Toledo – Charlie Furbush (LHP)
Quite possibly the Tigers prospect that made the most noise in 2010, Furbush was back at it to start the 2011 season with Toledo. In four April starts, Furbush posted a 2-1 record with two complete games, including a shutout. Over his 23 2/3 innings in the opening month, he allowed only 15 hits and five walks while whiffing 32 International League hitters. Those same batters mustered only a .181 batting average against Furbush. If the Tigers start looking around for additional pitching help in Detroit, a roaring start like this could put Furbush squarely in the mix for a call to the big leagues.
Runner-Up: Andrew Oliver (LHP)
Erie – Jacob Turner (RHP)
The Tigers top prospect continued to be pushed aggressively through the minor league system in 2011, starting the year as a 19-year old in the Double-A Eastern League. The fact that he's facing competition often five years his elder hasn't seemed to bother him one bit. Starting four games for the Seawolves in the season's first month, Turner couldn't find his way into the win column, but he did manage a 2.70 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning in the process. Turner allowed only 22 hits in over 26 innings, and even more impressive than that, he walked just four batters. The soon to be 20-year old pitching prodigy has done nothing to tarnish his reputation as a future front of the rotation stud in Detroit.
Runner-Up: Lester Oliveros (RHP)
Lakeland – Kenny Faulk (LHP)
If one tried to script a perfect start to the season for a relief pitcher, they need not look further than the type of line posted by left-hander Kenny Faulk with Lakeland last month. Appearing in ten games as the late inning stopper for the Flying Tigers, Faulk allowed just one run on April 16th. The rest of the month he stymied Florida State League offenses to the tune of an overall 0.84 ERA and five saves. Of the 32 outs Faulk has recorded this season, 17 have come via the strikeout, and he has walked just one hitter all season.
Runner-Up: Victor Larez (RHP)
West Michigan – Patrick Cooper (RHP)
A familiar face to Whitecaps fans, Cooper notched a 5.72 EAR in eight starts for the ‘Caps after being drafted in the 14th round by the Tigers last summer. His results so far in 2011 have been a drastic improvement. In six April games – including one start – Cooper gave up just eight hits in 14 1/3 innings of work. That, combined with his 15 strikeouts has led to a 3.77 ERA and a key role in the West Michigan bullpen. Opposing hitters have posted a meek .167 batting average against the 21-year old right-hander, and that type of continued success could push him to High-A Lakeland before the season is over.
Runner-Up: Bruce Rondon (RHP)