As far as West Michigan is concerned, it's likely going to be in their hands from this point forward. They've snagged virtually every arm available away from Oneonta, as almost their entire bullpen is made up of pitchers that either were in Oneonta or were destined to be sent there had it not been for the need of the Whitecaps.
West Michigan has also gotten a boost at the plate, with the additions of recent draft picks Clete Thomas and Chris Robinson, helping solidify two positions that had been shaky all year long. Now, it's simply on the ability of the ‘Caps to leapfrog past South Bend (who they currently are tied with for the division lead). With still 24 games left, anything can happen.
Lakeland on the other hand is already set for the 2005 playoffs, but one concern that might haunt them is their ever-shaky bullpen. Lakeland has currently lost five straight games, and four of those the losses are attributed to members of the Lakeland ‘pen (though Daniel Zell, normally a reliever, did get a spot start and took the loss in one of those).
Nate Bumstead and Jordan Tata obviously are not a concern, and Josh Kauten impressed in his first start in high-A ball. Jermy Rodriguez and Kevin McDowell aren't quite as impressive, but they'll likely be shifted to the bullpen anyway when the playoffs roll around.
As for relief, Zell and fellow reliever Brian Rogers both sport ERA's under 2, and Eulogio DeLa Cruz has a cannon for an arm (though still struggles at times). Lakeland appears to be solid enough; they just can't afford to have the bullpen let up come playoff time.
As for the entire Lakeland Tigers team, the casual fan might be getting extremely excited about the makeup of this team; with them having won the Midwest League last year, and much of the same group targeting a similar goal this year. But looking behind the numbers, the picture isn't quite as pretty.
24. 24. 25. 23. 22. 23. 22. 21. Those are the ages of the group of guys that get most of the playing time for Lakeland. At this stage, 21 is an ideal age, 22 is acceptable, and 23 starts to get old. The L-Tigers currently have just one player that fits the ideal (Brent Clevlen), with the rest a bit old for the league they're competing in.
23. 23. That's the age of Lakeland's aces, Jordan Tata and Nate Bumstead. So, while they're dominating the competition, they're also a year or two older than much of the competition that they're facing.
This shouldn't downplay the accomplishments of these young men, this is more or less a wake-up call going out to those that might point to this team as the future savior for a Detroit Tigers club that has been starving for home grown prospects for quite some time.