After ending last week 3-4, Lakeland, who played six this week, ended even with a 3-3 record. They've been consistently mediocre, but during this time both Daytona and Clearwater have won eight of ten, leaving the Tigers in their wake, eight games back.
While their game outcomes have become regular, their lineup, whose production sources flip-flopped last week, have seemed to flip again. There are always a few guys, especially those in the top half of the order, that are producing but they haven't all been able to ignite at once.
After another two games vs. FSL South leaders St. Lucie, the Flying Tigers will have a good opportunity to take that elusive step forward when they play a weak Charlotte team and the .500 Jupiter Hammerheads.
After a scorching week Gustavo Nunez was only 2-for-21 in the past six games while being caught stealing for the sixth time this season. Meanwhile, his partner in crime (arson?) last week, Wade Gaynor, finished the week with only four hits in 25 at-bats.
Plagman, retaining his spot at second on the RBI leaderboard, hit .333 with five RBI over the past six games while intelligently watching his way to the best BB:K ratio of any of the top five leaders.
Two spots behind him –on the other side of Wade Gaynor–, Jordan Lennerton went 8-for-23 with a home run and five RBI.
Helping the two bestir the offense was the other corner of the infield, third baseman Brent Wyatt. Wyatt, while only hitting safely in four of 19 at-bats, managed a well-rounded three RBI and four runs.
Unfortunately for Lakeland, while the top of the lineup's production has implanted some optimistic promise, the players who entered the year (and before any stats were produced) with the promise and potential, have failed to live up.
"Multi-tooled" outfielder Daniel Fields, arguably Lakeland's top prospect, has barely kept his average over the Mendoza Line and has struck out an inconceivable 41 times in 102 at-bats.
His partner outfielder, the formidably sized Avisail Garcia, although a pleasure to watch play the field, is at .213 while hitting pay-dirt only once.
The chance for the offense to coalesce is here, though, and fortunately not too late into the season. When Lakeland travels to Charlotte they'll be facing a forgettable 4.3 team ERA and a pitching staff that has walked 139 batters –the most in the entire Florida State League.
Pitching, however, is becoming more and more consistent
While the offense hasn't kept an anchor down, both Jay Voss and Trevor Feeney have bolstered the starting rotation and, with the help of Kenny Faulk, have helped Lakeland's staff develop into a controlled group of hurlers that seem to become more polished every game.
Jay Voss, the Illinois born and schooled 24-year-old has made the largest personal leap of the whole staff. Beginning the year out of the bullpen, Voss has already swiped a spot in the rotation and has established himself as its most reliable staple.
In his last start, vs. the FSL South leading St. Lucie Mets, Voss threw his most impressive start of the year. He went a full six innings while allowing six hits and two earned runs.
His efficiency has increased as well. The six innings vs. St. Lucie was his longest outing of the year and, to help his longevity, Voss only surrendered one walk.
His record stands at 2-0.
Beside Voss, Trevor Feeney has matched, if not surpassed Voss' production. Four of Feeney's last five games. Unlike Voss, Feeney has definite stamina for someone at the A level. He conserves pitches with his control –walking only nine in seven starts—and has reached seven complete innings in two of his starts.
Aside from one outlier, an April 28th start where Feeney yielder eight earned runs in just four innings, which unfortunately has raised his ERA to an unremarkable 4.35, Feeney holds a 2.89 ERA.
As previously mentioned, the Tigers don't have a tough upcoming schedule. They have fortunately dodged the Threshers while the Threshers have Chase Utley, Roy Oswalt and Carlos Ruiz all performing rehab assignments and, after two more games vs. St. Lucie, square off vs. the 12-21 Charlotte Stone Crabs.
After the Stone Crabs, and after the Tigers trek all the way back to Lakeland after an 11-game road trip, they play the heretofore 17-16 Jupiter Hammerheads. The pieces have matched, and the momentum to put them together has begun to accumulate.