It took a hard late charge that included a 13-7 final month with four wins against the Division leading Nationals to avoid last place in the DSL's Santo Domingo West Division. That charge helped cover some of the bitter taste remaining from a brutal 8-18 start to the season that included losing streaks of five and six games.
The DSL Tigers offense was in rough shape for most of the season, posting a paltry .220 team average and only scoring 310 runs in 72 games; ranking in the bottom third of the league in both categories. Despite the offense struggles as a team, there were some individual bright spots present throughout the season. Second baseman Alexander Nunez put together a fine debut campaign, notching a .269 average, while ranking third on the team in walks with 25. Nunez flashed some solid base stealing instincts with six swipes in nine attempts, and also showed a good glove at the keystone. Elvin Soto led the team in home runs, showing his continued development with his power stroke complimenting his excellent eye at the plate. In conjunction with his seven home runs, Soto ripped 11 two-baggers and drew and impressive 44 walks in just 58 games.
Rounding out the offensive highlights was the progress made by Panamanian outfielder Luis Castillo. While Castillo only upped his batting average from .232 in 2007 to .245 in 2008, he maintained his ability to draw walks and make contact, finishing the season with 26 walks versus 24 strikeouts. Castillo also showed progress in his base stealing ability, swiping 14 bags in 20 attempts on the season; an improvement of both his stolen base quantity, and success rate over his 2007 debut season.
On the flip side of things, the pitching staff was led by a dominating season from tall right-hander Marcos Nunez. In 76 innings on the hill, Nunez posted a sparkling 1.78 ERA while starting ten of his 18 appearances on the season. Nunez whiffed 69 hitters while only walking 20 on the year, while yielding only 57 hits. Nunez finished the year by ranking in the DSL's top twenty in both ERA and innings, while just missing in strikeouts and WHIP. On the surface, ranking in the top twenty doesn't seem that impressive, but consider that the DSL is a 37 team league with 30-man roster limits. Ranking in the top twenty implies that he was in roughly the top two percent of the league; a feat made even more astounding by the fact that he's still just 18 years old.
Also turning in a nice season was Robert Diaz, who sent 90 batters back to the dugout without contact in just 65 2/3 innings. Rookie Rayni Guichardo also showed swing and miss stuff with 79 whiffs in just 62 1/3 innings of work. The three starters combined for a 10-9 record to lead the rotation. In the bullpen, Gabriel Herrera earned himself a call to the fall instructional league in Lakeland with eight saves and a 3.15 ERA in 26 games. In forty innings of work, Herrera fanned 57 hitters, but also walked 24 and hit seven more. Also helping out in the closer's role was rookie Melvin Mercedez who finished the year at 2-2 with six saves. The right-hander appeared in 24 games of his own, finishing the day in sixteen of those outings.
The DSL Tigers pitching staff finished the season ranked in the middle of the league pack with a 4.20 ERA, while their 1.44 team WHIP was also around the middle of the league rankings. One area where the DSL Tigers staff did excel was in recording strikeouts, where the team ranked second in the circuit with 676 K's in just 619 2/3 total innings.
All-in-all the DSL Tigers season was similar to that of their Latin counterparts, the VSL Tigers. Both teams got off to rough starts to the season, but finished strong as many of their young players began to transition their raw talents to the field of play. There was a lot of promise on the field for the DSL squad in 2008, and while it may take a few years to see it blossom stateside, some of the late-season signs from this year are encouraging heading to the off-season.