TigsTown Offseason MLN: Sticks Coming Alive

The Caribbean Leagues, AFL, and Hawaii Winter Baseball keep chugging along, and sticks are waking up all over the place. Jeff Larish has come to life, Kyle Peter is a hitting machine in Hawaii, so new fall ball participants Dusty Ryan and Matt Joyce will have some high expectations when they start play on Thursday in Puerto Rico.

Despite the strong performances mentioned above, there are some Tigers struggling to get things going this fall. Infielder Max Leon has managed to nearly hit his way right out of the lineup in the Mexican Pacific League. The Culiacan second baseman has just eleven hits in 58 at-bats so far this fall, though things may be perking up as he has gone 4-for-12 in his last four games, with a double and four walks to his credit.

In the Dominican, former Tiger Angel Castro has been roughed up in his only outing for Azucareros; walking one and yielding a hit that totaled two runs allowed against Licey. With Gigantes, infielders Erick Almonte and Caonabo Cosme are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Cosme has appeared in only seven games, notching twelve at-bats (three hits) in his time thus far, while Erick Almonte has been on fire to this point in the fall season. While also trying to expand his positional versatility by playing some outfield, Almonte is ripping at a .333/.403/.467 pace with four doubles and two triples in just 14 games.

Toledo outfielder Brent Clevlen – heading into a critical spring training without options left – is trying to put together a strong fall performance to vault him to a big league job in 2009. Through his first eleven games, Clevlen has hit only .258 with two doubles. He has walked six times in that span, and may be waking up with a 2-for-3 performance on Saturday that included two of his three RBI on the season. Playing alongside Clevlen with Escogido, Freddy Guzman simply hasn't been the same player he was at Erie and Toledo in 2008. Guzman is hitting only .246, but oddly has only swiped three bases in 14 games; an abnormally low rate for the speedy outfielder.

Leading the pack of Tiger performers, outfielder Timo Perez may also be leading the pack of all fall ball players. Timo has the ability to head toward free agency this week, and either he's making a strong case for a spring training invite from another club, or he's simply trying to show the Tigers that his hot second half was no fluke. In 15 games for Licey, Perez has slugged three doubles and a homer, en route to a phenomenal .407/.477/.685 line; a line that could put him in a position for DWL Player of the Year honors if he can maintain it. On the contrary, 23-year old outfielder Wilkin Ramirez has largely been relegated to defensive duty for Licey, having hit a paltry .125 in seven games, with no hits in his last three game appearances.

Things have been pretty quiet in the Venezuelan Winter League, with only right-hander Guillermo Moscoso picking up significant playing time. Vying for a spot on Detroit's 40-man roster, the 24-year old has appeared in three games for Caracas, but has yet to really show his best stuff. After a fine first outing, Moscoso has given up three earned runs on eight hits and four walks in just 1 1/3 innings pitched. Moscoso will need to get on track as the 40-man roster deadline approaches.

Out in Hawaii, Kyle Peter is turning into the Tigers story of the fall. Peter, now seeing significant playing time with the CaneFires, is using his keen eye at the plate and excellent all around hitting ability to post a sparkling .353/.408/.426 line through 21 games. On top of that fine batting line, in which he ranks third in the League in hitting, Peter has stolen ten bases in twelve attempts, good enough for second in the circuit.

Also still showing well at the plate in Hawaii is catcher James Skelton. After a bit of a down turn in his performance over the ten days prior, Skelton has pitcked it back up; going 5-for-14 with two doubles and four driven in over the last week. Skelton's season average now sits at .320, ranking him among the top ten in the league.

Righty Andrew Hess only took the mound once last week, but in his three innings he allowed just one run on three hits and two walks. It wasn't quite the dominating performance he had shown recently, but he continues to get outs and show strong development heading into his second full season of professional baseball.

Rounding things out in Arizona, Jeff Larish has been the story of the week; pounding the ball to the tune of a 6-for-17 week that included a double, two home runs, and seven runs driven in. The lefty hitting corner infielder has come alive and his 19 RBIs on the season now put him among the league leaders in that category.

Outfielder Casper Wells has also come to life a bit in the last week. Wells made the best of just two games in the last week, picking up a double and a three-run bomb among his three this in seven at-bats. Wells continues to work counts and draw some walks (six this season), but the strikeouts are creeping back into the picture with 13 in 13 games.

After starting last week with two two-hit nights, Will Rhymes finished the week with an 0-for-9 skid that dropped his average below the .300 mark for the first time in a while.

On the hill, the story was Casey Fien proving human for the first time in an official game. Despite giving up runs in the Rising Stars game, Fien was still perfect in the regular AFL season; that was before his outing Friday. Halloween proved to be his downfall, as he gave up two hits in an inning of work; though still picked up the save in Mesa's win over Peoria. One streak Casey does still have going is not having allowed a walk so far this fall.

Two guys that could be dark horses for the Tiger bullpen at some point next year, continued to pitch well for Mesa. Zach Simons and Rudy Darrow both kept firing strikes and getting out. In two appearances each, the pair combined for four innings of shutout ball to keep thrusting Mesa to the top of the standings. Rounding out the Tigers pitching work with Mesa, Luis Marte further proved his health and dominance in his last outing on Tuesday. Going up against the Sagueros, a team that roughed him up for three runs in one inning on October 9th, Marte yielded just one run in four innings while picking up the win this time out. Despite walking two and surrendering six hits in his four innings, Marte whiffed six and avoided hard contact against nearly all of the Peoria hitters.

With just a few weeks remaining in the regular seasons for the Arizona Fall League and Hawaii Winter Baseball, there could be some exciting baseball on tap as both teams with Tiger players are currently sitting in first place. That combined with the fall debuts of Tiger youngsters like Ryan and Joyce means there will be plenty to follow in the coming weeks. Check back next week for the full gambit of updates throughout the fall leagues.


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