Where are They Now? The '06 Whitecaps

The 2006 West Michigan Whitecaps won the Midwest League championship, but they had an interesting mix of players who have gone different directions.

The Whitecaps won primarily on the strength of their pitching and defense, leading the league in run prevention with just 3.58 runs/game. Their offense put the fifth-most runs on the board. Factor in the severe pitchers ballpark and the offense likely ends up higher in runs scored that year.

Naturally, the pitching staff from this team must be filled with budding Major League aces. Here's a list of some of the key contributors to that pitching staff, and where they are now.

  • Erik Averill had elbow surgery last year and didn't recover. He was released this year.
  • Burke Badenhop put up a 6.08 ERA for the Marlins this year before having shoulder problems.
  • Lucas French put up a middling season in Erie.
  • Sendy Vasquez was suspended for steroid use before being released.
  • Ramon Garcia has had shoulder problems, moving to relief this year and posting a combined 3.92 ERA between Lakeland and West Michigan.
  • Josh Rainwater, like French, put up an okay season in Erie.
  • Orlando Perdomo was just granted free agency. He has had two elbow surgeries since the 2006 season.
  • Matt Rusch struggled bouncing between Erie and Toledo.
  • Anthony Claggett was traded to New York, and put up a solid 2.15 ERA for AA Trenton.
  • Rickey Steik was released last year.
  • Josh Kauten was released last year.

Of the 11 pitchers who played a key role on this league leading pitching staff, four have been released, one has declared free agency, and four others are still toiling in the organization but hardly top prospects. Burke Badenhop is the only one to have made the major leagues, but spent the majority of this year on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder injury. Anthony Claggett, traded to the Yankees, looks poised to take a shot at their bullpen next year. On the whole, none of these pitchers seem poised to anchor any major league staffs at any point in the future.

If we look at the position players, we will see a different story.

  • Dusty Ryan tore through Erie and Toledo, entering the Tigers' catcher plans in the process.
  • Ryan Roberson posted a solid .289/.346/.507 line for Erie this year.
  • Rafael Mendez, Roberson's injury replacement at first base, has been released.
  • William Rhymes started to make a name for himself, hitting .306 at Erie.
  • Michael Hollimon was poised to take over the second basemen of the future mantle before a late season slump and shoulder injury derailed his progress.
  • Cory Middleton got a bulk of the time at third base during this season, and has now been released.
  • Justin Justice was one of the post-season cuts.
  • Jeramy Laster spent this season in center field for Lakeland putting up a .206/.268/.416 line and striking out 200(!) times.
  • Cameron Maybin's shine has dimmed a little bit, but he still seems poised to take over in center for the Marlins for good next year.
  • Matt Joyce emerged as a top prospect and Major League regular this year.
  • Michael Hernandez was traded for Armando Galarraga, but was released by the Rangers this spring. He spent this season in A ball for the Mets.
  • Pedro Cotto is now a free agent.

Of the 12 position players who played a key role on this team, four (Maybin, Joyce, Ryan, and Hollimon) remain as prospects with a shot at contributing in the Major Leagues, three more are still in the organization, four have been released, and Michael Hernandez was traded.

Overall, the position players from this team have faired much better than the pitchers the past two years. You can chalk this up to anything, including the higher attrition rate of pitchers or the extreme pitchers' environment in West Michigan helping their numbers. Either way, it is still fun to look back and see how these players have progressed in just two years.

Eddie Bajek is a special guest contributor to TigsTown - you can read more from Eddie on his site Detroit Tigers Thoughts

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