Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 4/25 - 5/1
Toledo Mud Hens
9-12, 4th in the West Division
The Mud Hens got off to a very nice 5-1 start this season, but things have mostly been downhill from there, as they’ve lost 11 of their last 15 games, including a rough 2-5 last week. Part of their struggles may be due to an ever-changing roster, but some of those issues appear to be coming to an end, as big leaguers Cameron Maybin and James McCann are nearing their returns to the majors, and key bullpen arm Bruce Rondon returned from the disabled list on Sunday. The team began its week with four consecutive losses, including getting swept at home by the Gwinnett Braves, but the Hens rebounded to win two of their next three, including a solid 7-1 victory to close out the week. The squad scored 16 runs in their two wins, but just 10 runs in their five losses, but Chad Huffman (7-for-21, grand slam), Cameron Maybin (5-for-15, 4 BB, HR), and Nate Schierholtz (9-for-31, HR) did their part to keep the team in games. Thad Weber earned the win on Sunday with six innings of shutout ball, while the rehabbing Jeff Ferrell took home the win on Friday night with two innings of scoreless relief.
- Weber also took a tough-luck loss on Tuesday when he gave up just one run over seven innings. The veteran right hander owns a 3-1 record, and his 0.75 ERA is tops in the International League.
- Tyler Collins didn’t let his demotion to Toledo get him down, going 3-for-5 in his first Mud Hens game this season, and hitting a huge three-run homer in the top of the 11th on Friday night to secure a 9-6 win for his team.
- McCann struggled last week, going just 2-for-22, but the rehabbing catcher did draw five walks, and he threw out two of the three runners who tried to steal against him.
10-12, 3rd in the Western Division
Erie slipped one spot in the standings after a 2-3 week that included a scheduled day off and a game postponed due to fog. Things began well enough, with Tommy Collier, Confesor Lara, and Paul Voelker combining for a crisp 3-0 shutout over the Altoona Curve on Monday, and the offense exploding for a 10-4 win on Wednesday. But they sandwiched a loss in between those wins, and then dropped two at home to the Trenton Thunder. Collier had the only truly good start of the week, with the other win going to Lara, but Paul Voelker, Kurt Spomer, and Joe Mantiply finished off another strong week for the back end of the SeaWolves’ bullpen. The offense was led by professional hitter Dean Green, who went 8-for-15 with three home runs and six RBIs, while second baseman Tyler Bortnick went 6-for-16 and chipped in with a HR and five RBIs of his own.
- Voelker and Spomer continue to own spotless resumes through the first month of the season. Voelker has struck out over 45% of the batters he has faced so far, and Spomer’s 1.59 FIP is the 3rd best among AA pitchers with at least 15 innings.
- The Erie offense ranks 2nd in the Eastern League in batting average (.263), third in OPS (.734), and fourth in runs per game (4.8). Unfortunately, their team ERA of 4.80 ranks last in the league.
- Green’s two-homer game on Friday gave him 30 career bombs for the SeaWolves, and he continues to pace the league with 22 RBIs.
Lakeland Flying Tigers
12-12, 3rd in the North Division
The Flying Tigers used a couple of shutouts and steady offensive production to post a solid 4-2 week and climb one spot in the standings. A.J. Ladwig helped kick the week off right with seven scoreless innings in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Brevard County Manatees, while the following night Adam Ravenelle shook off his 9th-inning blown save to pitch a scoreless 10th and pick up the win after Lakeland scored in the top of the inning. The Flygers had a chance for the sweep but a throwing error and a wild pitch by Edgar De La Rosa led to three 8th-inning runs and a 5-4 loss. The squad shook that loss off and took their next two games at the Clearwater Threshers, as victorious pitchers Tyler Alexander and Jairo Labourt each tossed six scoreless frames. The offense was once again led by its power bats, as Mike Gerber hit a grand slam as part of a 4-for-5 day on Friday, Ross Kivett reached base ten times and hit his first home run of the season, and Joey Pankake and Christin Stewart each hit two homers.
- The trio of Stewart, Gerber, and Pankake have combined to hit 16 home runs, which is more than nine entire FSL teams, but together they sport a paltry .204 batting average.
- Labourt (1.29) and Ladwig (1.50) both own top-ten league ERAs, but Labourt’s 15 walks is tied for the third most in the league.
- It’s been a bit of a rough start for third baseman Zach Shepherd, who is hitting just .214 and has already committed seven errors. But the young Australian picked up six hits last week, and he’s tied for second on the team with 11 walks.
West Michigan Whitecaps
11-11 T5th in the Eastern Division
Four of the five games West Michigan played last week were decided by one run, but unfortunately the Whitecaps were on the losing side of the ledger three times and fell a spot in the standings. The team began their week by returning to Cedar Rapids for the first time since their game-five victory in last year’s championship series, but the Kernels exacted a small measure of revenge in taking two of three. The ‘Caps then split two games with the Quad Cities River Bandits, with Saturday’s game and Sunday’s makeup both postponed due to rain. The team’s two wins went to Jordan Smith (5IP, 3ER) and Beau Burrows (5 2/3IP, 0ER), though Sandy Baez (5IP, 1ER) and Matt Hall (5IP, 1ER, 7K) also pitched well in losing efforts. The offense was jumpstarted by young outfielders Jose Azocar (6-for-16, 3BB, 2SB) and Derek Hill (6-for-20, 4R, 3SB), while Will Allen (6-for-19, 4 RBIs) helped get them home.
- The precocious Azocar continued to flash his all-around ability last week. His power hasn’t quite shown up yet, but he’s among the league leaders in batting average, he stole two bases, and he also threw out two runners on the basepaths. His six outfield assists are the most in the Midwest League, and only one other player has more than three.
- Burrows gave up four runs in his season debut, but he has surrendered only one run in his last 15 2/3 innings, with 12 strikeouts and 1 walk. His 0.72 WHIP is third best in the league.
- Closer Gerson Moreno suffered his first blown save of the season in Thursday’s walk-off loss, though neither of the runs he surrendered were earned. But he almost blew his second save on Sunday after giving up three singles and walking in two runs. Jake Shull came in to record the final out and preserve the 3-2 win.