I’ve really enjoyed watching the Detroit Tigers’ pre-season games so far during Spring Training. I especially like seeing the former West Michigan Whitecaps players wearing the ‘D’, and hanging with the big boys in major league camp. Nick Castellanos is hitting the ball very well, and proving so far he’ll fit nicely into the hot corner at Comerica. It’s fun to watch Casey Crosby on the mound, trying to get back to that form that made him a top prospect, and the likes of Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez, and Devon Travis patrolling the infield. There is always that one player, however, that really stands out, and this season that guy seems to be outfielder Steven Moya. The 22-year-old started out on a tear this spring, going 2-4 with a double, a triple, and four RBI’s against Florida Southern College in the Tigers’ exhibition game. He recently followed that up with another impressive performance against the St. Louis Cardinals, being a home run away from hitting for the cycle, and knocking in another four RBI’s. So far in Grapefruit League play, he’s batting .412, with two doubles, a triple, and five RBI’s (stats against FSC don’t count). Moya was added to the Tigers 40-man roster in December, but despite his play, few think he’ll make the Tigers’ roster out of spring training.
“I like what I see, but he’s young,” manager Brad Ausmus told Chris Iott of MLive.com. “He’s inexperienced, really. He’s had some freak injuries that he missed some time with. I definitely like him. He still needs some time in the oven. He’s swung the bat well from day one. He really hasn’t let up at all offensively.”
Moya played for the Whitecaps during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2011 he struggled a bit, hitting .204, with 10 doubles, and 39 RBI’s. He improved drastically in 2012, hitting .288, with 14 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, and 47 RBI’s in only 59 games before being injured. He also played in the 2012 Midwest League All-Star Game, going 1-2 with two runs scored, and three RBI’s on a bases-loaded triple. We should have a good chance to see Moya play this season if he stays in the minors, as we’ll be making stops in both Toledo and Erie form some games this June. All the best to him the rest of the spring, and for the 2014 season.
UPDATE: Moya has been optioned to Double-A Erie SeaWolves. The Tigers also cut five other players on Friday, bring the number of players in major league camp to 40. Moya’s final big league camp numbers are a .333 average, with five doubles, and one triple in 21 at-bats.
“You can make an argument he was the MVP of camp. The problem is that he was in A-ball and he really just needs to play. He needs experience,” Ausmus stated to MLive.com. “We certainly have a high ceiling for him. But asking a guys with 90 games in A-ball to go to the big leagues is an enormous jump. So, the best thing for Steven Moya is to play.”
Photo courtesy of MLive.com/Grand Rapids Press
The West Michigan Whitecaps are competing in their 20th season in the Midwest League. To celebrate this event, the team is having the fans vote on the best players they’ve seen in each position for the last two decades. Even three managers are up for the vote, in Bruce Fields, Matt Walbeck, and Tom Brookens. All three won the Midwest League Championship in West Michigan. Catchers such as Brandon Inge, current Tiger Alex Avila, and Miami Marlin Rob Brantley are all up for the best behind the plate. At first base, I think that Robert Fick has the inside edge. He was voted into the first Whitecaps Hall of Fame, and has the honor of hitting the last home run in Tiger Stadium. That’s just my vote, though. Second base is my favorite position, so I’ve followed the players there pretty closely. It will be tough for me to choose only one of my favorites such as Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, and Brandon Douglas. At short stop, in my opinion, the vote might come down to current Tiger Ramon Santiago, or last’s years MiLB Gold Glove winner Eugenio Suarez, which is a tough call. At the hot corner, top prospect Nick Castellanos may be the favorite despite being moved to the outfield last season with Lakeland and Erie. He may get a push from guys like Wade Gaynor and Wilkin Ramirez, though. Fans are allowed three choices for outfielders, and there are plenty. While players like Matt Joyce, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, and Brent Clevlen have all seen action at the MLB level, Gorkys Hernandez had a great season in West Michigan in 2007. He was also named the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year that year. Fans are also allowed to vote for three pitchers. Players like Andy Van Hekken, Casey Crosby, Duane Below, and Joel Zumaya all found success on the hill in West Michigan. Rounding out the relief pitchers, fans can vote for two, including Michael Torrealba and Anthony Claggett. This is another great way the Whitecaps are celebrating so much success the last 20 years. VOTE NOW!
