TigsTown MLN: West Michigan's Sophomore Slump

West Michigan continues to battle away in the Midwest League as they struggle through their youth and inexperience. But what is the real source of the Whitecaps' struggles this year? Hint: it has something to do with Greg Smith's final draft with the ‘Caps.

But before delving into the Whitecaps' struggles, some housecleaning business needs to be taken care of. Tony Peralta was placed on the disabled list earlier this week, as the team called up Lavon Lewis from extended spring training and placed him in the ‘Caps bullpen. Peralta was struggling on the mound (1-2, 7.71 ERA) and was having some shoulder troubles, so the organization will shut him down and let him work his way back slowly.

Lewis was drafted back in 2003 by the Tigers, and has been used almost exclusively as a starter in the organization. However, without an obvious rotation spot available, Lewis is likely to be starting out in the bullpen.

And on to some good news, the Midwest League announced its All Stars, and four ‘Caps have been named to the squad. Wilkin Ramirez was named the team's starting designated hitter, while shortstop Brent Dlugach was also named to the team as a reserve infielder. Among the pitchers, the Whitecaps had ace Jair Jurrjens named to the team, as well as reliever Anthony Tomey, who is currently sporting an average against of just .172.

Onto the struggles, one notable player that has been missing from the team is Eric Beattie, the organization's second round pick last year. Beattie was labeled a sinker/slider pitcher with good control who should move quickly through the system. Instead, more than a year since being selected by the Tigers, Beattie has yet to appear in a professional game, as he remains in extended spring training.

Beattie is one of the most confusing stories of the year, as he has quickly fallen off the radar (and down the prospect charts). The Tigers insist he's making progress, but at last check, he was still doing mostly bullpen only sessions with no batter in the box, so he's certainly not quite where the Tigers were hoping.

Beattie has obviously been a huge disappointment, but he's not the only one. Third round pick Jeff Frazier had a great start to the season last year with Oneonta, but that ended quickly with a broken hand. The Tigers were excited about his potential this season (one unnamed source even went as far as to say he expected .300-30-100 season from Frazier), but so far, things haven't gone according to plan.

Frazier has struggled mightily in spacious Fifth Third Ballpark, hitting just .230 with a .665 OPS. No one is exactly quite sure what to attribute Frazier's struggles to as he's still being very patient at the plate (27 walks, 35 strikeouts). But in any case, without his bat, West Michigan doesn't quite have the firepower to take on the Midwest League.

Of course, last year's draft wasn't a complete bust. After a scare to start the year, Andrew Kown is back on the mound and pitching well (despite his 2-6 record). Dlugach as mentioned earlier has made the League's All Star team. Collin Mahoney has shown progress with his control since last season. The outlook would just be a bit better if the aforementioned two were turning heads by impressing, rather than turning heads and making people wonder.


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