Marcus Thames has done this to us before. Yet again in July, Thames destroyed International League pitching to the tune of a .363/.455/.700 line. Despite this incredible performance, it is a little tough for fans to get too excited, considering his well publicized struggles in Detroit. In conjunction with Marcus' great month, top prospect Curtis Granderson also took it to his opponents, giving Thames a run for his money. Despite past failures at the Major League level, we can still hope this AAA dominance by Thames will someday transfer to the next level.
As has been discussed before, it is not often that we have repeat winners for our player or pitcher of the month awards. Well, it has now happened twice, with both prospects coming from the Erie Seawolves. Following the lead of former teammate Joel Zumaya, first baseman Juan Tejeda experienced his second straight electric month. Tejeda finished July with a .345/.380/.575 line in 113 at-bats. Now that Juan is past his early season injury troubles, his offensive numbers are exploding, practically forcing the Tigers player development crew to take notice.
After a month in which Danilo Sanchez had little competition for his Player of the Month Award in June, and following the lead of the Lakeland pitchers; three L-Tigers hitters made the decision incredibly difficult. Defending winner, Danilo Sanchez posted a .344/.425/.484 line, while outfielder Brent Clevlen notched a .354/.458/.566 line. Taking home the award this month though is former draft-and-follow signee Garth McKinney. Garth has struggled with controlling the strike zone in recent years, but last month he only struck out 24 times in 24 games, while finishing with a .321/.398/.642 line. McKinney has had huge months in the past, but there is a feeling around Lakeland that some of this progress may be sustainable this time around.
Well, we finally got to see the real Jeff Frazier. We finally got to see the Jeff Frazier we were hoping would show up back in April. While Frazier struggled to hit .250 for the first three months of the season, and hadn't cracked .400 for his slugging percentage, July was an exciting month for this top prospect. In 115 at-bats, Jeff posted a .357/.415/.522 line. Frazier was expected to hit for average and moderate power this season, something he's finally starting to show. With a crowded outfield in Lakeland, it is unlikely Frazier will get the opportunity to move up this season, but the Tigers could push him aggressively in 2006.
Looking at the Oneonta Tigers, several of the recent college draftees, and two of the returning prospects put forth incredible efforts during July. At the top of the heap was Oral Roberts graduate Michael Holliman. Holliman finished with a .351/.457/.691 line and eight homeruns in only 24 games. Holliman's power display has been impressive considering the pitcher friendly confines prevalent throughout the New York-Penn League. A power spike like this would be exciting for any prospect, but as a shortstop, Holliman's offensive exploits are even more impressive. With such an impressive start to his career, Michael is setting some lofty expectations. For the sake of the organization, let's hope he keeps meeting those expectations.
The GCL Tigers featured another impressive power display from a recent college draft choice. Towson State outfielder Casper Wells was considered a bit of a raw player, and his initial power display has show that he could be finding his stroke. In 22 games, Wells knocked 7 doubles, 4 triples, and 3 homeruns, while still managing to draw 12 walks. The only drawbacks being the 38 strikeouts and seemingly low .254 batting average. But, with a final line of .254/.384/.592, it is really nitpicking to call those concerns.
After an incredible month, filled with high batting averages, impressive power displays, and general improvement by many of the system's top offensive prospects, it may be difficult for August to keep up. If many of the prospects can continue their success, the overall depth of the organization will start to become a strength, rather than a glaring weakness. The remainder of the season will certainly be interesting to watch, as a result of these recent performances.