Minor League Players of the Month: April

The offense has been relatively sparse for the minor league clubs this season, showing up occasionally, but largely playing a disappearing act. In spite of the over-riding offensive struggles, there were several bright spots throughout the system. Who came through as the top performers at the plate this month? Check inside to find out.

After riding the pine in Toledo during his brief stint there last year, it appears David Espinosa may have entered the 2006 season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. David opened the season by posting a .302/.413/.491 line in his first extensive taste of AAA competition. Espinosa's start continued a trend from the past two years; a trend in which he has gotten off to hot starts, only to fade in the season's second half. Here's hoping David can continue his early season success throughout the year.

Talk about a difficult decision; the process at Erie was painful, and for all the wrong reasons. The Seawolve's offense has been putrid this season, with only minor league veteran Kurt Airoso showing anything of substance. Airoso came out swinging a powerful bat this spring, logging a .277/.358/.532 line, while trying to score enough runs to help a pitching staff that pitched very well all month long. Airoso's line includes six doubles and six homeruns, along with a team leading 19 RBI.

After some hot starts at Lakeland, many of the players cooled down considerably, leaving the High-A award up for grabs. In the end, outfielder Jeff Frazier stepped up with a strong finish to snatch the award. Frazier ended the month with homeruns in the final three games, leaving him with five for the month, and a team leading 22 RBI. Frazier's .293/.333/.505 line is impressive enough that there has been some talk that he may be moving on to Erie before too long. With the offensive struggles at AA, Frazier's bat would be a welcome site. Don't be surprised if Jeff starts knocking the ball around Jerry Uht Park by the end of June.

For the second season in a row, the Tigers top pick from the year before has come out on fire (Justin Verlander in 2005). 2005 first round choice, Cameron Maybin, came out and began flashing his incredible talent on opening day with two hits (including a triple) and an outfield assist. Since that day, Maybin has continued to destroy Midwest League pitching, posting a .308/.389/.526 line with 6 doubles, 4 triples, and 1 homerun. The only blemish on Maybin's stat line is the 25 strikeouts in 78 at-bats. Overall, there is no way anyone could have expected a better start from the raw 19-year old. Watch out as the season moves on, as Maybin could get a shot at Lakeland sooner rather than later.

The Tigers haven't had much luck developing hitters in recent memory, but there are certainly several promising offensive players on the horizon. As the weather warms up, the bats should to, and I expect these decisions to get tougher as the season wears on. With some of the offenses throughout the system struggling, don't be surprised if there are a few shake-ups over the next few weeks, and many of the season's hot starters could be on the move to different levels.

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