It of course all starts with the pitching staff, where the SeaWolves boast the organization's top three pitching prospects, and would likely have the fourth as well if not for the unfortunate Tommy John surgery that will keep Kyle Sleeth sidelined for the remainder of the year, and leading into next season.
The three that you can get a glimpse of though are Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya and Humberto Sanchez. Sanchez is still working his way back from injury, but Verlander and Zumaya have proven to be in top form.
Zumaya, still just 20 years old, leads the Eastern League in strikeouts and has continued to improve the two roadblocks that he had encountered up through this year; his stamina and his control. He's been able to do this while maintaining the velocity on his fastball, his big ticket item to the majors.
Verlander meanwhile has simply blown the socks off the competition. Many predicted that once he moved up to Double-A ball and faced more advanced hitters he'd begin to undergo some struggles. That hasn't happened yet, as Verlander has pitched 14 shutout innings which earned him Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors.
Both pitchers are impressive, and Zumaya has more experience at the level, but at this rate it appears as if Verlander may very well have jumped on the fast track to the majors, and a September call-up is seemingly more and more possible with each dominating week. That shouldn't be a negative towards Zumaya though, as he'll likely get the opportunity to challenge for a big league rotation spot next spring (and he certainly can't be ruled out for a few big league appearances come September either).
Moving on to someone that has already gotten plenty of experience in Detroit; Nate Cornejo will finally return to the mound on Wednesday night as he gets the start. Cornejo has sat out the past two weeks with a tired arm, which the Tigers are attempting to write off as Cornejo just returning too soon from surgery.
Unfortunately, there could be deeper issues here. In Cornejo's last start, his velocity was all the way down to 82 mph, the level he was pitching at last spring before going under the knife. This start will be telling, as if Cornejo's velocity doesn't get back up, it could be a sign that Cornejo's arm has simply endured too much, and he'll likely never be the pitcher he once was. If that happens, it would be an extremely sad tale for a pitcher with so much promise – and while there is no real way of tackling such a subject besides simply stating the fact – the blame should fall squarely on the Smith's (Randy and Greg), for working a young arm far too much.
Finally, while the pitchers are getting all the credit, the infield certainly isn't something to be down on. The infield possesses plenty of talent as well. In fact, all four members of the Erie infield currently rank among the Tigers top 30 prospects, being released this week. They may not bring the same firepower that last year's team did, but it should present a fun final two months for the SeaWolves' faithful.