually become the replacement for Ian Kinsler, who will be 34 in June.