Lakeland's recent five game win streak has propelled them over .500 for the first time since the early stages of the season, and their perfect May to this point can be largely attributed to the bats coming alive. While the pitching has been strong for much of the season, the bats have been leaving something to be desired.
But so far in May, the offense has been averaging seven runs per game. Justin Justice moving into the leadoff role has been a huge help. Over the five game stretch, Justice is hitting .455, also walked three times, and scored six runs.
Justice being in the leadoff role came about when Cale Iorg was suspended. There was no official announcement on the details of the suspension, and TigsTown will not speculate, however, suffice it to say we do not believe the problem to be either something to watch down the line or something indicative of future problems.
What some fans are bringing up as a casual concern though is the production thus far of top prospect Rick Porcello. Despite picking up his second win on Monday (an outing that lowered his ERA to 1.98), some are expressing concern over his raw numbers, especially his low strikeout totals.
At the moment, Porcello has 22 strikeouts vs. 12 walks, resulting in 5.5 K's per nine innings, and a 1.8 K:BB ratio. Some fans are concerned that if Porcello is the dominating force he's being proclaimed to be, why is he not striking out the opposition in short order.
Long story short; this is nothing to be concerned over. Would the Tigers like a few more strikeouts? Of course. But Porcello's main role is to get outs and put the team in position to win ballgames. In seven starts, Porcello has never surrendered more than three earned runs.
On top of that, he's among the best in the entire Florida State League. His ERA puts him in the top ten among all FSL pitchers, his 1.02 WHIP trails only Luis Marte on the team, and his .191 batting average against clearly shows that even if he's not getting strike outs, he's not giving up plenty of hits.
These numbers show exactly what everyone expected; that being the Porcello is truly one of the top prospects in the game, but isn't quite yet big league ready – which is perfectly acceptable. Porcello is just 19-years-old, and his Lakeland starts make up his entire resume of pro appearances. Porcello is talented, but don't expect the world out of him after just a handful of appearances.
Finally, there has been some recent discussion about Luis Marte and his future after his impressive start (besting Porcello's numbers in many areas). Despite being in the rotation now, many project him to move to the bullpen. The verdict? It's likely too early to tell. Marte certainly fits the mold of former Tiger farmhands like Eulogio de la Cruz that would indicate he's likely 'pen bound, but Marte has three pitches (a plus-fastball, plus both a curveball and change-up that are a work in progress). If both can develop, and Marte can continue to be effective over long stretches, the Tigers would be hard pressed to move him out of the starting rotation. At the same time, no one would be surprised if he eventually moves into a setup/closer's role once he has gotten some more innings under his belt.
News and Notes: The revolving door at catcher for West Michigan, just keeps turning. This time, hot-hitting Jordan Newton heads to the disabled list and Adrian Casanova returns from extended spring training to take his place. This is Casanova's second stint with the 'Caps this season, after filling in for the injured Joe Bowen recently.