TigsTown MLN: 'Caps Youth Hitting the Wall

The youth factor appears to be catching up with the Whitecaps as they've been on a slide as of late, especially as of late, losing five of their last seven. While the talent of the team isn't questioned, the time is coming where some of the Whitecaps will need to grow and to quote the old baseball phrase, "learn how to win."

West Michigan has lost five of their last seven, and seven out of 11 in the month of May. The Whitecaps are not only young, but extremely inexperienced in more ways than one. One of their top hitters, Wilkin Ramirez, had only a handful of rookie league at bats prior to this season. Their closer, Collin Mahoney, wasn't even a pitcher up until his senior season in college. And that doesn't even mention their rotation, peppered with youngsters, a couple of which won't even be able to have a drink legally for more than a year.

One youngster who hasn't been able to crack the rotation despite having plenty of potential has been Jay Sborz. Sborz struggled with his control in two straight seasons of GCL ball, and rather than continue to baby him, the Tigers elected to take a different approach, throwing Sborz into full season action, but making him earn his innings as a member of the bullpen. The move has been met with mixed results, as Sborz still has an ERA over 5 (5.40) and has still had bouts of issues with his control. Sborz isn't at risk of being moved out of West Michigan, but he's not making any real noise trying to crack the rotation.

Another member who has yet to crack the rotation is Eric Beattie, the Tigers 2004 second round draft pick. Beattie has become one of the stranger stories to start the year for Detroit. After he was drafted with the expectations that he'd be a quick mover up the ladder, the classic sinker-slider pitcher, Beattie underwhelmed everyone in Fall Instructional League, and now the organization has gone mum about his status, after it was expected he'd move to the Whitecaps once the weather got a bit better, certainly by now. Stay tuned, there could be something more here the Tigers aren't letting out.

Wilkin Ramirez continues to boot the ball and struggle defensively at third base, but his bat has certainly come around in recent weeks. Ramirez has brought his average up to a very respectable .279, and while he leads the team with 10 errors, he also leads with 19 RBI. It's very much been the start the Tigers were expecting from the youngster, and in a big park against tough competition for someone his age, Ramirez and his .402 slugging percentage are more than holding their own. But, about that defense . . .

One person the losing streak hasn't seemed to have an effect on is Randor Bierd, as Bierd continues to work his way right through the opposition. He leads the team with 35 strikeouts, holds a 3-1 record, and an ERA of just 2.89. His last three starts have helped that as well, going 21 1/3 innings, allowing just 5 runs with 18 strikeouts. Bierd remains a perfect age for low-A ball at just 21, and has quite a future ahead of him, especially if he keeps this up as he continues to creep up on unsuspecting prey.

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