Lakeland MLN: Closing First Half Strong

With the All-Star break approaching, and just three games remaining; the Flying Tigers (32-29) sit eight-and-a-half games behind first place Dunedin. Despite missing out on a first-half playoff berth, the Flying Tigers have finished strong. A winner of seven of their last ten games, Lakeland's eyes are on the second half prize as they head into the break.

Top Position Prospects Heating Up

Tyler Collins has been an absolute beast at the plate since the calendar turned to June. The 22-year-old is batting .368 with a .429 on-base percentage this month. His 18 doubles are third highest in the Florida State League this season. Collins' recent performance has raised his batting average to .296 this season.

After cooling off a bit in May, Avisail Garcia has heated up. Garcia was 9-for-20 (.450) this past week, including a double, a home run and two stolen bases. The 21-year-old Venezuelan native is batting .299 with ten stolen bases, six doubles, four triples, six home runs and 30 RBI this season.

After hitting just .175 in May, Dixon Machado has started to pick things up at the plate. The 20-year-old shortstop is hitting .379 with a .455 on-base percentage this month. This past week Machado hit his first home run of the season on a 0-2 breaking ball. The home run was the fourth of Machado's four-year career and his first on American soil.

Crafty Southpaw Crouse Cruising

Matt Crouse's breakout season continued this past week. The Tigers 24th round selection of the 2011 draft has been a pleasant surprise this season. Picking up two wins in relief, the 21-year-old reliever tossed 4 1/3 scoreless frames over two appearances.

Crouse hasn't allowed an earned run since May 19th--a span of 13 2/3 innings. This past weeks' performance improved his record to 3-1 with a sparkling 1.53 ERA over 35 1/3 innings.

Movin' On Up!

The roster shuffles continued this past week as All-Star James McCann was promoted to AA-Erie. McCann hit .288 in 45 games for Lakeland and was 14-for-33 (.424) since May 25th. Catchers Adolfo Reina and Wes Thigpen were added to the roster to shore up duties behind the plate.

Second-baseman Hernan Perez also received a special assignment this past weekend. The 21-year-old was promoted to Detroit while Jhonny Peralta was placed on paternity leave. Despite being there for just two days, Perez made his time count, recording his first big league hit and contributing in a late-inning come from behind win in Cincinnati.

Iorg Returns

This past week, former top-prospect and "shortstop of the future" Cale Iorg began his rehab assignment in Lakeland.

Splitting time between second-base and shortstop, the 26-year-old is batting .167 over five games. The former FSL All-Star and career .221 batter is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Looking Forward

The Flying Tigers return home to Joker Marchant Stadium tonight; as they begin their final series of the first half, a three-game set with the Dunedin Blue Jays.

Saturday's 51st annual FSL All-Star Game will give the majority of Lakeland's squad a much-needed three-day weekend.

Following the break, Lakeland will open the second half of the season hosting the Brevard County Manatees in a three-game series.

James R. Chipman is the Lakeland Flying Tigers correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.

Tigs Town Top Stories