The Detroit Tigers were a busy bunch at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski traded away a few more West Michigan Whitecaps alumni, trying to build a team to win the World Series in 2015. The price was steep, and we fans had to say goodbye to some solid young ballplayers. Before the meetings even began, the Tigers traded away middle-infielder Domingo Leyba, along with pitcher Robbie Ray, to the Arizona Diamondbacks in three-way deal that brought starting pitcher Shane Greene from the New York Yankees. The 19-year-old prospect hit .397 in 30 games for the Whitecaps this season, after being promoted from Class-A SS Connecticut Tigers when short-stop Willy Adames was traded late last season to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The second trade involving some West Michigan alumni, had another middle-infielder in Eugenio Suarez and starting pitcher Jonathan Crawford shipped to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Alfredo Simon. As a rookie, Suarez hit .242 with four home runs, and 23 RBI’s last season in 85 games with Detroit. In 2012 with the Whitecaps, Suarez batted .288 with 34 doubles and 67 RBI’s. His .947 fielding percentage helped him win a Minor League Baseball Gold Glove at short-stop (.971 at short, and his fielding percentage was 1.000 at second base). Crawford was a first round draft pick by Detroit in 2013. He pitched for the ‘Caps this season, going 8-3 with a 2.85 ERA, and was the starting pitcher for the East at the Midwest League All-Star Classic played at Fifth Third Ballpark.
The Tigers also lost former Whitecaps pitcher Alex Burgos in the Triple-A/Double-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The 24-year-old hurler saw action in Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo, but mostly with the Flying Tigers earning a 4.26 ERA. He suited up for the ‘Caps in 2011, pitching to a 6-5 record and a 2.19 ERA. We were able to see him pitch on Star Wars night that season. Two other former ‘Cap pitchers, Edgar De La Rosa and Montreal Robertson were spared in the Major League portion of the draft. We wish the best of luck to all of the players we were lucky enough to watch in West Michigan.
Three Whitecaps are Midwest League post-season All-Stars
Third baseman Nick Castellanos, second baseball Hernan Perez, and catcher Robert Brantley have been named to the 2011 Midwest League All-Star team for the post season. Castellanos had a slow start to his first full pro season, but became one of the best players in the league though-out the course of the season. The nineteen year-old is fourth in the league with a .310 batting average, a team leading 71 RBI’s, and six home-runs. Castellanos is leading the league in hits with 147 (the ‘Caps record is 158 set by Robert Fick in 1997) and is tied for the league lead in doubles with 34. He’s solid in the clutch, also, batting a whopping .398 with runners in scoring position.
The twenty year-old Perez, from Venenzuela, returned from the Whitecaps last season to become the starting second baseman in 2011. He played shortstop for the ‘Caps last year, and has made some great plays on the infield at Fifth-Third Ballpark. This season he’s hitting .267 with eight home-runs and 40 RBI’s. He leads West Michigan with 67 runs and 22 doubles. He represented the ‘Caps at this seasons All-Star Game also.
Despite being promoted to Lakeland last month, Brantly has been honored as the top catcher in the MWL. He hit .303 with seven home-runs, and 44 RBI’s, and had 16 doubles. Behind the plate he threw out 34% of the runners trying to steal against him. I’m glad we had a chance to watch these guys plays this season, and look forward to following them up through the Tigers system.
Burgos MWL Pitcher of the Week
Whitecaps hurler Alex Burgos has also been named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for August 22-28. The left-hander threw eight scoreless innings last Thursday against the Lake County Captains, helping his team to a 12-innings 1-0 victory. Since joining the Whitecaps in June, Burgos has gone 6-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 14 starts. He’s struck out 82, while only giving up 55 hits this season, and has allowed opposing batters to only hit .190 against him. Burgos is the second West Michigan hurler to win the award this season, joining Kyle Ryan from July. We were lucky to see Alex pitch the Whitecaps to victory on Star Wars night on July 9.
Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps and M.I.B.
West Michigan’s Kyle Ryan has been named the Midwest League’s Pitcher of the Week for his efforts against the Lansing Lugnuts last Thursday. In the first game of a double-header, he threw six hitless innings, struck out three, and walked three. He even picked off a baserunner and retired 17 of the 20 batters he faced off against. Ryan never allowed a runner to reach scoring position and came three outs from the Whitecaps first no-hitter in just over a decade. He was pulled after the sixth innings after his pitch count reached 80.
Ryan was a 12th round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2010 out of Auburndale High School in Florida. So far this season, he is 4-8 with a 3.46 ERA and has a team high nineteen starts. He leads the Whitecaps in quality starts with 13, and has allowed only 122 hits, has struck out 69, and only walked 26 in his 109.1 innings of work. The quality pitching of hurlers like Ryan, Alex Burgos, and Kevin Eichhorn are instrumental in the ‘Caps moving up from 5th place in the MWL Eastern Division. The team is only five games back, so there is still hopes for the playoffs.
In Eichhorn’s last outing, he threw a complete game, and had his own no-hit bid going until the sixth inning in a game against the Bowling Green Hot Rods. He ended up only allowing four hits by the Hot Rods, gave up one earned run, while striking out two and walking one hitter. Sixteen of his outs were ground balls. At one point in the game, he retired fifteen batters in a row. Eichhorn increased his record to 8-3, but is 5-0 in his last ten starts. His ERA is 3.47, but was only 2.69 in those last ten outings. His eight wins leads the team.
Following up Eichhorn’s complete game, Burgos struck out a career high ten batters in the Whitecaps victory over the Dayton Dragons. He retired 17 of the first 19 hitters he faced off against, and took a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning. The left-handed Burgos is now 6-2 on the season. A fifth-round draft pick in 2010, he missed the first two months of the season after developing bicep tendonitis during spring training in his throwing are.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI
Our favorite game of the year is Star Wars night for sure. This time we brought Brian down for the fun, too. It was a beautifull night for baseball, but the real thrill for the kids was seeing all of their favorite movie characters. Me being a Star Wars freak since I was like, five, they’ve been exposed to the movies (original trilogy) for a number of years. We were able to get pics with most of the characters on hand, especially Darth Vader and Boba Fett, who is simply the greatest. There were some Jedi and X-Wing pilots hanging around, but the kids, especially Trevor, favor the Empire and thier legions of Stormtroopers, Snowtroopers, and pilots. Brian wanted no part of Darth Vader, either, as you’ll see he’s not in the picture with him. Darth Vader also threw out the first pitch, and had a little duel with Crash, the mascot. The night ended with a fireworks display with Star Wars theme music. The Whitecaps also wore special Star Wars jerseys. Of all the game I’ve been to so far, I think we’ve only seen the regular ‘Caps jersey’s once! There was a huge crowd again this year, season high 10,528, but we still got to see who we wanted and had time to play in the park there, too. I’m not sure what our next game will be, but it will be hard to beat this night.
In the game, the Whitecaps had a solid offensive effort, beating the Hot Rods 11-3. Top prospect Nick Constellanos had two home runs the game, and went 3-4. He was recently named the Detroit Tigers Minor Player of the Month for hitting .375 with 20 RBI’s in June. He now leads the Midwest League with 94 hits, leads the ‘Caps with 52 RBI’s, and is one of the MWL leaders in batting average with .306 and doubles with 23. Castellanos is a good bet for next seasons Furtures Game if he keeps this pace up. On the mound, Alex Burgos was solid in the win. He allowed three runs on five hits while striking out six, to up his record to 4-1. Three of the hits he gave up were infield singles.