TigsTown MLN: The O-Tigers

Every summer shortly after the MLB Amateur Draft, the New York-Penn League gets underway, and the Tigers get to show off some of their newest players. This season is no exception, as the Tigers have loaded up their lineup, which has helped propel the team to first place in the Stedler division.

The O-Tigers are in first place, and it's no real secret as to why. They're the only club in the NYPL that has a total team OPS over .700, and they also lead the league in runs and runs per game; they're the only team in triple digits with 102 runs, and at 5.36 runs/game, they're almost half a run better than the next best.

It really shouldn't be a surprise considering the talent the Tigers have assembled in upstate New York. That all starts with outfielder Brennan Boesch, who was arguably the best all-around hitter that the Tigers got in last month's draft.

Boesch has taken little time to adjust, ripping 11 extra base hits already, including five over the past week. Boesch also ranks fifth in the NYPL in RBI with 16, as he's been the club's biggest run producer. Boesch hasn't shown a ton of patience, but he's not striking out a ton either, so his contact rate has remained solid. The Tigers are hoping Boesch will turn the corner better than their 3rd round outfielder of a couple years ago, Jeff Frazier has – Frazier's OPS has bottomed out at .607. Here's a very disappointing stat – since the end of April, Frazier is SLUGGING just .267.

One player that hasn't put up the same power but has been impressive nonetheless has been second rounder Ronnie Bourquin. Bourquin was a bit of a surprise selection in the second round, as many felt he didn't have the ceiling to warrant that high of a pick. Bourquin likely doesn't have an incredible ceiling, but he's very polished, and knows how to hit. Bourquin has amassed 13 walks in just 60 at bats, and compare that to just 15 strikeouts, and Bourquin's been off to a solid start as well.

Another hitter that wasn't the highly regarded player the other two were, but has been productive to start the year has been Jeff Kunkel. Kunkel, who was signed as a DFE after finishing his career at Michigan this past spring, hasn't gotten a ton of playing time, but is making the case to get more. Through Saturday, he had gotten into just five games, but was posting an OPS of nearly 1.000, simply by making good contact and taking a couple walks. He'll have to battle recent draftee Jordan Newton for playing time, but he's off to a nice start.

Of course, while the offense has been impressive, they haven't been the only group off to a good start.

Tom Thornton has been one starter (and another recent draft pick) off to a good start, posting a 1.64 ERA but not yet recording a decision. With a WHIP of just 1.18 and a better than 2:1 K:BB ratio, Thornton is bound to break into the win column sooner rather than later.

But Thornton's line brings up an interesting sticking point. More and more each season, the Tigers are becoming increasingly more cautious with pitchers that have already undergone a full college season. While some fans clamor for the old days when pitchers would pitch every 4th day and post 300 innings, that logic seems to be a thing of the past. Teams invest far too much money now in prized arms to risk them.

The true revelation has come not in so much that team's need to limit innings, but rather, teams need to limit how deep pitchers go into games. Statistics have shown that by far the most abuse to an arm is done when a pitcher consistently goes well over the 100 pitch mark – and in turn, teams are looking to avoid that at all costs.

The long story short means that the Tigers are keeping strict pitch counts on all of their arms that have already pitched a full season, keeping them active, but also trying to avoid injury.

One final stat line to note has been Brett Jensen. The Cornhusker from Nebraska has pitched in seven games, and converted a perfect seven-for-seven save opportunities. More than a strikeout per inning, no earned runs allowed, and the Tigers are suddenly optimistic that they may have snagged themselves another gem relief prospect, much like Kevin Whelan last season, even if Jensen doesn't have the same impressive repertoire.

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