TigsTown Players of the Month: August

We here at TigsTown have had little trouble finding pitchers worthy of our monthly awards, and for once, we ran into a similar problem on the offensive side of the ball. The month of August was kind to the bats throughout the system, as many players pounded the ball all over the yard. Check inside to see who topped them all at each level.

The Toledo offense was alive and kicking in August, with three players posting OPS' around .850, and two other players hovering around the magical 1.000 mark. Topping them all, and later rewarded with a recall to Detroit, was outfielder Alexis Gomez. Not only did Gomez post a .314/.374/.667 line through 26 games with the ‘Hens, but he also displayed exceptional defense, and the leadership necessary to catapult Toledo back into the International League chase. Gomez has had an underrated season in 2006, and deserves the chance he'll get with Detroit in September.

Every so often, a much-maligned player steps up and posts an incredible month. In August, that player was Erie's Chris Maples. Maples has routinely been overlooked by prospect mavens, and has had to wait patiently for his chance to shine. That chance came last month, with a .339/357/.634 month that included 9 doubles, 8 homeruns, and 25 RBI in 29 games. Chris has the ability to play virtually everywhere on the diamond, including pitcher; but with an offensive display such as this, he is likely to get more chances to swing the stick. In much the same fashion as Gomez, Maples was promoted to AAA-Toledo for the remainder of the 2006 season.

After winning successive monthly awards in May and June, first baseman Jeff Larish sort of disappeared in July, only to burst back on the scene in a huge way last month. Jeff walked as much as he struck out, knocked 6 doubles, 2 homeruns, and even stole three bases, en route to a .312/.442/.468 month. Despite a less than stellar batting average, Larish has quietly established himself as one of Detroit's premier offensive prospects, and should face a stiff challenge at AA in 2007.

For once, top prospect Cameron Maybin decided to let some of his teammates enjoy the spotlight in August. With that chance, Justin Justice leapt in and put his skills on display. Justice has always been considered a raw, 5-tool player since the Tigers made him a DFE signee out of Lake Sumter Community College in 2004, and this season, those tools seems to be coming to the surface. In August, Justin logged an impressive .364/.423/.591 line that included 7 doubles, 2 triples, and 3 homeruns. With that performance, Justice had raised his season line to .299/.362/.440 at the end of August.

Since the middle of June, the O-Tigers have been pounding the ball, and battering their New York-Penn League competition into submission. That type of offensive display was never more evident than last month, where James Skelton, Scott Sizemore, Ronnie Bourquin, and Louis Ott all posted outstanding months. Despite the stiff competition, the Tigers third round pick this year (Bourquin) rose to the top. Bourquin has long been known for his ability to draw a walk, but August saw him add the ability to hit for average as well as power. In the end, Ronnie notched a .310/.434/.460 line that has scouts and fans wondering if he can maintain such an impressive run.

It is often difficult to find big time power on display in the GCL. Most players in the league have tons of power potential, but haven't quite figured out how to translate that to game situations. That wasn't the case with first baseman Chris Carlson. Carlson has been on a tear since turning pro, and he didn't slow down in August, finishing with a .339/.406/.581 line. With 6 doubles and 3 more homeruns, Carlson defended his July crown, and raised his season totals to .311/.393/.588, with 11 homeruns, 16 doubles, and 47 RBI in 49 games. That type of performance will put him right in the thick of the GCL Player of the Year race.

The DSL Tigers have struggled to find offense all season long, having been carried by their pitching staff, but August saw outfielder Jose Cruz step up and perform in a big way. The speedy Cruz swiped four bases in five attempts, giving him 16 in 19 on the year, and finished with a .320/.452/.333 line for the month. Even with little power, Cruz has demonstrated his ability to get on base with relative ease, logging more walks than strikeouts in every month this season.

The offensive performances from last month are encouraging for the future of the Tigers farm system, and they leave hope that the 2007 season will see a leap forward by many of the younger hitters. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks, as some of these August studs may take home the yearly hardware for their respective teams.

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