AFL Update: Week Three

The big league club's season has finally come to an end, and the Instructional League in Lakeland wrapped up, but a handful of Tigers are still playing down in the Arizona Fall League. How are the Tigers showing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs as they pass the halfway point?

Brent Clevlen had a slow start down in Arizona, but he's slowly been picking it up, at least average-wise. Since the last update, he's raised his average more than 80 points, up to .264. And, he's continued to display excellent patience at the plate, averaging a walk less than every seven plate appearances. The only concern at this point with Clevlen has been his power, with just two extra base hits (and a .340 slugging percentage). But anyone that saw Clevlen hit, especially with the Tigers, knows he has some power in his bat.

Kody Kirkland continues to produce offensively, as he's now raised his OPS up to .916, with a .288/.397/.519 line. The only area in which the Tigers likely aren't happy with Kirkland's performance is once again in the field, as he leads the Desert Dogs with six errors. Kirkland's defense has been a concern for years, and while he's proving he can compete with the best at the plate, if he can't stay at the hot corner, a move to the outfield or first base will decrease his value.

Mike Rabelo continues to sit, having not made an appearance in more than two weeks.

Jordan Tata didn't have his best start over the past week, but only one of the four runs he let cross the plate were earned, so his ERA actually dropped from 3.00 flat to 2.70. After an impressive first game, Tata hasn't been striking out batters with any regularity; he's now showing a 7:5 K:BB ratio, which isn't desirable, even if his ERA is sub-three.

Virgil Vasquez continues to show well after a very rough first outing. In his lone start over the past week, he pitched four more shutout innings, putting together nine straight shutout innings over his last two starts. He's also second on the team with 14 2/3 innings pitched, and he's third on the Desert Dogs with 12 strikeouts. Ignoring the shaky first appearance, it's been a strong fall thus far for Vasquez.

Vasquez has been turning things around, but the same can't be said for Preston Larrison. Another tough week brought Larrison's ERA up to 7.04. Larrison's control issues are likely the biggest concern, as he's allowing just over a hit an inning, but he's also averaging nearly a walk an inning as well; and walking batters in important relief situations isn't going to make you any more reliable. Larrison is going to have to buckle down and show he can pitch from the ‘pen, if he has hopes of making it to Detroit in the near future.

Finally, Corey Hamman, who has flown under the radar for most of his Detroit career, continues to pitch well in Arizona. In 10 appearances, his ERA is just 2.25, and he's averaging a strikeout an inning. What's more, while Larrison has struggled in relief, Hamman is excelling in pressure relief situations; he leads the Desert Dogs with four holds, and has emerged as a reliable option to get the ball when the club needs to get an out.

As a team, the Phoenix Desert Dogs currently hold a 2.5 game lead in the East division, but there is still plenty of baseball to be played, as the team still has two full weeks of baseball left.

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