Hello, Nation. It has been two weeks since our last recap of the minor league play in the Detroit Tigers organization. But we’re back to our regular Monday breakdown.
The Tigers have made some rather significant moves lately from their minor league squads. They recently called up outfielder Tyler Collins from Triple-A Toledo to add some bench depth. And yesterday, they purchased the contract of shortstop Dixon Machado from Toledo as well, after starter Kyle Lobstein was placed on the 15-day DL with a shoulder problem. Machado was hitting .274 with Toledo and was second on the team in hits, and will more than likely be sent back down before Detroit plays on Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, as Toledo Mud Hens starter and Tigers prospect Buck Farmer will make his season debut in place of Lobstein.
Let’s see how the rest of the Tigers’ farm system has been doing lately.
TRIPLE-A: TOLEDO MUD HENS
Toledo has fallen on hard times as a team, as they find themselves with the third worst win percentage in the entire International League (AAA).
The bats have cooled down considerably in the month of May. Outfielder Daniel Fields is hitting just .195 in his last ten games and has seen his season average dip down from .299 to .269. He and fellow outfielder Xavier Henry continue to be the next men to step up for Detroit to call upon in case of an injury. Dixon Machado was called up after Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias suffered a left knee contusion in Saturday’s game and was listed as day-to-day.
The big story line down in Toledo for the Tigers continues to be the health and progression of top prospect Steven Moya. Moya struggled mightily early on when first recalled to Toledo from Lakeland, but in his last ten games, he is hitting .289 with two home runs and seven runs driven in. Still, the Tigers top farm system player has a low .216 batting average in 27 games played for the Hens.
As stated before, Buck Farmer will be called up for the Tigers before Thursday’s game in Anaheim. Farmer has been the only bright spot in the rotation for the Mud Hens, posting a 5-1 record with an ERA a shade under 3 (2.98) and a WHIP of 1.17. He has also struck out 50 batters and walked 19 in 51.1 innings of work.
DOUBLE-A: ERIE SEAWOLVES
The Erie SeaWolves have also struggled all season long as a club. Not only are they in last place in their division, but they post the lowest win percentage in the entire Eastern League (AA) at 16-26, or .381.
With that being said, there are a couple players on the roster that are not meant to be forgotten about. The hottest hitter for Erie, and arguably for the entire farm system of the Detroit Tigers continues to be center fielder Wynton Bernard. In his last 10 games, he is hitting nearly .400 with 15 base hits and six runs batted in. Since going 0-for-4 on April 18, Bernard has seen his average climb .156 percentage points, which now stands at .314. He leads the SeaWolves in most offensive categories, and it seems like the only thing keeping him from being called up is the bevy of outfielders ahead of him in Toledo.
The starting rotation has been anything but stellar for Erie, but there has been one reliable arm that goes out there every fifth start. Pitcher Josh Turley is 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 46.2 innings pitched this season. He also has the lowest WHIP (1.35) and fewest base on balls given up (13) among Erie’s starters.
SINGLE-A ADVANCED: LAKELAND FLYING TIGERS
The Lakeland Flying Tigers are not nearly struggling as much as the farm teams in front of them, as they sit just one game under .500 at 21-22 in their division of the Florida State League, which is good for 4th place right now.
Flying Tigers outfielder Ben Verlander has cooled off considerably since becoming an everyday player down in Lakeland. He is hitting just .184 in his last ten games, and his batting average sits at .248. Verlander is still a vital piece to run production in that lineup, as he is one of five guys for Lakeland with three homers, and he is second on the team in RBI’s with 15. Second baseman Curt Powell continues to hit exceptional for Lakeland, hitting .342, leading the team in runs scored, and second in total hits.
The pitching staff is a big reason that Lakeland is playing better than Toledo or Erie. Starters Tommy Collier and Ryan Longstreth are both boasting sub-2 ERA’s, 2.09 and 2.02 respectively. Longstreth has pitched nearly a dozen less innings than Collier, but he gets the call next time Lakeland takes the field, which will be Tuesday in Port St. Lucie.
SINGLE-A: WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS
The West Michigan Whitecaps are following suit with Lakeland, where they sit respectfully in the middle of their division so far with a .500 record of 22-22.
Still, all eyes continue to be on Tigers top prospect and center fielder Derek Hill. Hill came back in late April after suffering a concussion and was swinging a pretty good bat, hitting as high as .257 on May 2nd. His batting average found its way down to .173 just ten days later, but he may be back on the upward swing again. Hill is hitting .283 in his last ten games, which includes five multi-hit games and six runs scored. The talented 19-year old has a long way to go, but has all the tools to potentially become a perennial star in the future.
The ‘Caps have some big boys doing the dirty work as far as run production goes. They have four players on their roster that are responsible for 98 of the 162 total runs driven in. Right fielder Michael Gerber is leading the charge thus far this season. With three home runs, 30 RBI’s and .363 batting average, Gerber is clearly the go-to guy for West Michigan.
The starting rotation has been up and down all season. Right now, not one starter has an ERA under 3.50, yet pitchers Ross Seaton and Trent Szkutnik have a combined record of 8-2. They have a few decent arms in their bullpen they can rely on however. Pitcher Gabe Hemmer has given up just three earned runs in 14 appearances and 23.0 innings pitched.