TigsTown MLN: Toledo's Crowded Outfield

Toledo has overcome the loss of their ace and their top hitter all the while strengthening their division lead, which has now been stretched to 4.5 games. But might they be close to losing another bat out of the lineup? Plus, which outfielder has done so well, he's played himself right to the bench?

When Curtis Granderson started the season off slow, there were concerns that possibly Granderson received just a bit too much hype in 2004, and that his numbers if anything were a product of the park he played in as opposed to the development of his power.

But now as we reach the three quarter point of the season, it appears as if those concerns were unwarranted. In fashion much like last year, Granderson has heated up as the season has progressed, hitting 10 of his 13 home runs since June 1st. Over that stretch, Granderson is also second on the team with 31 RBI, trailing only Carlos Pena. This is another impressive stat if for no other reason than Granderson has remained a fixture atop the lineup, and rarely does the 1 or 2 hitter in the lineup get a lot of RBI opportunities.

Of course, the possibility exists that a trade could be made at the big league level, sending Rondell White (a soon-to-be free agent) out of town. The move, which would likely be for a prospect or two, would open up a starting spot in the Tigers' outfield, and that spot could very well be filled with Granderson. The only real concern with Granderson has been his rising strikeout numbers, as even though he's still walking a good amount (.353 OBP), his strikeouts are now up to 109 (in just 367 at bats).

That shouldn't stop the Tigers though from giving their top prospect an extended look down the stretch in 2005 to prepare him for ‘The Show' in 2006.

Another outfielder isn't quite in the same boat as Granderson, yet still has plenty of major league potential is David Espinosa. Espinosa unfortunately had the luck of getting promoted to Toledo, then have Alexis Gomez and Marcus Thames returned to the team, taking the other two available outfield spots.

Making matters worse, there are some in the organization that still like Dewayne Wise's tools, relegating Espinosa to the role of fifth outfielder currently. It's not the ideal situation for a developing player like Espinosa, who needs to be getting playing time on a daily basis, but at the same time, he's proven that he can handle Double-A pitching and would likely grow little if returned to Erie. So, for the time being Espinosa is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

One final player who is actually making waves and noise despite no prospect status what-so-ever is Vic Darensbourg. Darensbourg, Toledo's All Star representative, has a virtually spotless 0.31 ERA in 42 appearances, making him arguably the top middle reliever in the entire International League this year. He's also allowed just seven of 42 inherited runners to score, yet another impressive statistic.

Darensbourg still isn't a prospect, but may force the Tigers (or another big league team) to give him a look even at 34 years old, simply because of the outstanding numbers he has put up in 2005.


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