Minor League Players of the Month: April

As the parent club struggled to hang around the .500 mark during April, the youngsters down on the farm had a banner month. Not only did several of the Tigers minor league affiliates find themselves near the top of the standings after one month of play, but many players could be found amongst the league leaders as well.

Starting off at Toledo, Chris Shelton finished the season's first month ranked in the top ten in at least 7 offensive categories, including average, on-base percentage, slugging, walks, total bases, RBI, and homeruns. Shelton simply continued his offensive onslaught from the 2004 Arizona Fall League, where he took home league MVP honors, nearly capturing the Triple Crown. As Chris continues to destroy AAA pitchers, he is putting more pressure on the Tigers to find a place for him on the active roster. It is looking more and more like it is only a matter of time before he starts smoking line drives in Comerica Park.

Much like he did last year, Erie's David Espinosa is starting off white-hot. Espinosa, acquired in the Brian Moehler trade with Cincinnati, has been absolutely electric through the season's first month, posting more than a walk per game (and walking twice as much as striking out), while still amassing over 50 total bases in only 22 games. It has been a long, tough road to success for David, but he is beginning to put together an offensive package that could make him an elite player. If Espinosa continues to rake during his second tour around the Eastern League, expect to see him garner some at-bats for AAA-Toledo at some point this summer.

Is it possible to name practically the entire Lakeland offense Player of the Month? If I thought I could get away with it, I probably would. The Lakeland offense has been absolutely ridiculous so far this year (6.3 runs per game), led by outfielder Brent Clevlen. After a horrendous 2004 campaign, Clevlen has decided to take his frustrations out on opposing pitchers, already surpassing last season's homerun total with 6 in the first 22 games. Not only has Brent been knocking the ball out of the park, but he's using the entire field to post an incredible average, hovering within a few hits of the magic .400. If Clevlen can keep mashing as summer rolls around, he'll regain much of his once lofty prospect status.

In what proved to be a two-horse race for the Player of the Month award at West Michigan, relative unknown Brooks Colvin pulled ahead of Matt Parrish with a strong final week. To date, Colvin was leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage, walks, and was second on the team in slugging. All this from a guy who posted a measly .260/.327/.302 line last year for Oneonta. Colvin has kept hitting since the first game of the season, and if he can keep it up, may surprise some by forcing the Tigers to promote him.

As a whole, the Tiger's minor league system had an astounding April, raising eyebrows and forcing people to take notice. The four award winners named here have put together some incredible performances at this early point in the season. Contrary to the old saying, it appears we had plenty of April flowers, instead of showers. Let's just all sit back, enjoy, and hope April flowers don't yield May showers.

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