Down on the Farm: Tigers minor league update

LOW CLASS-A: WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS

West Michigan Whitecaps

Unlike the higher-ranked farm clubs in the organization, the Whitecaps will be participating in the postseason for a second straight year and have a chance to defend their 2015 Midwest League (Low A) championship from a year ago. Despite being just 25-29 in the second half, a 39-28 record in the first half earned them a Wild Card spot in the ML East Division. Come playoff time, they will square off with the South Bend Cubs (CHC affiliate) in the first round, a best-of-three series.

A big reason the ‘Caps are in this good position starts with the pitching staff. Even with the graduation of Matt Hall to Lakeland, the Whitecaps have a lot of good, young pitchers, both starters and relievers, that are getting the job done. 2015 first-round pick, 19-year-old Beau Burrows has allowed just one ER over his last 8.0 IP and has 3.41 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) this year). 23-year-old Spenser Watkins has recorded a 2.37 ERA over his last three outings. And Trent Szkutnik has yielded just two ER over 11.2 innings since being sent back down from Lakeland.

At the dish, it starts and ends with first baseman Will Maddox. The fact that hitting .289 over his last ten contests is slumping for Maddox shows how powerful he’s been in 2016. He’s in contention for a Midwest League batting title this year, his .341 season average is good second in the league as of today behind only Luis Arraez from Cedar Rapids (MIN), who’s hitting .346.

Tigers Need to Shake Things Up x
Tigers Need to Shake Things Up

A big blow to the Whitecaps came a little more than a week ago when it was announced that 2014 first-round pick Derek Hill was going to undergo Tommy John surgery and not be ready until some time next year. The 20-year-old was making some nice strides in his third season as a professional and appeared primed to play his first full season. However, his season will end 92 games in after a posting a solid .266/.312/.349 slash line. Hill unfortunately has endured a number of different injuries since joining the Tigers organization, and just has not been able to stay healthy long enough to continue his development as a top-tier prospect.

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So with Hill out for the year and Rashad Brown up in Lakeland, who will fill out the outfield? Well in addition to Jose Azocar (.283/.317/.339 in 116 games), they are getting excellent contributions from 24-year-old Joey Havrilak. The 18th-round pick in 2015 is in his second professional year and started the season at Detroit’s Class-A shortened season league in Connecticut, playing in 45 games before being promoted to West Michigan. In ten games so far, Havrilak is 12-for-34 with three XBH and three RBI.

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