West Mich MLN: Final Playoff Slot in Sights

The West Michigan Whitecaps are wrapping up the season, and, just like last year, the team is once again within striking distance for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Division.

Unlike last year, though, this year's Whitecaps team is trying to play catch up. The 'Caps currently sit two games behind Fort Wayne for the final wild card spot.

After winning six in a row against South Bend and Lake County, West Michigan has fallen in two straight against Dayton, the team that currently sits in the driver's seat for the second half division lead.

One welcome addition to the team is reliever Patrick Cooper (5-5, 3.42, 1 SV), who was put on the disabled list on August 8, after suffering from tightness in his throwing arm. On the same day that Cooper was brought back, though, the organization placed reliever Jade Todd (2-1, 3.99, 2SV) on the seven day disabled list with hamstring soreness.

An even more glaring hole in the bullpen, though, has been closer Bruce Rondon (2-2, 2.03, 19 SV) who has been on the disabled list for the greater part of a month after suffering from issues with his throwing shoulder.

Third baseman Nick Castellanos is having a season in West Michigan that certainly puts him in the conversation for Detroit Tigers' Prospect of the Year. Though he hasn't hit for a lot of power—his six home runs puts him in the middle of the team, statistically—he has more than made up for it with his consistent hitting.

Castellanos' batting average—a solid .310—is a team best, and is good for fourth-best in the Midwest League. Furthermore, he leads the Midwest League in hits, and is tied for the league-lead in doubles, with 34.

Though not hitting well in terms of average, outfielder Steven Moya has added a spark of power to the lineup as of late. His thirteen home runs ties him for the team lead with first baseman James Robbins.

Catcher James McCann, who is the first player from this year's draft to play is West Michigan, and struggled to get anything going at the plate so far. In six games, McCann is batting a woeful .080 with an on base percentage of .077.

As a team, the 'Caps are hitting at a .253 pace, good for sixth-best in the Midwest League.

On the mound, pitcher Kevin Eichhorn (9-5, 3.78) has improved a bit from the early August struggles, after having a great June and July. The right hander went 6.1 innings in his last start against Lake County, while giving up a hit and four walks. He also struck out four in that game. This, after leaving his previous start with eight runs allowed in 3.1 innings.

Like Eichhorn, starter Alex Burgos (6-4, 2.20) came back from a shaky start to dominate a woeful Lake County team. After giving up five runs in four innings against South Bend, Burgos dominated his next start, going eight innings while only giving up three hits and two walks. Like Eichhorn, though, Burgos did not get the win in that start.

As a staff, the 'Caps lead the Midwest League in home runs allowed, and are second in complete games.

The West Michigan Whitecaps are halfway through their final regular season against Dayton. The team will then play Lake County on the road, where they hope to continue their recent dominance against the Captains. The season ends with a three game home series against Fort Wayne, the team they are battling with for the final wild card spot.

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