Minor League Players of the Month: May

May was not a kind month to the Tigers, as the offense went dormant for a significant stretch, and the team fell further below .500. The rebound began as June was around the corner, now we have to hope a few of April's minor league shining starts follow suit. After some stellar starts to the season, many of last months award winners crashed back to earth in a big way; let's hope that trend does not continue with May's recipients.

As Toledo continues to battle with Indianapolis for first place in the International League's West Division, Jack Hannahan decided to do his part in helping the team win some games. Always considered a Rolen-esque defender at the hot corner, Jack finally started to come around offensively last season. After a solid, if unspectacular April, Hanahan went crazy as the weather got warmer, posting a .350/.416/.538 line for the Mudhens. With a slightly improved walk rate and few extra balls flying out of the park, Hanahan put together a very nice month, forcing many to take notice and consider him a real possibility down the road.

After a very unheralded season for the Lakeland Tigers in 2004, Chris Maples came into the 2005 campaign with something to prove. Well, he started proving it a bit in May, flashing a .290/.372/.486 line, featuring 9 doubles and 4 homeruns in 29 games, earning him Player of the Month honors for Erie. Chris is one of the more versatile players in the Tiger's system, allowing himself to squeeze into the lineup on a daily basis, no matter who else is playing for the Seawolves. Despite being a couple years older than most of his competition, if Maples can continue to hit at the rate he displayed in May, he could become a legitimate option should the Tigers need some help in a utility role.

Scott Tousa is not what you would consider a prototypical prospect, in fact, some don't even consider him a prospect at all. Forced to take a step back in 2005, after two years with the Erie Seawolves, Tousa reported to High-A Lakeland this year, where he has done exactly what a 25-year old should do in the Florida State League; absolutely rake. After an impressive first month to the season with limited playing time, Scott forced his way into the lineup, posting a .359/.450/.424 line for the L-Tigers. As Lakeland continues their torrid pace in the FSL, Tousa might be one of the more underappreciated reasons for their success. While the younger players keep hitting and gaining praise, Scott sits in the background and does whatever the team needs of him. If he keeps doing that, he could be back in Erie sometime soon.

Despite a good fight from third baseman Wilkin Ramirez, the West Michigan Player of the Month Award for May goes to shortstop Brent Dlugach. Drafted out of Memphis as a defense-first player, Dlugach struggled slightly during April, only to turn it on in May. Finishing the month with a .316/.353/.463 line, and 20 RBI in 24 games, Dlugach helped lead the West Michigan offense. So far, Brent is following the lead set forth by another recent defense-first draft choice, shortstop Tony Giarratano. Tiger fans can only hope Dlugach finds as much success as Tony has so far in his career.

The Tigers' minor league system continued their winning ways in May, posting a .568 combined winning percentage, with only West Michigan finishing the month with an overall record below .500. With the Tigers hovering around the break even point, it is nice to see some potential help on the way from the minor league system. The true test of a system in dire need of some positives will be how long they can keep up some of these great performances, and if some April's top performers can rebound with good summers.

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