Truth be told, people were likely hoping for more from the GCL Tigers, especially after a strong start where they were leading the division with an 8-3 record through the first few weeks of the season. But then things started to take a turn for the worse, and the rookie club fell all the way to the bottom of the division at 24-30, though they were just a game and a half out of second place, should the Tigers look to find a moral victory.
Hope was high for the team, especially considering the presence of a pair of very impressive middle infielders in Audy Ciriaco and Agustin Guzman. Both hailing from the Dominican, Ciriaco was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican, while Guzman was drafted this past June out of Baton Rouge Community College.
The production didn't quite meet up to the hype though, as the teens struggled in their first taste of pro baseball. There were certainly glimpses of promise though, including Ciriaco's .421 slugging percentage as a shortstop.
There was also a lot of hype surrounding a number of promising young catchers the Tigers were sporting down in Lakeland, including Cody Collet, Cole Miller and James Skelton. The Tigers got good production out of the catcher spot, but not from any of those three.
Instead, little known of Daniel Sandoval emerged as the team's catcher. In 30 games, Sandoval stepped up as the top hitter, sporting a .314/.351/.467 line. The 20-year old catcher also displayed solid defense and helped emerge as another option for the Tigers as far as their future backstop is concerned.
If the thought is that you put together a championship team up the middle, then the Tigers were on the right track, because centerfielder Casper Wells was right behind Sandoval in offensive production this season.
Wells, also 20 years of age, didn't have much as far as his batting average was concerned, but if you look past his .220 batting average, you'll find incredible patience, with a .341 on base percentage. If you're keeping track at home, that's a walk for every nine plate appearances, making him an excellent candidate as a leadoff hitter in the future.
When a rookie league club has a second round pick on the squad, they're typically pretty excited about his potential and ability to help out the team, as rarely does a second round pick get selected without possessing loads of potential.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the story with Eric Beattie, who has lost all control of his repertoire since being drafted by the Tigers. Beattie made ten appearances for the GCL Tigers with varying success, continually struggling to get the ball over the plate. In 10 2/3 innings, Beattie walked 30 batters and struck out just six.
There was some good news from the pitching staff though, including nice performances from starters Brendan Wise and Ramon Garcia. Wise, another recent draftee, sported a 4.87 ERA in his pro debut. Possibly what was more promising was his more than three strikeouts for each walk. Garcia led the squad with 5 wins and stepped up as the most reliable starter for the team.
Finally we wrap up with Luis Gil, who in his second run with the GCL really emerged in the rotation, leading the rotation members with a 3.04 ERA and 47 strikeouts.
Overall, it was a somewhat disappointing season for the GCL Tigers, especially having not gotten the privilege of being the home of Cameron Maybin in his first pro season. Without Maybin, the team wasn't loaded with prospects, with only Ciriaco really receiving much mention on a national basis.
However, that shouldn't be taken as a sign that the Tigers prospect group is still woefully below average, as when a team focuses almost its entire draft on the college group, often times those players will completely skip the rookie level.
But what could be more interesting is the fact that this is possibly the last year of the Gulf Coast League, with a possible complete revamping of the minor league system happening as soon as this winter.
Regardless of whether that does happen, the GCL Tigers have once again proven to be an excellent proving ground for some of the young talent in the organization. Without it, who knows whether or not anyone would have ever found out about Daniel Sandoval, or whoever may be the next big star.