Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 8/29 - 9/5
Toledo Mud Hens
68-76, 4th in the West Division
It was a long, difficult season for the Mud Hens, but they continued fighting, and went 5-3 in their final eight games to finish August and September with a 20-16 record. Their week began in Indianapolis, where a rehabbing Mike Pelfrey (3IP, 1ER, 2K) got the start, Warwick Saupold (5IP, 0ER, 2K) got the win, and the offense pounded out 16 hits in an 8-1 win. Toledo made it interesting the next night with five two-out runs in the ninth, but the Indians pulled off the 7-5 win. The Hens took the series with a 4-2 win on Wednesday behind a strong rehab start from Jordan Zimmermann (4IP, 0ER, 1K) and home runs from Steven Moya and Casey McGehee. Toledo’s last five games were against the in-state rival Columbus Clippers, with the first three in Columbus, and the final two in Toledo. Home field advantage didn’t mean anything, though, with the Hens winning all three in Columbus behind strong starts from Chad Bell (6IP, 0ER, 6K) and Donn Roach (6 1/3IP, 2ER, 6K) and an offense that put up 28 runs on 46 hits in three games. But the Clippers returned the favor in Toledo, winning 6-2 on Sunday and 10-2 on Labor Day.
- Moya had a strong final week, going 11-for-36 with seven runs scored, six RBI, and two HR. The big outfielder finishes with a team-best 20 home runs this season, his third consecutive season topping 20 long balls, and he figures to be a key bench bat for the Tigers as they make a run for the playoffs.
- One player who doesn’t appear to be headed to Detroit is reliever Joe Jimenez, who was flawless in four outings last week, giving up just one hit and no walks while striking out five in four innings. The 21-year-old native of Puerto Rico posted spectacular numbers across three levels this year, finishing with a 3-3 record, a 1.51 ERA, and 30 saves in 31 chances. He threw 53 2/3 innings, giving up just 26 hits and 17 walks while striking out 78.
- Veterans Alex Presley and Chad Huffman both had monster weeks. Presley was hitless in ten at bats against Indianapolis, but he then went 11-for-26 with three home runs and five RBI against Columbus, while Huffman went 12-for-33 with four home runs and 12 RBI.
62-79, 4th in the Western Division
Much like Toledo, Erie found some late-season positives despite an underwhelming year overall. The SeaWolves went 5-3 last week, and posted an 18-15 record over August and September. The club played two four-games series to end the season, splitting with the first-place Akron RubberDucks to begin the week, and then taking three from the Binghamton Mets. The Akron series began with three low-scoring games, with Grayson Greiner (3-for-4, HR) providing most of the offense in Monday’s 4-2 loss, and Erie managing just two hits in a 4-1 loss on Tuesday. Artie Lewicki pitched terrifically on Wednesday (7IP, 1ER, 7K) but it looked like another SeaWolves loss until Dominic Ficociello singled in the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and Austin Green plated the winning run with two out in the 13th inning to give Erie a 3-2 win. Thursday’s game was also close, with Ficociello (4-for-5) and Kody Eaves (4-for-4, HR, 2RBI) leading the offense to a 8-7 win. Pitching was the story in Binghamton on Friday, as an RBI-single from Eaves and a solo home run from Christin Stewart was all Tyler Alexander (6IP, 0ER, 5K) and three relievers needed in a 2-0 win. The club got a strong start from Thad Weber the next night (6IP, 1ER, 8K) and Stewart (1-for-4, HR, 3RBI) led a balanced offensive attack in a 6-3 win. Mets starter Andrew Barbosa shut down the Wolves in an 8-1 loss on Sunday, but the club finished the season with a wild, 10-8 win on Labor Day, with Stewart blasting a 2-run shot in the top of the 13th to give his team the victory.
- Stewart struggled a bit in his 24-game taste of AA, going just 19-for-87 (.218), but he made his hits count. Last week he went 6-for-28 with four home runs and 11 RBI. The 22-year-old outfielder finishes his first full pro season with 30 home runs between two levels, and he’ll try to tack on a few more long balls in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League.
- Lewicki hit a bit of a rough patch to end his season, giving up 11 earned runs over his final 25 1/3 innings, but the 2014 eighth-round pick had a solid season overall, posting a 3.44 ERA in 89 innings between Lakeland and Erie. He’s also heading to the Arizona Fall League, where he’ll be joined by teammate Adam Ravenelle, who finished his season with a 3.88 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 58 innings.
- The Tigers traded Jefry Marte for Eaves in late January, and though it wasn’t a high-profile deal, for much of the year it looked bad. Eaves was particularly brutal in July, going just 5-for-71 (.070), but he appeared to figure something out in August, and he hit .326 with five home runs and 20 RBI over his final 28 games of the year.
