Statistically the Tigers were a well-oiled machine at the plate, finishing with the 2nd most home runs (25), 2nd most walks (235), 4th most runs (292) and 4th best OPS (719). On the flip side, despite a strong starting staff, Tigers pitchers finished in the middle of the pack with a 3.41 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.
Stable Full Of Arms
The 2014 GCL Tigers rotation included several intriguing and projectable arms this season. Unfortunately, the prize of the Tigers rotation Eduardo Jimenez was shut down during EST, missing the entire season after Tommy John surgery. The 19-year-old's low-to-mid 90s fastball, promising slider, changeup and advanced feel for the game make him an intriguing arm in the Tigers minor league system.
One AL scout tabbed Jimenez the "best overall pitcher on that entire staff. [Eduardo] might not throw the hardest, but the pitchabilty and feel for the game are off the charts." The talent evaluator placed a middle to backend of the rotation ceiling on the right-hander.
Sinker baller Sandy Baez lead the Tigers in innings with 61 2/3 this season. The 20-year-old ground-ball machine posted an impressive 3.06 ERA and struck out 48 batters. Baez was recently tabbed the TigsTown GCL Pitcher of the Year for his efforts this season.
"Baez is an older arm," said another AL scout. "The curveball needs the most work, but I like his mentality on the field and work ethic off the field. His quickest path to bigs would be as a reliever. That being said, I have no problem dreaming an seeing Major League average starter. Baez is absolutely an acquire for me."
Remove a single disastrous outing in late July in which Anthony Castro allowed ten earned runs over 3 1/3 innings and you're actually looking at a pretty darn good season from the 19-year-old right-hander (2.73 ERA & 7.6 K/9). Armed with a fastball that scraped the mid-90s, a tight late breaking curveball and a changeup that featured solid depth and arm speed, Castro led the team in strikeouts and took a definitive step forward developmentally this season.
Carlos Lara was arguably one of the biggest surprises in the rotation this season. The 20-year-old right-hander posted a 3.48 ERA with 46 strikeouts over 44 innings. Home plate danced around on occasion, but when he was locked in Lara was absolutely dirty. Lara's low 90s fastball and wipeout slider tormented GCL batters.
"Lara is an interesting arm," a NL scout stated. "Advanced feel, unreal pitchability, comfortable throwing any of his pitches in any count. His physical maturity will ultimately define his role moving forward. I have no issues putting a 4/5 starter ceiling on him."
If projects are your thing and you're a bit of a dreamer, Oswaldo Castillo is a name you might want to keep an eye on. A personal favorite of Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon's, Castillo features quick arm action and a projectable frame that suggests a future bump in velocity. The 18-year-old right-hander posted a 3.20 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 45 innings.
An AL scout stated that, "Castillo knows how to pitch. The changeup is his best secondary offering, with 60 future potential."
In the bullpen, once highly touted prospect Brenny Paulino returned after two years of being sidelined by injuries and struggled mightily this season. After pumping high-90s gas his first two outings, the right-hander saw his fastball velocity drop to the low 90s with 20 command the remainder of the season. Paulino posted a disappointing 7.04 ERA and 2.61 WHIP with 11 strikeouts and an alarming 21 walks over 15 1/3 innings.
Despite posting rather mediocre numbers, right-hander Gerson Moreno flashed an impressive low-to-mid 90s fastball that touched as high as 97 mph. The 18-year-old's bulldog mound presence and noticeably improving secondaries has put him on the radar.
"Moreno is a young small guy that throws hard," another AL talent evaluator stated. "[Moreno] needs to be challenged, I'd like to see how he handles the MWL next season. The fastball velo is there, the secondary stuff is coming along, there's a legit chance to be late inning reliever, he just needs some consistency."
Solid Production From Position Players
The Tigers lineup was anchored by Zach Shepherd. Shepherd led the team in extra-base hits (21), triples (5) and RBI (29), while posting a .301 batting average and .870 OPS. The defense at third-base was sketchy, regardless, the 19-year-old's stateside debut exceeded already lofty expectations.
"Shepherd was one of the more advanced Australian bats that I've seen," said an AL scout. "He's a sound ball player with great instincts, projectable power, a great feel for the bat and average MLB upside. I do not think he sticks in the infield; he's a future corner outfielder."
The Tigers first rounder Derek Hill hit just .212 but drew a respectable 16 walks over 99 at-bats before his promotion to Connecticut. The 18-year-old routinely flashed 70 and 80 times out of the box and was a pest on the base paths (9-for-10 SB) in his short time in the GCL. Hill's defensive skill-set was a bit more raw than I thought I'd see. Regardless, the speedy outfielder's tools easily project a future impact defender in centerfield.
Catcher Arvicent Perez was the star backstop of the squad, batting .309 and slugging .519 over his 81 at-bats before his promotion to West Michigan. Fellow backstop Shane Zeile missed time due to a broken thumb, posting a less than stellar .640 OPS over 63 at-bats. Zeile's game is undoubtedly raw, especially in the batters box, but his leadership and projectable defensive skill-set impressed me in my limited viewings.
"I didn't have a chance to see Zeile, but I was impressed with Arvicent Perez's arm strength," an AL scout stated. "He throws 94-95, so there's a potential pitcher there if he doesn't work out behind the plate. He has a decent feel for the game, there's good athleticism and a solid raw foundation, but the footwork definitely needs work."
The Tigers got a solid contribution from 20-year-old second baseman David Gonzalez who batted a team high .326 with 12 doubles. Although the numbers might not necessarily wow you (.268 AVG .690 OPS), first baseman Corey Baptist led the team in doubles (14), put on impressive batting practice performances and seemed to barrel everything well whenever I observed him this season. Rounding things out, 23-year-old Michigan native Giancarlo Brugnoni lead the team in home runs (7), slugging percentage (.527), OPS (.927) and also features an 80-grade name.
All things considered, the 2014 season was a great success developmentally for the GCL Tigers.