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Congrats to outfielder Avisail Garcia, who became the 100th West Michigan Whitecaps alumni to play in Major League Baseball. He was called up to the Detroit Tigers Friday from the Double-A Erie Seawolves. He had a key RBI single in the Tigers 7-4 over the Chicago White Sox. He went 2-4 in last nights 4-2, and is now batting .429. Detroit would sweep the series, tying the ChiSox for first place in the AL Central Division. Garcia is the eight former Whitecap to be called up to a MLB team this season, with Tigers bringing up pitchers Casey Crosby, Luke Putkonen, Jose Ortega, and Thad Weber, as well as infielder Hernan Perez. Former Tigers 2007 Minor League Player of the year Gorkys Hernandez debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, and catcher Rob Brantly debuted with the Marlins after being traded to Miami this month. Speaking with MLive.com about the Whitecaps organization was Toby Harrah, former roving hitting instructor, and now assistant hitting coach with the Tigers. He had nothing but good things to say about the organization and quality of the ballpark, coaches, and front office.
“It’s the best environment in the world for playing,” Harrah stated. “It’s a great atmosphere for young prospects. It’s a big-league ballpark where everything is first class. It’s a great way to introduce kids to playing professional baseball.”
Thirteen ‘Caps alumni were even part of Detroit’s Central Division championship team last season, including Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch, Brandon Inge, Ramon Santiago, Andy Dirks, Ryan Raburn, Scott Sizemore, and Duane Below. The Tigers organization has also used some former West Michigan players for trade, gaining the likes of Miguel Cabrera for Cameron Maybin. Whitecaps vice president Jim Jarecki also spoke with MLive.com about the teams’ milestone.
“We’re proud of them,” said Jarecki. “A good percentage of players who’ve gone on to the majors started here. They put on a professional uniform for the first time here and they are always going to remember that. For us to know that many of them were in Whitecaps uniforms is something that we’re very proud of and lends a lot of credibility to our organization.”
As for Garcia, he was signed by the Tigers back in 2007, and played in West Michigan in 2009-10 as a teenager. He hit .281 in 2010 with 17 doubles and four home runs. With Boesch struggling this season, the right field position could be open if Garcia can make the best of his playing time, and help the Tigers to the playoffs.
Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press
Another segment from MiLB.com‘s Ten Questions asked by Robert Emrich to Detroit Tigers prospect and former West Michigan Whitecap Casey Crosby. Crosby is still high on the Tigers prospect list, despite battling injuries including Tommy John surgery in 2007 (the year he was drafted) and suffering from elbow and forearm discomfort in 2010. He had a solid season for West Michigan in 2009, however, being a mid-season and post-season All-Star, and going 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA.
The Tigers and Crosby are hoping that he’s finally healthy and can climb the latter to the Tigers roster in a few years. I had him slated to start the season with Double-A Erie, but he’s been pitching lights-out in Triple-A games this spring, so there’s a chance of him being assigned to Toledo.
MiLB.com: How frustrating was it to not be able to follow up your excellent 2009 campaign in 2010?
Casey Crosby: It was very disappointing. It was hard for me because, at that point, I knew what I could do, and being unable to perform — that was just a huge disappointment. I just wanted to show everyone that I could perform at the next level.
MiLB.com: What’s the most frustrating part of missing most of 2010?
Crosby: Just the fact that I’m not able to show what I can do, not only other people but myself. You see how good you are, but you also see you’re unable to do it all the time. Last year was just very frustrating and it took its toll on me mentally. Taking this offseason and getting my confidence back heading into Spring Training was a big thing, because I know what I can do.
