West Michigan MLN: 'Caps Cruising

In baseball, if you win three out of five games, you are considered a true contender. The ‘Caps are doing one better than that.

Week-after-week, West Michigan seems to be keeping a steady win/lose ratio at 5-2. The ‘Caps 26-12, are a top of, not only their division, but also are the best team in the whole Midwest league. Now, it's easy to pick out what makes a team so strong—whether it's a strong pitching staff or good chemistry in batting order and in the field. West Michigan is all of that and more.

At the plate, Brandon Douglas—as expected—is one of the best shortstops in the Midwest League. His consistency and great directional hitting has put the ‘Caps in a good position—especially with runners on. A .352 average is quite impressive, but even more so that he's hitting .380 with runners on. This past week, the Iowa native has found a way to get on base in every game he has played.

Behind Douglas, the six-foot Houston product, Bryan Pounds has given West Michigan the power they've been looking for. Pounds can be usually seen playing third base most days. His strikeouts are a little high this season (26), but he remains a great cleanup hitter for the Whitecaps. He leads the team with 28 RBI. Pounds managed to nab seven RBI this past week.

At DH, Billy Nowlin has found his niche. Once a college superstar, Nowlin has transitioned very well in minor league ball. He had a killer month in April, batting .362 with 15 RBI. This month he's been pretty consistent. He's currently batting .270 with 17 hits and five RBI. Not quite a dynamite month, but the 6-foot-1, power-hitter has been known to turn up the juice before the All-Star break.

At 5-0 this season, Matt Hoffman has gone above and beyond all expectations. His mechanics are solid, and just seems to do everything right. His 1.12 ERA is one of the best in the Midwest League. It's no question he's the best southpaw in the league at this point in the season. But on May 15, the Tigers promoted Hoffman to High-A Lakeland to test his hand at the next level. Hoffman has been lighting the competition up this season, so this move by the club is no surprise.

For his replacement, Detroit promoted Michigan native Mark Sorensen from extended spring training. A 32nd round pick in the '08 draft, Sorenson spent last season with Oneonta where he went 3-3 with a 3.66 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched.

With this move occurring, all eyes are on Mauricio Robles to lead the rotation. The hard-throwing southpaw won his game this past week against Dayton. He went six innings, giving up six hits and one walk, but striking out five. He is currently 3-1 on the season. With runners in scoring position, Robles' ERA is a whopping 10.80. This is definitely a weakness. If he improves his pitching in the clutch, he will do great things for West Michigan this season. In other words, they need him to step up and fill the void left by Hoffman.

May 16, Jeremy Bonderman came in to town on a rehab assignment and gave fans quite the show. Most didn't think DePastino would keep him in for five innings, but seven innings? That's right. Bonderman pitched seven innings of pretty solid baseball. He gave up six hits and two runs, but struck out four. With throwing enough sinking stuff and with a good defense behind him, Bonderman found no trouble pitching in his rehab game. The ‘Caps ended up taking the game 13-6. On a side note, Jordan Lennerton knocked in three RBI for West Michigan. This left-handed hitter improved his hits to 30 on the year.

After a very solid week, Ronnie Bourquin was named Midwest League Player of the Week. Bourquin is currently on a 10-game hitting streak, and has batted .556 with five RBI in his last five games. He went 4-for-5 on May 14. Bourquin is the second ‘Cap this season to win the award. Billy Nowlin was the first.

As May is coming to a close, the ‘Caps keep cruising. The funny part is, they don't seem to be slowing down. This is a first in a couple years.

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