Starting with the organization's – and one of baseball's – top pitching prospects, the strong Erie pitching staff was led by 2006 first rounder Andrew Miller. After two dominant May starts for the Lakeland Flying Tigers, it was clear Miller was ready for another challenge, one that would come with a tour through the Eastern League. In three AA starts, the lefty notched a 0.78/0.83 line while only walking a hair over one batter per nine innings. Miller's dominant month has garnered calls for his permanent promotion to Detroit, where there are hopes that he could replicate his six innings of shutout ball against the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The VSL Tigers staff was paced by closer Lester Oliveros, whose 0.82 ERA and 5 saves put him among the VSL leaders at this early juncture of the season. In his eleven innings, Lester managed to allow less than six hits per nine innings, while striking out nearly 15 batters per nine. Oliveros appears to be making a case that he believes he should have been brought stateside for the 2007 campaign.
The Toledo Mud Hens started to get the pitching they expected heading into the season, led by the newly acquired Yorman Bazardo. Bazardo rang up a 3.71 ERA over five starts, going 2-1 along the way. In addition, he posted a 1.39 WHIP, and only allowed one home run in over 26 innings of work. Despite his success out of the bullpen over the winter, Bazardo has made a case that he could be a viable rotation option down the line, and is also making a case to contribute in Detroit if the injuries continue to mount in the Tigers' bullpen.
The Lakeland rotation was paced by lefty Lucas French last month, as he has finally started turning his previous High School All-American talent into tangible on-field results. After a solid opening month, only bested by Burke Badenhop's April dominance, French came back in May to improve his numbers across the board. His 2.70/1.31 line was impressive enough, but as he finally began to curtail his walks (2.21 BB/9 in May), he has seen his success soar. French's 2-2 record belies his success last month, and is more indicative of some offensive struggles by much of the Lakeland lineup.
Lastly, West Michigan led to a hotly contested battle for the monthly honor, with Angel Castro and Jeff Gerbe duking it out to the end. Despite his complete dominance – even after a move to the rotation – Jeff Gerbe's month just wasn't enough to overcome the sheer superiority of fellow 2006 draftee Angel Castro. In five May starts spanning 34 innings, Angel posted a 1.85 ERA that was backed up by an even 1.00 EHIP. The long ball was Castro's only nemesis last month, as he gave up three; but was successful enough at keeping runners off base, that they didn't matter too much in the long run.
With more and more pitchers emerging with dominating performances, the Tigers are further cementing their reputation as one of the few organizations that can routinely develop pitchers of Major League quality. May's numbers indicate yet again that you can never tell with pitchers are going to step forward from one month to the next. Even if you never know which pitcher to pay attention to, I don't think you'll hear the Tigers or their fans complaining.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.