TigsTown MLN: Everything's Moving

All in all it's been a quiet week for the Lakeland Tigers as they get into the heart of their season and start to see the team as a whole come back to Earth. But, which starter is shining more than the rest, and which infielder keeps hitting, when he was on his way to becoming a bench-rider just 12 months ago.

Starting with roster moves, there was nothing Earth shattering. Nate Bumstead was re-activated after three days on the inactive list, and catcher Joel Roa was returned to extended spring training.

Also, reliever Mike Kobow returned to Lakeland from Erie, and in turn Lakeland opened up a roster spot by shuttling Jermy Rodriguez back once again to extended spring training. It's the third such shift for Rodriguez already this year, as he continues to be moved back and forth, though at least for his sake, there's no real moving required as he remains in Lakeland.

But that earlier mentioned starting pitcher is turning heads despite being a relative unknown in the baseball world. Bumstead was selected in the 32nd round last year as an essential afterthought, but thus far has pitched like anything but that.

Bumstead is currently 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA, striking out 49 batters while walking just 24. The numbers are strong, but that has been more impressive is the way he's gone about it.

Unlike his teammate Justin Verlander, Bumstead doesn't have much velocity on his fastball, as it regularly sits in the mid to high 80's. But while his heat may not turn heads, what is making batters pause is the incredible movement on virtually everything he throws toward the plate.

One scout remarked after watching Bumstead throw that he could become a very reliable reliever down the road, because it's impossible to figure out in just one at bat where exactly his ball is going. Yet another made the comparison to Matt Clement, saying he has "all the movement without the same velocity." Needless to say, the Tigers might have found themselves a steal in this Louisiana State product.

And onto that hitter that was on his way out of any prospect regard, Juan Francia spent two full seasons in West Michigan without garnering a promotion, and in 2004 was sent there again, except that time around was relegated to utility infielder. His future looked bleak, that is until Tony Giarratano got promoted, opening up shortstop again. Francia went on to hit .320 with 37 steals.

He's kept that up this season, currently hitting at a .332 clip. His on base percentage has also been a bit of a pleasant surprise, as he's getting on base at an even .400, led by 21 walks (that's just over one walk for every 10 at bats). Francia also is second in the Florida State League in steals, having just swiped his 20th base of the year on Wednesday. A remarkable turnaround for the young man from the Dominican Republic.

And finally, we finish it up with a rarely mentioned utility player who has come out of nowhere to jump up to 5th in the FSL in batting. Scott Tousa is clearly making the most of his opportunity getting everyday playing time. At 25, he may very well be past prospect status, but that hasn't stopped him from taking playing time from Eric Rodland, and at times even forcing Francia over to second base while taking over at shortstop. This undrafted University of Michigan product may not be a future star, but he's helping drive the L-Tigers and helping keep them atop the West division in the FSL.


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