April's Minor League Hot and Not

Interested in knowing who is off to a hot start, and who has been struggling in the early going to the season? Mark Anderson breaks down the farm system, with the hot and cold notables from the month of April.

Hot: Former Prospects Returning From Surgery
The AA-Erie trios of Nate Cornejo, Rob Henkel, and Jeremy Johnson, all returning from significant injuries, have combined to post some very impressive numbers so far in 2005. In 62 1/3 total innings, the threesome has posted a 5-5 record, 1.88 ERA, and a .239 batting average against. All three could see time in Toledo later this year if they are able to remain healthy.

Hot: David Espinosa's Plate Discipline
After a breakout 2004 campaign, where Espinosa saw increases in his power, contact rates, and walk rates, Espinosa's plate discipline appears to have taken another step forward. With 21 walks in 20 games (about 1 every 3 at-bats), Espinosa is getting on base at an amazing clip, all while still posting a .672 slugging percentage. So far so good in his second tour through the Eastern League

Hot: The Resurgence of Disappointing Youngsters
After horrendous 2004 campaigns, top prospects Brent Clevlen and Kody Kirkland are back with a vengeance in 2005. The two have led the Lakeland Tigers to first place in their division with a combined average of .374, along with 10 home runs, 7 doubles, and 3 triples. Both players are absolutely pounding the ball in the pitcher friendly Florida State League, trying to re-establish their once lofty prospect status.

Hot: 2004 First Round Choice Justin Verlander
Despite sitting out the 2004 season with prolonged contract negotiations, Verlander has been very good in the early going, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.17 ERA and 30 strikeouts in only 23 innings. Not only is Verlander striking out hitters at better than a batter per inning, but he has only walked 5 batters in that time.

Hot: Under-20 Pitchers at West Michigan
Little known prospects Dallas Trahern and Jair Jurrjens are both off to electric starts in the Midwest League. In a combined 38 2/3 innings, the two have posted a 0.93 ERA and a 2.7:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Both pitchers are making a big jump to their first full season as professionals, and so far, the results look promising.

Cold: Dusty Ryan's Bat
No matter how much I talked him during the offseason; it hasn't helped Ryan through the first weeks of the 2005 season. With a .111/.241/.133 line, Ryan is in danger of losing significant playing time to teammate Andrew Graham. Dusty has showed the tools necessary to be a good catcher, but he'll have to start hitting to get his chance to shine.

Cold: Most of the Erie Offense
Three players expected to produce big time for the Tigers AA affiliate have come up way short so far. Tony Giarratano, Juan Tejeda, and Michael Woods are all hitting below .235, and two of them with OBP's under .300 (Giarratano's is .321). While it is still early, all three will need to step up if Erie is to get back to the playoffs.

Cold: Toledo's Top Offensive Duo
Two of the top position prospects in the system, Curtis Granderson and Ryan Raburn are struggling with their first taste of AAA. Granderson has picked it up a bit of late, posting a line of .307/.346/.440, and Raburn is posting a dismal .159/.243/.333. Both players are expected to turn it on after they adjust to the stiffer competition of the International League, but things sure are not pretty right now.

Cold: Top Pitcher's Health
Two of the Tigers top pitching prospects health has come into question this spring. Draft and follow pitcher Humberto Sanchez has been sidelined with what is being called a strained muscle, but is expected to return soon. After an offseason that included recovering from knee surgery, this isn't the start he wanted to the 2005 campaign. Kyle Sleeth's injury on the other hand appears to be a bit more serious. Sleeth was shut down due to tightness in his elbow. The earliest Kyle is expected back is early-May, but the Tigers certainly won't risk further injury.

Cold: The Decision to Trade Scott Moore
It's still early, but Scott Moore is doing his best to make his departure hurt. So far, Moore has logged a .277/.400/.569 line for the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League. Not only has Moore excelled at the plate, but rumor has it his defense is better this season as well. Scott will get his first chance for vengeance against his former L-Tiger teammates in a four game set starting May 11th.

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