GCL Tigers Season Wrap Up

The Tigers rookie league clubs didn't have the best go of it in 2008, and that included the GCL Tigers. They kept themselves out of GCL North cellar by just one game, but there were still plenty of bright spots on the back fields this summer in Lakeland.

One area where the big league club obviously struggled, pitching, was relatively solid for the GCL Tigers. They posted a 3.72 ERA, good for middle of the pack in the Gulf Coast League, and getting strong starts from a number of pitchers.

Brandon Hamilton, whose A-ball debut didn't go as well as hoped, returned to the GCL for more seasoning, and truly over-matched hitters. Hamilton went 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA, striking out more than a batter per inning, and allowing a batting average against of just .186.

While the strong showing from Hamilton was to be expected, there is often times doubt about how well pitchers in the Dominican and Venezuelan summer leagues will do stateside, especially in their first season. That's why it was so encouraging to receive strong seasons from both Victor Larez and Luis Sanz.

Their numbers were virtually identical – both posted a 5-3 record, while Sanz' ERA was just a hundredth of a point lower (3.66 to 3.67). Larez had a slight edge in strikeouts (54 to 48), but Sanz had the better WHIP (1.16 to 1.30) and average against (.223 to .274). Regardless of the close comparison between the two pitchers, both stepped up in their first stateside work.

Beyond also getting some strong starts from Jordan Tata as he worked his way back to his form of two years ago, the Tigers also got a strong season out of Jade Todd. Todd, just 18, was dominating as a reliever with a 0.81 ERA, and also had some success starting for the club.

Where things for the club weren't as strong was at the plate. The offense finished 12th in the league in OPS at .658, and 13th in runs scored with 223, which works out to just 3.8 runs per game, more than half a run per game below the league average.

The one player who far exceeded expectations and truly excelled for the club was Alden Carrithers. The team's everyday second baseman, Carrithers led the team in average and OPS, and walked far more than the rest of the club. Carrithers' .893 OPS was good for sixth in the entire Gulf Coast League, easily making him one of the top players in the league.

Unfortunately, where the team likely fell down was the lack of production from a lot of young, toolsy outfield prospects. There was hope that prospects like Alexis Espinoza and Londell Taylor could step up and have huge seasons for the team - and that never materialized. Espinoza hit for a good average, but his power didn't quite come around, and he had little plate discipline, with a horrid 33:2 K:BB line. Taylor meanwhile showed some patience and did hit for some power, but barely kept his average above the mendoza line.

Luis Salas and Josh Workman did post better numbers, trying to help carry things along. Workman, who had just 56 at-bats in the GCL, hit well all around with a .268/.400/.429 before getting bumped up to Oneonta. Salas meanwhile had the team's second best OPS at .733, but also led the club with 58 strikeouts in just 150 at-bats.

All in all, it wasn't the best season in the GCL, but there were plenty of bright spots for the Tigers. They saw a number of different pitching prospects excel, and got to see the work of one of the Tigers' top prospects put his talent on display. Pitchers like Larez and Sanz give more hope and encouragement for future pitching staffs as well. Maybe next year the club will even be able to compete for the GCL crown.

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