TigsTown Pitchers of the Month: June

Contrary to the difficulty in finding hitters worthy of monthly awards, June provided pitchers worthy of consideration at every stop. Looking through the numbers each month, it is blatantly obvious that Dave Dombrowski intends to center his continued rebuilding effort on pitching. Relievers and starters alike are putting up obscene numbers; numbers that look reminiscent of a video game.

Starting at the organization's top minor league rung, we find a familiar name dominating from the mound. In five starts for AAA-Toledo, fast rising prospect Humberto Sanchez notched a 4-1 record with a 2.05 ERA, and nearly three strikeouts for every walk. Including one outing at Erie to start the month, Sanchez finished June with a 1.86 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and nearly 8.5 K/9. Sanchez has certainly established himself as the big time starter many have envisioned for years, and as a result, he takes home his third award in three months, this season. If Humberto is able to maintain this success beyond the All-Star break, the Tigers may find themselves with a wonderful quandary come time for a playoff push; too many good pitchers to find innings for.

In much the same fashion as Sanchez, 20-year old Jair Jurrjens garnered himself his third award of the year. This time, the award comes after logging a 2-0 record, 2.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and nearly eight strikeouts per nine innings, in three starts for AA Erie. Combined with two more outstanding outings at Lakeland, prior to his promotion, and Jurrjens is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with among pitching prospects. In seasons past, many questions his ability to continually get more advanced hitters out, but Jair is doing his best to dispel those doubts with a dominating start to his AA stint. Few pitchers this young are able to dominate such an advanced level, so don't be surprised if the awards keep rolling in for the native from Curacao.

The Lakeland Tigers have had their ups and downs this season, and accordingly, closer Kevin Whelan has had some rough patches as well. Fortunately, that was May, and now we're talking about June, a month where Whelan was positively dominating. In twelve appearances for the L-Tigers, the Texas A&M product yielded only four hits (read that again), while striking out over 14 batters per nine innings. Whelan's June dominance has renewed hope that he may be able to shoot up the organizational ladder in time to get a taste of the big leagues in 2007. Kevin has the stuff to dominate hitters for long stretches, he just lacks consistency. Check back in July to see if he can continue his success, and possibly repeat as TigsTown Pitcher of the Month.

At some point in the year, you have to figure that a player who allows only one run in 36 innings, will win a few awards. That time has come for West Michigan reliever Anthony Claggett. Claggett has been filthy since the opening of the season, but has been overshadowed by otherworldly performances by some of his fellow ‘Caps pitchers. His season line reads like something straight out of a video game; 4-1, 28 games, 36 innings, 22 hits, 1 earned run, 11 walks, 36 strikeouts, a 0.25 ERA, and 0.92 WHIP. The Tigers drafted Claggett as a bit of a project due to his inexperience on the mound, but his progress this season has been of record proportions. If this type of performance is maintained throughout the season's second half, Claggett may vault himself up not only the organizational ladder, but also prospect lists across the country.

Detroit has focused on acquiring top notch pitching talent since the new regime took office a few years ago, and the benefits are becoming increasingly apparent. Not a month goes by where multiple outstanding performances are not up for consideration at each minor league level. The Tigers have power arms coming out of their ears, and hitters throughout the minor leagues are paying the price. Keep an eye out through July to see which pitcher becomes the next in a line of pitchers to dominate his league this season.

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