Lakeland Flying Tigers
60-72 5th in the North Division, 26-38 5th in the Second Half
Hurricane Hermine made playing baseball a bit difficult for the Flying Tigers last week, as they saw games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday get canceled, but Lakeland made the most of it when they got on the field, sweeping a doubleheader against Daytona on Monday, and taking two from Tampa on Sunday to end the season on a four-game winning streak. Spencer Turnbull was strong in the first game on Monday (6IP, 2ER, 5K), Zac Shepherd hit his 15th home run of the season, and Wade Hinkle delivered an RBI single in the 6th inning to give his club a 3-2 win. The second game was also a tight affair, with A.J. Simcox (2-for-4, 2RBI) and Time Remes (1-for-2, HR, 3RBI) providing all of the team’s offense in a 5-4 victory to give A.J. Ladwig (5 1/3IP, 2ER, 2K) his 11th win of the season. The team then missed so many games that Turnbull (6IP, 1ER, 5K) and Ladwig (5IP, 1ER, 5K) were able to start again in the final two games of the season. Tyler Bortnick (2-for-4, 2RBI) and Shepherd (2-for-4, 3RBI) provided all the offense in game one, with Shepherd’s RBI double in the top of the 10th inning proving to be the game-winner, while a balanced offensive attack gave Ladwig win number 12 in the final game of the year.
- Turnbull finishes his season in Lakeland with a 3.00 ERA over 30 innings pitched, with 24 hits and ten walks allowed, and 27 strikeouts. He’ll get more innings by participating in the Arizona Fall League, as will Jeff Thompson, who posted 3.49 ERA over 118 2/3 innings this year.
- Lakeland ended up leading the league in home runs, with 123. There were 21 Florida State League players who reached double-digits in home runs, and six of them played for Lakeland: Christin Stewart (24), Shepherd (15), Joey Pankake (15), Mike Gerber (14), Wade Hinkle (11), and Ross Kivett (11).
- Two former Flying Tigers made the FSL End of Season All-Star Team. Stewart led the team in home runs, RBI, and walks despite spending the final month of the season in Erie, while catcher Kade Scivicque also made the list, even though he was traded away in mid August.
West Michigan Whitecaps
71-65 3rd in the Eastern Division, 32-37 5th in the Second Half
West Michigan’s final week of regular season action offered a nice parallel to the way their overall season has gone this year. They won three of their first four games, but finished the week with three consecutive losses, and now the team that clinched a playoff berth in the first half of the year heads into the postseason coming off a sub-.500 second half. The Whitecaps won their first game of the week in blowout fashion, with four different players posting multi-hit games in support of Sandy Baez (6IP, 2ER, 8K), but runs were hard to come by for the rest of the week. West Michigan hosted South Bend for three games, winning 3-1 on Wednesday behind six scoreless innings from Fernando Perez, losing 5-3 on Thursday, and then riding Beau Burrows (5IP, 0ER, 8K) to a series clinching 3-0 win on Friday. The club kept things rolling by winning a makeup game 4-3 over Great Lakes on Saturday, but then the bats went absolutely silent. The Whitecaps lost 3-1 in game two on Saturday, then spoiled a terrific start from Eudis Idrogo (7IP, 1H, 0ER, 3K) in a 1-0 loss on Sunday, and did the same to Baez (6IP, 1H, 0ER, 7K) in a 5-1 loss on Labor Day.
- Infielder Will Maddox made a run at the Midwest League batting title for most of the season, but unfortunately for him he finished up the year with one of his worst weeks of the season. He went just 5-for-25 to see his batting average drop from .346 to .339, and finished second behind Luis Arraez’s .347.
- Baez and Burrows finished the season with some of their best starts of the year, which could bode well for the team’s playoff hopes. Baez finishes the season leading the team in innings pitched and strikeouts, while Burrows finishes as the team leader in WHIP.
- The Whitecaps begin their pursuit of a second consecutive Midwest League title on Wednesday with a home game against South Bend, before heading to Indiana for games two and three (if needed). If figures to be a tight series, as the teams split their 14 games this season, with the Cubs outscoring the Whitecaps 58-54.
41-35 2rd in the Stedler Division
Connecticut began the week with their playoff destiny in their hands thanks to six games against the two teams directly in front of them in the standings, but unfortunately the Tigers couldn’t quite get the job done with a 3-5 week. The action began with a huge three-game series against wild card leader Staten Island, but the Yankees scored five runs early and fended off an impressive comeback bid led by Austin Athmann (4-for-5, 3RBI) and Josh Lester (2-for-4, HR, 3RBI) for a 10-7 win. Lester (3-for-4, 3RBI) had another big game the next night in a 6-4 win, but Connecticut’s season effectively ended in the 8th inning on Wednesday, when Staten Island scored three runs off 15th-round pick John Schreiber for a 5-4 win. The club still had an outside shot at the postseason, but that ended quickly when they lost both ends of a doubleheader to the division-leading Lowell Spinners on Friday. Ryan Castellanos (7IP, 1ER, 1K) picked up his franchise-record eighth win of the season on Saturday night, but it was too little, too late for the Tigers. They finished the season with two games against the Tri-City ValleyCats, tying Sunday’s game with two, two-out runs in the bottom of the ninth, only to lose in the tenth inning, before finishing the season in style with a 10-1 win on Labor Day.
