Minor League Notebook: 5/15

The Erie Seawolves continue to roll in the Eastern League, while the Toledo Mudhens have followed the Tigers lead of hovering right around .500. The Lakeland Tigers and West Michigan Whitecaps still continue to struggle collectively, but have received solid performances from a few notable contributors. Plus, some very bad news for one of the Tigers top pitching prospects.

AAA Toledo Mudhens - 16-18, 3rd place in West division
Up until Thursday night, Franklyn German had been virtually unhittable, allowing only 1 run so far this season. That changed, when German lost a big Mudhen lead, and ended up taking the loss. While they took the loss, the offense had a few notable contributors, including Centerfielder Nook Logan who had 3 hits (including a home run). After a slow start, Logan has pulled his average up to .274 and continues to be a terror on the basepaths, swiping 15 bases. OF Marcus Thames also continues to make noise, as the former Yankee prospect is hitting the cover of the ball, with his slugging percentage currently above .600. Starter Shane Loux is yet again making a push to get back up to the big league club, after pitching a complete game shutout on Tuesday night. He'll get a chance, but he'll need to prove he has the ability to get big league hitters out.

AA Erie Seawolves - 19-12, 1st place in Southern division
Lately, the Seawolves have just been in another league. They've currently won 9 games in a row, and winning by an averge of almost 4 runs per game. They're getting excellent starting pitching in almost every game, and their batting order has solid hitters at almost every position. However, all is not well with the Seawolves, as top prospect Rob Henkel will have season-ending surgery on a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. This is just the latest setback for the left-hander, after 3 separate stints on the Disabled List last season forced him to repeat AA this year. The Tigers have a number of pitchers at Erie that will eventually make an impact at the big league level, but it seems as if its becoming less and less likely that Henkel will be one of them.

High-A Lakeland Tigers - 14-23, 5th place in West division
Ryan Raburn made his first appearance of the year after being out 6 weeks with a dislocated finger, and he definitely made his presence known, going 2-for-5 with a Home Run and 2 RBI. Hard to say where Raburn will go - since Lakeland already has 2B Michael Woods, and Erie just got SS Anderson Hernandez from Lakeland, moving Don Kelly to Second. But wherever he ends up playing this year, the Tigers have high hopes for the power-hitting Raburn. And speaking of high hopes, while Erie has incredible depth with their pitching staff, the L-Tigers have possibly the Tigers top 3 pitching prospects in the entire system - Kyle Sleeth, Humberto Sanchez and Joel Zumaya. All three have been solid so far this season, and all three should see themselves in the big leagues at some point - especially Sleeth, who will probably be moving up a level, assuming he continues to dominate the competition like he has the past few weeks.

Low-A West Michigan Whitecaps - 13-22, last in Eastern division
It is becoming fairly obvious that the Whitecaps don't quite have the same talent as some of the other farm teams. And some of the talent they do have has performed well below expectations. Possibly the most bewildering performance has been that of 3B Kody Kirkland who is hitting just .163 after tearing apart short season A ball in 2003. If Kirkland can't work through his struggles, the Tigers may elect to pull him out of West Michigan and send him to back to Lakeland to try and straighten himself out that way. One prospect who hasn't performed below expectations has been SS Tony Giarratano, who is hitting at .286 while continuing his patience at the plate (19 walks to only 15 strikeouts). One pitcher beginning to stick out is Chris Steinborn, who Friday night earned the win allowing only 1 earned run with 5 strikeouts. His ERA is an impressive 2.57 for the year.

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