TigsTown Fall Notebook: AFL Kicks Off

With four fall leagues underway, there is plenty to update on heading into the week, with the Arizona Fall League getting started. Plus, who is surging in the Hawaii Winter League with another monster week?

Top prospect Cameron Maybin has gotten off to a rough start with Peoria in the Arizona Fall League. After going 1-for-3 with a double in his fall debut, Maybin has gone 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in two games since that time. With so much time on the bench in Detroit at the end of the regular season, it is possible Maybin needs to shake off some rust. Watch closely to see if he bounces back from his big league struggles.

Along with Maybin in the AFL, both Jeff Larish and Michael Hollimon have had bright spots in their first week. Through four games, Larish is only two for thirteen, but his hits have been timely, and he has driven in runs without the benefit of reaching base himself. The AFL is traditionally a hitter's paradise, so look for Jeff's numbers to rebound as the season progresses. Michael Hollimon has picked up right where he left at Erie this season. In three games, Hollimon is 4-for-9 with a homer and two doubles. His .444 average ranks 7th in the AFL in the early going, while he ranks third in the league in slugging, and his .500 on-base percentage slots him at 10th among AFL hitters.

On the pitching side, Eddie Bonine, Jeff Gerbe, and Burke Badenhop have all seen the mound, though none of them have turned in scoreless frames. Bonine's first trip to the hill produced a save despite giving up a run on two hits. In his second outing, Eddie again allowed a run on two hits. Badenhop was saddled with the loss in the season's second game, as he gave up a run on three hits, while striking out two in his one inning of work.

Moving on to the Hawaii Winter League, Dusty Ryan finally recorded his first hit of the season. After a lengthy stretch without a base knock, Ryan's single on Saturday broke the slide. Jeramy Laster on the other hand, has simply exploded in the Pacific. On the week, Laster posted an impressive 8-for-22 stretch with three home runs, two doubles, and a triple, along with ten runs driven in. He has now taken the league lead in home runs, with four; while also leading the league in slugging and RBI.

Utility infielder Max Leon and the Tomateros have started their Mexican Pacific League season by winning four of their first five matchups. Leon has yet to take the field for Culiacan, while former Tiger Karim Garcia has slugged two home runs already. Also participating in the MPL is Tiger prospect Jeremy Johnson. Once on the fast track to Detroit, Johnson has been beset by numerous arm injuries over the last several seasons. Working in the rotation for Yaquis de Obregon, Johnson is 1-0 after his first start; going six strong innings, allowing only two runs and striking out one.

The Venezuelan Winter League finally got underway this week, and there are plenty of Tigers participating, as usual. Caribes de Oriente has the most Tiger players suiting up for them, with Steve Torrealba, Omar Infante, Andres Torres, Lester Oliveros and Gorkys Hernandez having all seen time already.

While Torrealba and Torres could well be with other teams in 2008, we will continue to track them here. Torres' presence has pushed Gorkys Hernandez over to right field, but make not mistake, his future is in the center of the outfield. Infante is off to a rocky start with only 2 RBI and two walks through his first three appearances, while not recording a hit. Oliveros blew a save Sunday, giving up a hit and a walk in one inning of work. Also on the roster, though unlikely to see time due to injury, is reliever Orlando Perdomo.

Shortstop Carlos Guillen and outfielder David Espinosa are both on the Navegantes del Magallanes roster. Guillen has yet to take the field, while Espinosa is 0-for-3 with a walk in two games. David could certainly use a solid performance this winter to rebound from a miserable season at Toledo. With Tiburones de la Guaira, Jackson Melian will be splitting his time between the outfield and DH. In his first game of the year, Melian went 1-for-3 with an RBI, and followed that up by going 0-for-3 with a run scored in his second. Lastly, pitchers Yorman Bazardo and Jason Karnuth will be toeing the rubber for Tigres de Aragua; though neither has taken the mound in the first few games.

Quick Hits: Shortstop Cale Iorg has left the Hawaiian League with a hamstring injury. It is not considered overly serious, but he has been replaced on the North Shore roster by second round pick Danny Worth who went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter in his debut……Former Tiger prospect Anthony Claggett is pitching in the HWL, and has a 1-1 record with a 3.38 ERA in eight innings……Brewers first round pick Matt Laporta has resumed his slugging ways, knocking a triple and two home runs in his first few AFL games……Several top prospects have already taken the field in Venezuela, attempting to continue their progress; some of the names include Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow, Pirates pitcher Sean Burnett, and Yankees outfielder Jose Tabata……Former Tiger reliever Wilfredo Ledezma will be pitching for Bravos de Margarita this winter, though he has yet to hit the field……The Dominican Winter League will be the final fall/winter league to begin play, starting their season Wednesday, October 17th.

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