The Detroit Tigers are coming off a 4-3 week to start their 10-game road trip, in which they took two out of three games against the Minnesota Twins, then salvaged a split with the Kansas City Royals, after losing the first two in that four-game set. Let’s take a look at how the Tigers’ farm system played out this week.
TRIPLE-A: TOLEDO MUD HENS
The Toledo Mud Hens (10-13) now find themselves under .500 early on as we enter the second month of the baseball season. Based on the overall numbers the roster has accumulated, the recent struggles are evident down in Toledo.
The Mud Hens’ starting rotation has a total record of 7-12, and of the five pitchers, only Buck Farmer has a winning record (3-1) and an ERA under 5.00 (4.10).
Some of the bullpen arms for Toledo have shown that they may be the next called up to Detroit. Pitchers Ian Krol and Alex Wilson are both back down in Toledo after struggling early on at the big league level. Both they and Josh Zeid, are likely candidates to call upon if an injury arises or another pitcher struggles.
The bats continue to stay fairly hot for Toledo, especially from those who are expected to be hitting. Left fielder Xavier Henry has hit safely in four straight games (8-for-17) after going hitless in the four games prior. He leads the team in hitting, with a .356 batting average. Center fielder Daniel Fields might have the most impressive numbers all across the board and currently has a .338/.455/.592 slash line. A big flaw in his game right now is the strikeouts, as he leads the club in that by a wide margin.
Tigers’ top prospect Steven Moya is continuing to get healthy and get back on track. He has just seven hits in nine games played so far with the Mud Hens.
DOUBLE-A: ERIE SEAWOLVES
The Erie SeaWolves (6-16) too find themselves near the bottom of their division in the Eastern League (AA). Don’t let the record entirely fool you, there are definitely some players and stats to take note of here.
Tigers’ prospect Wynton Bernard conitnues to swing a hot bat, hitting safely in ten straight contests. His average now sits at .262, after floating around the Mendoza Line for much of the season early on. SeaWolves designated hitter Dean Green still leads the team with a .364 batting average. He played his first series in almost two weeks this past weekend, after being out with an injury.
There have been some solid performances out of Erie’s starting rotation as well. Austin Kubitza (1-1) has given up only four earned runs, nine walks, and has struck out 20 batters in 23.0 innings of work. Equally as impressive and also through 23.0 innings of work, Josh Turley has surrendered six earned runs and seven base on balls to opposing hitters.
Erie did make some roster changes this week, as Detroit announced they have released Casper Wells and Omar Duran.
SINGLE-A ADVANCED: LAKELAND FLYING TIGERS
The Lakeland Flying Tigers are continuing the pattern of struggling team success within the system, as they sit at the bottom of their division of the Florida State League (A-Adv.). The ball seems to really be flying out though, down there at Joker Marchant Stadium .
Flying Tigers left fielder Ben Verlander has firmly planted himself as an everyday player. The 23-year old younger brother of Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is leading the ball club with a .356 batting average and also has two long balls to his credit.
The pitching has been hit or miss for Lakeland. However, if I were to give a “Pitcher of the Month” award for the month of April, I’d hand it to Tommy Collier (2-1) who in four starts and 23.0 innings of work this season, has given up just five earned runs and walked six batters.
SINGLE-A: WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS
Despite the under .500 record, the big storyline for the West Michigan Whitecaps (10-14) continues to be Tigers star prospect Derek Hill.
The future center fielder for the Tigers missed time early on in 2015 due to concussion problems. He initially struggled at the dish but after a good week, he finds his average climbing, which currently stands at .256. Hill this week went 6-for-21, scoring six runs, walking five times, and one run batted in. A healthy Derek Hill playing everyday is exactly what Detroit wants to see moving forward.
The pitching staff has stolen some of the spotlight from Hill. The 6-man rotation for West Michigan does not have a favorable record, but the secondary numbers certainly would not support that. The leader in the clubhouse for most impressive pitcher is Ross Seaton (3-0), who has a 2.70 ERA in his three starts and 20 innings pitched, and has not allowed either a walk nor a home run in his 2015 campaign. He does however lead the Whitecaps pitchers in hit batsmen, with four.