West Mich MLN: Castellanos Takes Reins

Last season, the West Michigan Whitecaps made a meteoric rise from the cellar of the division to a wild card spot by winning twelve in a row late in August. Though this year's Whitecaps team doesn't have to make such a drastic comeback, they do need to do a bit of climbing. Currently, the 'Caps are a game out of the wild card spot, trailing Great Lakes and Fort Wayne.

The Whitecaps are in the midst of their final series against Great Lakes this season, which they have split thus far. The rubber match is tonight at 7:05, and a win could push the 'Caps into a tie for the wild card lead.

West Michigan has six games left against Fort Wayne: a three-game road series this week, and a three-game set in Comstock Park to wrap up the season that could be make-or-break for the Whitecaps.

If the 'Caps have any notion of making a playoff push, they're going to have to rely heavily on third-baseman Nick Castellanos, who, since catcher Rob Brantly's promotion, has been the centerpiece for West Michigan's lineup.

If the past has been any indication, though, Castellanos will not disappoint.

Aside from leading the team in nearly every offensive category—which he has done for most of the season—he's also towards the top of the Eastern Division offensively. His .305 batting average is good for third in the Eastern Division, and he leads the division in doubles.

Though his hitting hasn't necessarily been stellar in the last ten games—he's batting .278—his on base percentage is a pretty impressive .395.

As previously mentioned, Brantly's departure left a pretty gaping hole in the lineup. Fortunately, the 'Caps were able to bring in a West Michigan veteran in the form of catcher Luis Sanz. Though Sanz hasn't been quite as explosive as Brantly—who started the season as Detroit's top catching prospect—he has been pretty impressive nonetheless.

Sanz has a .298 average in thirty-nine games this season, and has driven in eighteen runs. Though catcher Curtis Casali was given an opportunity to start, he never really took off, prompting the move to Sanz.

From a pitching standpoint, Alex Burgos (6-3, 1.94) has really been impressing scouts in his twelve starts this season. Burgos has seventy-two strikeouts against only twenty-six walks this season, and has been a nice piece to the one-two punch that is he and Kevin Eichhorn (9-4, 3.51).

Though Eichhorn took his first loss in months a few days ago, he still has to be considered the number one pitcher in the clubhouse, as he leads the team in most pitching categories and has the best stuff on a game-to-game basis.

West Michigan's bullpen has been bruised up a bit as of late. The 'Caps have recently lost closer Bruce Rondon (2-2, 2.03, 19SV), reliever Nate Newman (1-0, 3.52, 3SV), and Patrick Cooper (5-5, 3.49, 1SV) to the disabled list, which puts an obvious damper on the team's pitching late in games.

Despite this, the 'Caps should be at full strength for their upcoming pivotal series on the road against Fort Wayne.

The 'Caps conclude their three game series against Great Lakes tonight on the road. Josue Carreno (5-10, 5.01) will make the start for West Michigan.

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