The Detroit Tigers have drafted Cam Gibson in the 5th round with their 160th pick. Not really ground breaking news, other than the fact that Cam is the son of Tiger legend Kirk Gibson. Like his father before him, Cam is currently attending Michigan State University. Of course it’s unknown at this point if Cam, who just finished his junior season, will return to MSU or join the Tigers organization. As a junior, he had a career-best 10 doubles and 17 stolen bases. He hit .294 while hitting five home runs and posting 32 RBI’s. We had a chance to see Cam play back in 2013 when he was a member of the Battle Creek Bombers.
Drafting family members of current and former Tiger players and management is nothing new. In fact, Detroit just drafted RHP Ryan Castellanos in the 25th round (760 overall), who is brother to third baseman Nick Castallanos. Over the seasons we’ve seen the likes of Pat Leyland, Colin Kaline, Nick Avila, and Ben Verlander in West Michigan, all relatives to others in the Detroit organization (and I’m probably missing a few). Out of their top picks, though, I think that outfielder Christian Stewart and pitcher Tyler Alexander have the best shot at cracking the Whitecaps roster right out of the draft.
Dow Diamond–Midland, MI: For a little early holiday, the kids and I headed down state to Midland to see the West Michigan Whitecaps on the road taking on the Great Lakes Loons. The kids have never been to Dow Diamond until now, so it was a special game for them! It was the annual ‘Bark in the Park’ event, so fans were able to bring their dogs to the game. We don’t have a dog, but since Brian was on a leash, we figured it was close enough! They had dogs performing tricks between the innings, too, and the kids couldn’t stop laughing after one of the canines did his, uh, ‘business’ right on the field. The poor grounds crew was kept pretty busy! The kids were able to meet the mascots Lou E. Loon and Rall E. Camel, so they were really happy with that. Dow Diamond sports a really nice playground, too, so that kept them busy for a while.
The game itself was a quick one, and the Whitecaps’ bats were a little sleepy. In fact, the Loons had a no-hitter going into the eight inning until Steven Moya broke it up with a base hit. The ‘Caps would only manage one more hit in the 1-0 loss. A little frustrating, since they beat the Loons 8-5 the night before, and the night after. Before the game, we ate at Logan’s Roadhouse, and my steak burger and chili was some of the best I’ve ever tasted! The kids loved eating peanuts, and throwing the shells on the floor, too. Nice touch, imo. Despite the loss, we still had a great time, and will probably try to get to another game here soon, or next season. Our next game planned is Star Wars Night at the Traverse City Beach Bums. Final: Loons 1, Whitecaps 0.
There was some optimism for this 2012 West Michigan team. And, in reality, there still is. With a solid number of prospects on the roster, as well as some familiar names for Tigers fans, this years rendition of the Whitecaps looks to have a winning look to it. Even infielder Colin Kaline feels confident about his team this season.
“I don’t see many weaknesses on this team,” Kaline told Steve Kaminski of MLive.com. “These are great guys, great team guys and great ball players. I think the team has some pretty high expectations for moving on this summer. We have a lot of guys who have been around a bit, with a mixture of young talent. It’s going to be really special to be a part of this team this summer.”
The Whitecaps hit a speed bump on Opening Day, however, in the form of Dayton Dragons pitcher Justice French, who was named the Cincinnati Reds‘ Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season. French struck out eight hitters and only allowed two of the Whitecaps four hits to earn the 3-0 victory. In all, the ‘Caps struck out eleven times and were 0-5 with runners in scoring position. Aaron Westlake, Dan Green, Eugenio Suarez and Steven Moya collected hits for West Michigan, while Kaline went 0-3. Starting pitcher Josue Carreno took the loss for the ‘Caps, who are now 11-8 all time on opening day.
All in the family is a good way to describe a small percentage of the West Michigan Whitecaps roster this season. Four of the new Whitecaps players are related to a former or current Detroit Tiger! First is catcher Patrick Leyland, who is the son of Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland. Patrick was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, and played at short-season Connecticut last year. Manning the second base position in West Michigan will be Colin Kaline, who is the grandson of HOFer Al Kaline. Big shoes to fill for Colin, as Al is one of the greatest Tigers ever, winning the World Series in 1968 and being a 15 time All-Star. Colin also played for the Connecticut Tigers last season. Also patrolling the infield will be Marcus Lemon, son of former Tiger Chet Lemon. Chet was a member of the 1984 World Series Champions during his nine-year stint in Detroit. Marcus was actually drafted by the Texas Rangers, but picked up by Detroit as a Minor League free agent in February. Pitching out of the ‘Cap bullpen this season will be Nick Avila. Nick is the cousin of current Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila, and the nephew of Detroit’s Vice President/Assistant General Manager Al Avila. Like I said, all in the family…
Joining the above mentioned on the 2012 ‘Caps roster, are seven of the Tigers ten 2011 draft picks. These are some decent prospects consisting of first baseman Aaron Westlake, shortstop Brandon Loy, and third baseman Jason King. The Whitecaps have some quality players returning from last season, too, who made a late season run and barely missed out on the playoffs. Outfielder Steven Moya and lefty pitcher Kyle Ryan are two of those returning players, and give the Whitecaps a more experienced ballclub this season. While the 2011 Opening Day roster consisted of six teenagers and twelve players under 20, this year club has just one teenager and five 20-yr-olds. The lone youngster is Danry Vasquez, one of the top 30 Detroit prospect despite having only one professional season under his belt.
The Whitecaps have been a pretty busy crew, though, despite only being in town a few days. Yesterday they held and open practice for the public, and took time to meet the fans and sign autographs. Today, a handful of players like Westlake, Loy, and Moya, participated in the Tigers vs. Mud Hens game in Toledo. They open the season tomarrow in Dayton, Ohio, against the Dragons. It was a nice surprise to see these guys in the lineup on TV, and a chance to see them in action before our game next week. I’m hoping that this is an exciting year in West Michigan!