Offensively, the Whitecaps rank around the middle of the pack in the Midwest League in terms of runs scored with 205. Aside from runs, the offense also ranks in the bottom half of the league in OPS at .704. When you translate those offensive stats, you wouldn’t think the Whitecaps would be where they are today. But the Whitecaps staff collectively leads the MWL in ERA at 2.44, nearly half a run better than the next best club in Kane County. They also lead the way in strikeouts (456), WHIP (1.10) and shutouts (11).
The blistering start in Comstock Park can be credited to the pitching staff and several different arms, a couple of whom have been moved up to Lakeland already this season.
Still in Low-A however is Austin Sodders, who is currently second in the league in ERA (0.73) and tied for second in wins (5). The 2016 seventh round pick out of UC Riverside has been a pleasant surprise for the Caps so far and could be one of the next to be promoted to High-A when starting rotations start to get shaken up at the lower levels.
Speaking of 22-year old left-handed starters, Gregory Soto is another who is turning heads in West Michigan in 2017. Through seven starts, Soto is a perfect 4-0 and is fifth in the league in ERA (1.26). Soto has been quickly moving up the prospect rankings as he’s started to mature (ranked 33rd on the 2017 TigsTown Top 50), and his fastball from the left side at 94-96 MPH with good movement can be an overwhelming pitch. The Dominican Republic native averages just over five innings per start but went seven full on 100 pitches, allowing just one earned run in the May 20th contest against Lake County.
Eudis Idrogo is another name in the West Michigan rotation who has pitched extremely well, leading the team in innings pitched as of May 25, with 49 2/3 innings, also good for being in the top 10 in the Midwest League. In seven starts thus far, he maintains a 2.36 ERA with a solid WHIP of 1.01 and a pristine 37:6 K:BB ratio. The 21-year old Venezuelan is impressing in his first full season of minor league baseball and is certainly one to credit for the hot start as well.
Kyle Funkhouser is another big name who was a part of West Michigan’s tremendous start. Despite being promoted to Lakeland on May 17, he played a critical role in getting the Whitecaps to where they are in the standings. The Tigers’ 2016 fourth round pick was 4-1 with a 3.16 ERA in seven starts where he struck out 49 in just over 31 innings of work. Funkhouser is a highly intriguing 23-year old, ranked 8th in the system and still flashing the potential that made him a first-round selection that went unsigned in the 2015 draft.
After the promotion of former closer Bryan Garcia, Jason Foley (#45 in the TigsTown Top 50) has stepped into the closer’s role. Foley, who went undrafted out of Sacred Heart, holds a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings of work, with three saves and a staggering WHIP of 0.80.
Speaking of Garcia, he is 2-0 in his first two appearances for High-A Lakeland. The flamethrower out of The University of Miami has a power fastball that reaches the mid-90’s, and entered the year ranked 25th in the Tigers farm system. Prior to his promotion, Garcia was nine-for-twelve in save opportunities for the Caps but struck out 27 in 14 1/3 innings. Both Garcia as well as Foley project as intriguing bullpen arms as they move up the ladder.
The Whitecaps pitching staff has had a tremendous month of May after following up a nice start in the month of April as well. One thing is for certain, Whitecaps manager Mike Rabelo should be extremely happy with how his team has performed thus far in his first season.