TigsTown MLN: Whitecaps Dominating the Mound

One month into the season, and the West Michigan Whitecaps have the best record of any minor league club in the organization. How have things gone so well for the young ‘Caps squad, and what will the story be on their coaching staff given the recent defection?

Of course, the big news as far as the Whitecaps are concerned came last week when hitting coach Tony Jaramillo turned in his resignation. The move came as a shock to most, but not to everyone. Jaramillo has two young children at home, and was becoming increasingly frustrated by having to live away from them for so many months.

To their credit, the Tiger organization understood Jaramillo's decision and fully supported him. Said Dan Lunetta, Tigers Director of Minor League Operations, "Tony made a personal decision that was very important to him, we support him completely."

As for his replacement, it appears it will only be a temporary move. Tom Brookens, who is slated to manage the Oneonta Tigers when short season A ball starts back up in June, will make the move to West Michigan to be the temporary replacement to Jaramillo. However, when the time comes for Brookens to prepare for Oneonta's season, Brookens will be out and the ‘Caps will likely roll through the rest of the season with just manager Matt Walbeck and pitching coach A.J. Sager.

But Walbeck is excited to have Brookens work with his hitters, even if it's for just a short period of time. Walbeck remarked about Brookens, "I'm really excited to coach with him, he coached most of these guys last year and it should be a good fit."

You probably noticed that the ‘Caps got hot as the season got going, and that is in large part due to the production of the team's starting pitching. In their final 15 games of the month, West Michigan pulled out 12 wins. And over the final two weeks care to guess how many earned runs West Michigan's five starters had total? Just nine. And what is likely a large part of their success is evident in their strikeout-to-walk ratios. The five starters (Ramon Garcia, Erik Averill, Sendy Vasquez, Burke Badenhop and Luke French) combined to carry a 3.4 K:BB ratio over those two weeks.

It's obviously tough to imagine that production continuing, but the simple fact that the club could go through any two week stretch and allow less runs than games started, it's exciting for their potential for the future.

Meanwhile the ‘Caps offense actually cooled in the latter half of the month, surprisingly enough. Among the 13 Whitecaps that saw time at the plate those same final two weeks, just three actually saw their OPS rise (Dusty Ryan, Matt Joyce, and Cory Middleton).

Ryan has especially been a pleasant surprise for the team, after last season in which everyone was very excited about his potential only to see him post .183/.255/.278 line for the ‘Caps. Some might be disappointed with how little he has played, but Walbeck has indicated that is by design, as the team wants to ensure that Ryan doesn't have too much thrown at him that might hurt his confidence, which obviously took a hit after last season.

Finally, to the Tigers' prized prospect Cameron Maybin, who has just about as good of a start as anyone could have possibly hoped for. Maybin is among the top ten in the Midwest League in slugging, RBI's, and OPS, and leads the club with 11 extra base hits (six doubles, four triples and a home run). Maybin's patience has been good (with an OBP more than 80 points higher than his average) and despite occasional struggles with off-speed pitches, his strikeouts haven't been astronomical (though 25 in 78 at bats certainly isn't ideal as it projects to nearly 180 over a full season).

Next week's Tuesday notebook will take a closer look at the Lakeland Tigers and how they've been performing.

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