MiLB.com: What are your goals for 2011?
Crosby: Obviously they are to pitch the whole season and make every start that I’m supposed to. Also I want to continue improving my mental game and my overall performance on the mound. The main thing is mentally I want to be able to handle anything that comes to me in 2011.
MiLB.com: Do you fear you’re going to get a reputation as a pitcher who is always hurt?
Crosby: That’s something you don’t want to think about. You don’t want to think about injuries when you’re playing. When it comes to reputation and being hurt, you just want to take care of yourself and do what you have to do. If people perceive me as a guy that does get hurt that’s fine, but I believe my future will not show that, and I have to believe that.
MiLB.com: What is your favorite off-day activity?
Crosby: If I have an off day, you’ll probably see me at the movies. The last movie I saw was Hall Pass and I thought it was really funny, absolutely hilarious. My favorite movie is probably Dumb and Dumber. I’m a fan of comedies and Jim Carrey. Dumb and Dumber — the first time I saw it I never laughed so hard in my life.
MiLB.com: Since you grew up a Cubs fan, were you grateful to be drafted by a non-rival team? Is getting to play close to home a big deal for you?
Crosby: I really didn’t care. If I got drafted by the Cardinals, I don’t care — it’s still an amazing feeling. Hopefully in the future, I’ll get a good crack at the White Sox. Definitely, I was in West Michigan in 2009, and it’s only about three-and-a-half hours away. My family came and saw me quite a bit, especially my grandma and dad. My grandma is 83, 84 years old, but she still traveled three to four hours to see her grandson play. That’s a pretty cool feeling.
MiLB.com: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Crosby: The best advice I’ve received is to phase out all the outside distractions and things you can’t control. Just trust your ability and everything will take care of itself. Don’t think ‘If I throw this, what will happen?’ And if you don’t succeed, don’t regret what you did. I just remember someone telling me that and I just stuck with it.
MiLB.com: If you hadn’t been a baseball player, what do you think you would have ended up doing?
Crosby: Something in business, like business financing. I like dealing with numbers and handling banking stuff. I’d probably be going to school for business.
MiLB.com: What do you think your best pitch is, and what pitch do you think needs the most work?
Crosby: It’s hard to go against a fastball, but my curveball is something that I can finally locate and it’s something that is my out pitch. It’s close, but I’m still going to go with my fastball. It’s nice knowing that I have that in my repertoire. I feel like my changeup is improving; I feel like I’m throwing that for strikes more. That’s something I’m going to use a lot this year. My four-seam fastball doesn’t do a lot of dancing or moving; it’s pretty much straight. I want to be able to throw my two-seam fastball and get an easy groundball out. My two-seamer isn’t there yet, but it’s something I am looking to improve on.
MiLB.com: You were 10-4, had an ERA of 2.41 and one of the best strikeout rates in the Minors in 2009. What stat from that season were you most proud of?
Crosby: I would have to say, if I didn’t have that blister the last three weeks of the year, I’d have to say my innings pitched. Actually, the thing I’m most proud of were my second-half numbers. They were a lot better than my first half, my ERA and strikeouts per nine innings were so much better. I was coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the fact that I was improving more and more was huge to me.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
2010 Coaching Staff: The Detroit Tigers organization announced the coaching staff for this season’s Whitecaps team. Returning to the helm as manager for his thrid season is Joe DePastino. He led the ‘Caps to two playoff appearances in 2008(72-65) and 2009(81-59). Also returning for a third season is former Tiger and pitching coach Mark Johnson. Joining the staff this season as hitting coach is Luis Quinonnes. Quinnones was the hitting coach for the Class A-Short Season Oneonta Tigers for the last three seasons. Moving on is former hitting coach Benny Distefano who has been in West Michigan since 2006. He resigned to accept a position in the Mets organization. Benny was very good to the fans and always good about signing autographs. Below is a good pic of him and my daughter from last season.
