Whitecaps Media Dept

May 29 - June 4 Detroit Tigers Minor League Recap: Anthony Castro Trophy

We are quickly approaching moving season in minor league baseball, when players begin to earn promotions, veterans opt out, and an influx of new talent from next week’s draft opens up four more short-season leagues. But for now there’s still plenty going with the full-season teams, and last week we saw two strong starts from a veteran in Toledo, six straight wins in Erie, some ugly offense in Lakeland, and the second consecutive dominant outing from a young starter in West Michigan.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Week in Review: 5/29 - 6/04

Toledo Mud Hens
24-30, 3nd in the West Division

May was a rough month for the Mud Hens. They went just 10-19 and slipped from first to third place, but they managed to go 3-3 last week, and they’ve started off June with a 2-1 record, so perhaps brighter days are coming. The club kicked off last week by salvaging one game in their four-game wraparound series with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Drew VerHagen (7 1/3IP, 6H, 5K) silenced the RailRider bats and Michael Almanzar hit a late 3-run homer to secure a 5-0 win. Toledo then hit the road for three games at Buffalo, but they came out on the wrong side of a 6-4 game on Tuesday, and managed just three hits in a 4-1 loss on Wednesday. The Hens got back on track on Thursday, though, behind a strong performance from Buck Farmer (6IP, 6H, ER, 2K) and 2-hit, 2-RBI days for veterans Argenis Diaz and Efren Navarro. Anibal Sanchez took the mound for his third Mud Hens start on Friday evening, but he wasn’t terribly effective (4IP, 7H, 4ER, 5K) and he left the game in the 5th inning with a hamstring injury. His teammates did briefly stake him to a 4-2 lead, but the RailRiders scored three runs off Sanchez’s replacement Victor Alcantara and went home with a 7-5 victory. VerHagen dominated (7IP, H, 4BB, 8K) Scranton for the second time in six days, and an RBI double from Jason Krizan and a solo home run from Steven Moya was all it took to win 2-0 on Saturday, while Sunday’s contest was washed away by rain.

  • Krizan had the best week of any Mud Hens hitter, going 7-for-24 with three doubles, two triples, and five RBIs last week. The veteran outfielder is now hitting .318/.381/.491 in 47 games between Toledo and Erie.

  • Since giving up a career high ten earned runs on May 18th, VerHagen has thrown 16 1/3 innings without giving up a run, sending his ERA from 6.02 down to 4.29 in just three games. His eight strikeouts on Saturday tied a career high he first set back in June of 2013.

  • Toledo’s starting pitching has been decent this year, but the bullpen has been getting a ton of work. They lead the International League with 29 Holds, and Daniel Stumpf (25), Edward Mujica (23), Logan Kensing (23), and Arcenio Leon (21) all rank in the top ten in appearances, even though Stumpf and Leon are currently on the Tigers.

Erie SeaWolves
27-27, 3rd in the Western Division

The SeaWolves had one of their best weeks of the season, going 6-2 to climb two spots in the standings and get back to .500 on the season. After struggling for most of the year, the Erie pitching staff came through in a big way last week, recording two shutouts and surrendering just 17 runs in eight games. You wouldn’t have guessed a good week was coming based on the early results, however, as the Wolves gave up just four hits but fell to Altoona 3-2 on Monday, and then spoiled a strong Tyler Alexander start (6 1/3IP, 6H, 2ER, 4K) on Tuesday by getting just four hits of their own in a 2-0 loss at Bowie. But a switch flipped on Wednesday and the top of the batting order -- Ross Kivett, Luis Valdes, and Dominic Ficociello -- combined to go 8-for-14 with five runs scored, and Artie Lewicki was solid (5 2/3IP, 3H, 2ER, 7K) in a 8-3 win over the Baysox. Thursday’s rubber match was a wild extra-inning affair that saw both teams score once in the 11th inning before Kivett walked, stole second, and scored on a error in the 14th to give Erie a 4-3 win. The SeaWolves then welcomed the Senators into town for four games, and three days later sent them back to Harrisburg with zero wins. A.J. Ladwig (6IP, 4H, 8K) picked up the win on Friday, with Jairo Labourt tossing three perfect innings to secure a 4-0 win and earn his first save of the season. Saturday was a classic minor-league doubleheader, with Erie’s 1-0 game one win taking less than two hours to play thanks to Myles Jaye (7IP, 3H, 4K) and a solo homer from Kivett. The second game took slightly longer, with four Wolves pitchers combining to give up three runs in seven innings, but Kivett hit his second homer of the day, and Christin Stewart hit a 2-run bomb to help secure a 5-3 win. Alexander (6 2/3IP, 7H, 3ER, 5K) got a bit of redemption on Sunday when his offense showed up for him, with Gabriel Quintana, Grayson Greiner, and A.J. Simcox all homering in a 6-3 victory.

  • Kivett made a huge impact in just his second week in Erie. He went 10-for-28 with five runs scored, a double, two homers, four walks, and three stolen bases. Ficociello (10-for-31), Harold Castro (11-for-31, HR), and Zack Cox (8-for-21, HR) also had strong weeks.

