TigsTown Offseason MLN: New Spots in Play?

We're just a little over a week away from the Puerto Rican Winter League starting up, and two of the Tigers top prospects hitting the field again. In the mean time, several of the Tigers more talented young players are starting to come into their own in their respective fall leagues, hitting and pitching their way into some additional attention.

Starting out in Hawaii, catcher James Skelton has helped lead West Oahu into first place in their division with an 11-10 record, by hitting at an impressive .317/.429/.439 clip. Though he only saw action in two games over the past week, James made the best of his nine at-bats; ripping a double and triple among his three hits, and driving in three. Skelton also saw two late innings at second base, in what appeared to be an emergency role. I'll be working to track down more information on the move in the coming days.

Also contributing a bit way out in the Pacific Ocean is Kyle Peter, who has hit .353 in 16 games of action for the CaneFires. Also seeing action in two games this week, Peter was 4-for-8 with a double and yet another stolen base; his eighth of the season.

Tigers' fans may want to start getting excited, as Andrew Hess continues to blossom this fall. Despite giving up a run in his only outing of the week, Hess is still sporting a sparkling 2.08 ERA in 17 1/3 innings of work. After striking out only 64 batters in 84 2/3 innings with West Michigan this season, Hess has already whiffed 15 this fall. "It feels like I am really just going right at more hitters and trying to throw as many strikes as possible; and if I get ahead, I am going for the kill," Hess said in an email this weekend. That's a good tact to take against any hitter, and one I hope continues for Andrew in the coming seasons.

Things just keep rolling along for Casey Fien, at least in regular season games. Casey continues to post a zero ERA this fall, but that doesn't include taking the loss after walking in the winning run in the Rising Stars game on Friday. Mesa Manager Rocket Wheeler has liked what he's seen so far from Fien, saying "He's been great for us."

With many in the prospect world starting to question the health of Luis Marte, his last outing may serve as notice that he's just fine. In four innings of work, Marte yielded just one run on four hits, while striking out eight and not walking a batter. "Marte had a better breaking ball in his last game, and was controlling his fastball better," said Wheeler. When asked if Marte had been experiencing any additional soreness after missing two months with his elbow strain this summer, Rocket chimed in with "He feels good, real good."

Right-handers Rudy Darrow and Zach Simons are both continuing their strong performance this fall, with Simons tossing two more scoreless innings, and Darrow chipped with an inning and a third of scoreless ball; lowering their ERAs to 6.00 and 2.84, respectively.

Turning to the position prospects, outfielder Casper Wells also participated in the Rising Stars game on Friday night, doubling in the contest. In twelve trips to the plate this week, Wells singled three times, but struck out six. His season line sits at .257/.435/.343 in limited action; something Coach Wheeler is looking to change. After some discussions with the Tigers' Director of Player Development Glenn Ezell, Mesa will be looking to use Wells at first base on occasion. The move is unlikely to be permanent, but given some limited experience at first in the past, this should serve as a way to get him some additional at-bats on crowded roster.

Sent to the AFL to get some work in at third base, Jeff Larish has played primarily first base due to an injury to Logan Morrison, but that doesn't mean he hasn't impressed at the hot corner. "He's showed soft hands, good range, and a strong arm at both positions. He's an asset in the field," said Wheeler. Larish's bat also seems to be coming to life. In his last four games, Larish has ripped six hits in 18 at-bats, including two doubles and a homer, while driving in seven teammates.

Rounding things out in the AFL, second baseman Will Rhymes just continues to pick up base hits. After posting the second most hits in Erie Seawolves history this season, Rhymes has 16 more base knocks this fall for Mesa. Despite all of them being of the one-base variety, it is still encouraging to see him thrive in yet another competitive environment.

Heading a bit south from Arizona, Max Leon is having a rough time in the Mexican Pacific League. The 24-year old second baseman got off to a nice start with two hits in one of his first games, but he has picked up only three singles in the last nine games. Leon's average is down to a woeful .159 at this juncture, with the only bright spot being six walks and two steals without being caught.

In the Venezuelan Winter League, prospects Lester Oliveros, Alexis Espinoza, and Orlando Perdomo have yet to see any action for Caribes. One prospect who has seen some time early on is right-hander Guillermo Moscoso. Coming off an impressive 2008 season split between Lakeland and Erie, Moscoso has not maintained his dominance. After tossing three scoreless relief innings his first time out to pick up the win, Guillermo was touched for two runs on five hits and two walks in just one inning of work on Saturday.

Wrapping things up by looking at a few guys in the Dominican Winter League, outfielders Freddy Guzman, Brent Clevlen, and Wilkin Ramirez have all seen considerable time on the field in the early going. Clevlen is leading the way, with a .308 average and two doubles in his first seven games for Leones del Escogido. Working in the same outfield, the speedy Guzman is hitting only .226 in eight games, and has stolen just two bases in three attempts. Things may be perking up for Guzman, after he went 3-for-5 with both of his steals on Saturday. Wilkin Ramirez has struggled the most of the three, picking up just two hits in fifteen at-bats thus far. Both hits came in Thursday's contest, with one being his first home run of the fall.

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