Minor League Notebook: 4/27

So, how are the Tigers minor league clubs doing? Well, after some slow starts, Erie has won 6 of their last 7, Lakeland 6 of their last 8, and Toledo has won three straight. Who is starring for these minor league clubs, and which prospects are having good starts to the season? Find out inside with a free preview to premium content.

TOLEDO MUDHENS: Toledo has started off the season 8-10, good for second place in the South Division of the International League.

Offensively, the squad is being led by 1B Andy Barkett, who is currently hitting .306 with 4 HR and 13 RBI. The Tigers lone prospect among position players, OF Nook Logan, is slowly getting on track after an extremely slow start. He has picked his average up to .231, and continues to showcase his speed on the basepaths with 9 stolen bases.

On the mound, reliever Franklyn German has continued his excellent start to the season. In 6 appearances, German has a 1.29 ERA with while saving 4 games for the Hens. Even more promising for German's future, he has 7 strikeouts with only 2 walks – very promising for a player whose biggest obstacle in the big leagues has been his control. Starter Shane Loux has also continued his ability to pitch well in the minors, thus far going 2-2 with a 3.24 ERA and a 3.4 K:BB ratio.

ERIE SEAWOLVES: The Seawolves are currently sporting an 8-7 record, which leaves them in second place in the Southern Division of the Eastern League.

The Tigers have a number of high-potential players in Erie, and quite a few are off to excellent starts. OF David Espinosa, after appearing to be a lost cause two seasons ago, has resurrected his career with an excellent start in 2004 after a solid season in 2003. Espinosa is hitting .340 while playing Right Field and taking over the leadoff spot for Erie. 1B Juan Tejada has continued to produce, leading the club with 14 RBI as well as being tied for the team lead in Home Runs (3) with a .286 average. And the Tigers top position player prospect, CF Curtis Granderson, is also off to a good start, with a .280 average to go along with 15 walks – his power numbers still leave a bit to be desired however (.360 slugging %, 0 HR, 5 RBI).

The Tigers entire rotation is built with potential future Tigers, and only righty Preston Larrison has been a slight disappointment. Matt Roney has had the best start of the group, going 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA. His K:BB ratio has been excellent, compiling 15 strikeouts with only 3 walks. Fellow Rule 5 selection Wil Ledezma has gone 2-0 with a 3.07 ERA, and top prospect Rob Henkel has produced similar results with a 1-1 record and a 3.18 ERA. All three (should their solid production continue) could potentially see time in Detroit this season.

LAKELAND TIGERS: After a slow start to the season, the Lakeland version of the Tigers has picked it up, raising their record to 8-10 in the Florida State League – putting them at 5th in the West division.

Leading the Tigers offensively has been a bit of a surprise; C Mike Rabelo. Rabelo, who has typically been considered more of a defensive than offensive presence, leads the club with a .358 average to go along with 7 RBI. Meanwhile, 3B Scott Moore, who made the jump up from West Michigan despite mediocre play, has displayed more of the same. His .245 average is nothing to brag about, and his power numbers (1 HR, 5 RBI) also aren't anything to write home about. One notable improvement has been his increased patience at the plate, as he has already taken 13 walks on the year. OF Brent Clevlen has continued to make his case as one of the Tigers top prospects; hitting .305 with 9 RBI. His power numbers still aren't overly impressive (.373 slg, 0 HR), but the organization is still confident his power will develop as he ages.

And two of the top three prospects in the organization happen to find themselves in the Lakeland rotation; Kyle Sleeth and Joel Zumaya. Sleeth had a couple of average starts (his first in the professional ranks) before his latest outing in which he went 7 innings without allowing a run while striking out 7. Nothing is certain, but if/when one of the starters in the Erie rotation gets moved up (either to Toledo or maybe even straight to Detroit), expect to see Sleeth get the bump up to AA. Similarly, Zumaya had a slow start, but like Sleeth picked it up in his third outing of the season. For the year, Zumaya is now 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA and a team-leading 20 strikeouts.

WEST MICHIGAN WHITECAPS: The Whitecaps are currently 7-12, which puts them in last place in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League.

The Whitecaps start may not be as good as hoped, but a pair of position players are coming through as bright spots. SS Tony Giarratano is off to an excellent start at the plate, with a .375 average to go along with a .516 slugging percentage. Giarratano has shown an excellent ability to make solid contact while still being patient at the plate, continuing to develop into one of the top prospects in the organization. Another player off to an excellent start for the ‘Caps is OF Vincent Blue, manning Centerfield for West Michigan while hitting leadoff. The Tigers would like to see him cut down on his strikeouts a bit (18), but his .311 average is making everyone much more patient. On the downside, 3B Kody Kirkland is off to a poor start, sporting a .197 average to go with a Home Run and 6 RBI. He has slowly been improving and will hopefully get his average back over the Mendoza Line.

The Whitecaps pitching staff isn't loaded like it was last year, however, that doesn't mean the performances have matched. Fifth Third Park is one of the largest minor league parks in the country, and likewise, aids the pitchers immensely. Jordan Tata, now given a chance to be a full-time starter with the Whitecaps, has had a good start despite his 1-3 record, sporting a 2.84 ERA through 4 starts. Andy Baldwin has also had a good start to the year, with a 2-2 record to go with a 3.52 ERA. Possibly the best statistic Baldwin has is his K:BB ratio; striking out 24 batters while only walking four.

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