2009 Promotional Video: Click HERE for the Whitecaps 2009 Promo Video. It’s entertaining and gives a good view at what to expect at future Minor League games.
Tiger Fridays are back: This will be the second season the Whitecaps are offering Tiger Fridays, where a former Detroit player or players will be at 5/3 Ballpark to sign autographs. They usually have a bobblehead giveaway, or something like that, too. Here’s the lineup for this season; Jack Morris (June 4), Juan Berenguer and Ozzie Virgil (June 25), Larry Herndon (July 23), Mike Henneman (Aug. 6), Dick McAuliffe (Aug. 20), and Frank Howard (Aug. 27).
Path of the Pros: MiLB.com is continuing it’s Path to the Pros series this time featuring former Whitecap Jair Jurrjens. Jurrjens was part of one the worse trades in Tigers history (maybe that’s pushing it, but my opinion) being sent to Atlanta in a deal for Edgar Renteria. You can read the full story at MiLB.com HERE.
Prospect Chat: Baseball America has a nice interview with Casey Crosby who played for the Whitecaps last season and was named the top Minor League Pitcher in the Tigers organization. You can check this out HERE.
Winter Beer Festival: 5/3 Ballpark is hosting the 5th annual Winter Beer Festival this year on Saturday Feb. 27. You have a unique chance to sample some great beers that are brewed in Michigan. They are expecting over 35 microbreweries and beerpubs to participate, and over 200 beers to sample. Sounds like a good way to handle the winter weather to me.
Photo property of MIB
The Detroit Tigers named Casey Crosby their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Crosy went 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings pitched for the West Michigan Whitecaps this season. In the second half of the season, he went 5-2 with a 0.78 ERA and 49 strikeouts in only 46 innings of work. The 21 year old hurler, had his fastball clocked at 98 mph in this, his first full pro season. Crosby only pitched three games in 2008 before having reconstructive surgery on his left elbow.
“He’s a great kid with a great work ethic, working hard at everything he does,” Whitecaps manager Joe DePastino told the Grand Rapids Press. “He was willing to learn and get better, and he’s very deserving of this award.”
Crosby’s keeping up the Whitecaps tradition of this honor by the Tigers organization. The last four season’s has seen the award handed to a West Michigan pitcher. Jon Kibler won it last season, with Duane Below taking home the honor in 2007 and Burke Badenhop in 2006.
Taking home the award for the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year, is former Whitecap Scott Sizemore (2007). Splitting time between the Erie Seawolves (AA) and Toledo Mud Hens (AAA) he hit .308 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI’s.
Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press
Down to Third: After posting a 43-27 record for the first half of the season, the ‘Caps barely stayed above .500, going 38-32 in the second half. They finished 11 games behind the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Clinching the Wild Card, they play the Great Lakes Loons in the first round of the MWL Playoffs.
Post Season All-Stars: LHP Casey Crosby and DH/OF Billy Nowlin were named to the MWL Post-Season All-Star team. Crosby was 10-4 in his first pro season, with a 2.41 ERA in 24 starts. He also fanned 117 batters and only waked 48. Nowlin (.311) and fellow Whitecap Gustavo Nunez (.315) finished second and third in the league for batting averages. Nowlin hit 29 doubles, 13 homers with 77 RBI’s.
Very Offensive: The Whitecaps 2009 team had one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history. They broke records for team batting average (.274), hits (1,316) and doubles (267).
Who Ya Gonna Call?: OF Wilkin Ramirez got his September call up to the Detroit Tigers. He got a small taste of the big leagues back in May, but expects to learn a lot this time around.
“Now that I’m going to be here longer, I can learn even more,” Ramirez stated. “You can learn a lot if you pay attention.”
So far he’s been contributing a a pinch runner and has seen some at bats. He’s got power adn speed, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him with the Tigers in seasons to come.