- Outfielder Jacob Robson had a terrific finish to his first taste of pro ball, concluding the season with an eight-game hitting streak, and going 12-for-27 with five walks and six runs scored last week. This year’s 8th-round pick finishes the season batting .294/.399/.395 with 15 steals in 21 tries.
- Schreiber’s tough loss against Staten Island put an unfortunate bow on an otherwise fine professional debut. The 22-year-old native of Wyandotte, MI had lowered his ERA to 2.30 after going ten consecutive innings without allowing a run. He was second on the team with 18 appearances, and he finishes the season with a 2.76 ERA over 29 1/3 IP, with 23 hits and nine walks allowed against 24 strikeouts.
- Lester did his best to get the team to the playoffs, hitting safely in his last ten games of the season, and going 13-for-31 with five doubles, two triples, a home run, and 13 RBI last week. He finishes the year leading the New York-Penn League with 19 doubles.
GCL Tigers West
30-28 3rd in the Northwest Division
Hurricane Hermine wreaked havoc on the FSL, but it actually ended the Gulf Coast League Season, at least for non-playoff teams like the Tigers West. They were scheduled for four games last week, but played just two, splitting their final series of the season with the Blue Jays. Monday’s game was a low-scoring affair that saw the Tigers lone run come on an Ignacio Valdez homer, his tenth of the season. Julio Martinez went 2-for-4 with a double, but the team went 0-for-8 with men in scoring position and they left nine men on base in a 3-1 loss. Tuesday’s game was much more eventful, with the Tigers scoring six runs in the 4th inning, the Blue Jays gradually fighting back, and the Tigers eventually winning 7-6 on a walk-off error in the 11th inning. Valdez went 2-for-5 and hit his 11th homer, Hector Martinez and Moises Bello both went 2-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI, and Evan Hill gave up just one hit and struck out five over 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first professional win.
- He finished the season batting just .219, but Valdez’s 11 homers were two more than anyone else in the GCL, and his .275 ISO was more than 50 points higher than anyone else in the league.
- Lefty Felix Viloria threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings on Monday, extending his scoreless innings streak to ten. The 19-year-old finishes his first season in the U.S. with a 1.74 ERA, which is the best on the team among pitchers with at least 20 innings.
- The Tigers West offense finished the season in the top five in doubles, home runs, walks, and stolen bases, while the pitching staff finished in the top five in strikeouts, but the bottom five in ERA, hits allowed, and home runs allowed.
GCL Tigers East
21-37 3rd in the Northeast Division
The Tigers East of course suffered the same weather-driven fate as the Flying Tigers and the Tigers West, with all but two games in their final week washed away by wind and rain. Monday’s game was rained out, but they managed to play two against the Pirates on Tuesday. They won the opener 4-2 behind a solid start from Ronaldo Lopez (5IP, 0ER, 4K) and a two-out, three-run rally in the 6th inning led by Isrrael De La Cruz (2-for-4, 2R, 2SB), Moises Nunez (3-for-3, 2B, RBI), and Allan Santos (1-for-3, 2RBI). Power-armed reliever Wladimir Pinto closed out the game with two perfect innings to earn his first save of the season. The Pirates battled back to take the second game 4-3, getting all of their runs against starter Stanley Martinez (4IP, 4ER, 4K), and fending off a late rally as the Tigers got RBI hits from Alexis Garcia, Luis Torrealba, and Johandry Cortez.
- Nunez wins the team triple crown, ending the season as their leader in home runs (4), RBI (24), and batting average (.275), while De La Cruz led the squad in runs scored (27), hits (41), triples (6), walks (22), strikeouts (51), and stolen bases (22, in 28 attempts).
- Reliever Hector Rodriguez tossed two scoreless innings in the loss to the Pirates to run his scoreless innings streak to 11 2/3, and lower his team-leading ERA to 1.95. He also led the team with five wins, while ERA runner-up Carlos Lara led the team with five saves and 19 appearances.
- It isn’t terribly surprising, considering most of the roster would have been in Venezuela had the VSL not folded, but the Tigers East struggled in their first year of existence. The hitters finished in the bottom five in hits and batting average, and they finished dead last in home runs, slugging percentage, and OPS. The pitching staff finished in the bottom five in hits allowed, and they finished last in home runs allowed, walks allowed, and ERA.