In continuing with the second annual TigsTown Awards, we now move to Lakeland, where there were plenty of worthy candidates to step up and claim the awards, but only two actually proved worthy enough to be named Lakeland's prospects of the year.
Danilo Sanchez hasn't necessarily been shouting his status as a top prospect with the organization over the past couple years; but just because he's gone under the radar screen doesn't mean we haven't noticed Sanchez and his abilities. Lakeland had a potent offense from top-to-bottom, but Sanchez was always right in the middle of it, just like he emerged as the top hitter for West Michigan on the 2004 championship squad. Sanchez really came around in the summer months, with a crazy offensive onslaught in which he blasted 13 home runs in 61 games while slugging .559. Sanchez also displayed excellent patience over the course of the year, striking out just 1.37 times for each time he walked. Sanchez may not be a dominating presence, but when you lead a team full of power hitters with a .524 slugging percentage for the year, you must be doing something right, and Sanchez certainly is.
For some time, Jordan Tata was just another pitching prospect in West Michigan, having some success, much like many other pitchers that go through West Michigan. But midway through his '04 campaign, it was as if a switch flipped, and ever since then, Tata has been arguably the most dominating pitcher in the organization. Besides leading the rotation in wins (13) and strikeouts (134), Tata also sported an ERA under 3, which placed him in the top five in the Florida State League. Possibly at no point was Tata more dominant than when the team truly needed him. It was a foregone conclusion that the team would lose Justin Verlander, but when they did, Tata really stood out. Over 10 June and July starts, Tata was 7-0 with a 2.13 ERA. He's still a bit old for the league, but with the dominance that he displayed, age is secondary to absolutely dominating the opposition.