  • Labourt’s save was the second of his career, and continued what appears to be remarkable turnaround. In 2016 he struck out 20% of the batters he faced, but walked 17% of opposing hitters. This season his strikeout rate has jumped to 38% while his walk rate has plummeted to just 4.5%. For reference, Andrew Miller is striking out 37% of MLB batters this year, while walking 5%.

  • Outfielder Mike Gerber was a decent 7-for-26 last week, but he finished up a very strong May in which he hit .324/.402/.514, with eight doubles, four home runs, two stolen bases, and 17 runs scored.

Lakeland Flying Tigers
22-33, 5th in the North Division

While Toledo seemed to steady the ship, and Erie turned things around in a big way, Lakeland continued to struggle last week, going 0-4 to finish a brutal 8-22 month of May. After a day off on Monday, the club trekked to Palm Beach to take on the first place Cardinals. Sandy Baez (6IP, 11H, 5ER, 6K) fell to 0-6 on the season and Will Allen hit a 2-run homer in the 9th on Tuesday as the team lost 5-2, while Wednesday’s 2-0 loss saw another stellar Beau Burrows outing (7IP, 5H, ER, 6K) go for naught, with Anthony Gose (IP, 2H, ER, K) making his third pitching appearance of the year. It was Kyle Funkhouser’s (5 2/3IP, 6H, 3ER, 5K) turn to take a tough loss on Thursday because the Flying Tigers could only muster two runs on two hits. Friday’s series finale was canceled due to rain, perhaps mercifully, but things got no better when the club traveled to Bradenton. Saturday’s contest saw the Pirates score four runs in the first two innings off Kyle Dowdy, and though he settled down and gave up just those four runs over seven innings, the Lakeland offense was once again stifled, picking up just four hits, and scoring their only runs on solo homers from Zac Shepherd and Elvis Rubio. Rain canceled Sunday’s contest, leading to a planned doubleheader on Monday.

  • The three runs surrendered by Funkhouser were the most he’s allowed in any of his three starts in Lakeland, and the second most he’s given up in a start all season. Aside from one clunker in West Michigan, last year’s 4th-round pick has been stellar, posting a 2.84 ERA in 50 2/3 innings, with 73 strikeouts and just 14 walks.

  • No Flying Tigers batter recorded more than three hits last week (Rubio was 3-for-10), and as a whole the team went just 15-for-121, for a .124 batting average. For the season the team ranks second to last in slugging percentage (.336), and dead last in on-base percentage (.301), batting average (.234), and OPS (.637).

  • Lakeland is hosting the 2017 Florida State League All-Star game on Saturday, June 17th. Burrows was the only Flying Tiger to be named to the All-Star squad, but he won’t be playing in the game because he was promoted to Erie on Sunday.

West Michigan Whitecaps
38-18, 1st in the Eastern Division

West Michigan had another solid showing, going 4-3 to remain in first place, though for them that counts as something of an off week. The action began in Dayton, with the Whitecaps falling 4-2 to split their tumultuous four-game series with the Dragons, but then it was off to Midland for the first of nine consecutive games against in-state rivals. Their first game against Great Lakes wasn’t ideal, with starter Alfred Gutierrez giving up four home runs and eight runs overall in an 8-5 loss, but the Caps turned things around with wins the next two games. Anthony Castro (7IP, 3H, ER, BB, 12K) gave up a triple and a sac fly to begin the game, but was absolutely stellar after that, and kept his team in the game long enough to pull out a 2-1 win. Thursday’s starter Austin Sodders (8IP, 6H, 2ER, 8K) was nearly as good, and infielder Anthony Pereira hit a huge 2-run single with two outs in the 8th inning to give West Michigan a 3-2 win. Pitching remained the story on Friday as the hated Lansing Lugnuts rolled into Comstock Park only to get shut down by Gregory Soto (7IP, 5H, 4BB, 4K), Tom De Blok (IP, 2K), and Jason Foley (IP, 2K) in a 1-0 win. The offense carried the club on Saturday, with Danny Woodrow, Cam Gibson, and Josh Lester all picking up two hits, and Jacob Robson knocking in three runs in a 7-3 win. The largest crowd of the year turned up at Fifth Third Ballpark on Sunday in hopes of seeing their Whitecaps pull off a sweep, but it looked ugly early as the Lugnuts picked up five hits and five runs in the top of the first inning. Undeterred, the Caps hitters plated four runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, and eventually took a 6-5 lead in the 7th inning when Gibson hit his 9th homer of the season. Unfortunately, those who stayed got to see Foley’s first blown save of the season after a nightmare 9th inning that included three infield singles, a wild pitch, and a throwing error on Foley, and West Michigan fell 8-6.

  • Castro was named the Midwest League pitcher of the week after striking out a career high 12 batters on May 25th, and his response was to duplicate the feat last week. The slender righty has been using his heavy, low-90s fastball and sharp curve to devastating effect this season, holding Midwest League hitters to a .198 average, and posting the league’s 8th highest swinging strike rate, and its 5th highest groundball rate.

  • Gibson and Josh Lester led the way on offense last week, with Gibson going 9-for-32 with a double, two homers, two steals, and five runs scored, and Lester going 9-for-27 with two doubles and a homer.

  • With home runs from Gibson and infielder Chad Sedio on Sunday, the Whitecaps pushed their season total to 27. Last year’s squad hit just 25 homers for the entire season, which was the lowest total for any professional baseball team.


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