Well, this is like Deja Vu all over again, as the Detroit Tigers organization has traded away one of my favorite prospects and former West Michigan Whitecap Javier Betancourt. I went through this a year ago when the Tigers shipped Devon Travis off to Toronto for Anthony Gose. I know this is a business, and the organization is making deals to better itself and be competitive for the 2016 season, but I’ve seen many of my favorite Whitecaps get traded away over the years. As a fan, it’s simply easier to invest in players that you’ve met and seen play live many times. Also, as a former second-baseman myself, they tend to be my favorites to track up through the system. Players like Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, Brandon Douglas, Betancourt, and most recently Joey Pankake, have patrolled second base at Fifth Third Ballpark, and I’d hope to see do the same at Comerica Park in TV. Sizemore had his chance, but was dealt after the fact, and many don’t even make it that far. Henry has come back to the organization as a scout, so I guess that could be considered a victory, right?
As for Betancourt, he’s now with the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and in return the Tigers received a much needed closer in RHP Francisco Rodriquez (K-Rod). The Brewers will also receive a player-to-be-named-later, as will the Tigers, possibly, well, that’s not guaranteed, I guess. Detroit signed Betancourt as non-drafted free-agent in 2011. With the Whitecaps in 2014, he hit .269, with 18 doubles and 54 RBIs, and was a Midwest League All-Star as the youngest player in the league. This past season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, he hit .263, with 17 doubles and 48 RBIs. Known for his above-average defense, he was also considered a hard worker by coaches, and a good teammate by his peers. We wish him all the best in Milwaukee, and say ‘hi’ to former Whitecaps Hernan Perez and Corey Knebel for us…
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Last week when Baseball America released it’s prospect list, second baseman Devon Travis was ranked number one for the Detroit Tigers. Later that day, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for center fielder Anthony Gose. The Tigers were actually trying to convert Travis to the outfield, as he played there late this season before suffering a core muscle injury in the final week of the season for the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. The injury kept him out of the Arizona Fall League, where he was scheduled to play second, but still see work in the outfield. Travis hit .298 with 10 home runs, 52 RBI’s, 156 stolen bases for Erie this season. He played 77 games for the Whitecaps in 2013, hitting .352 with 102 hits before being promoted to the Lakeland Flying Tigers. He was a 13th-round draft pick by Detroit in 2012. Despite the surprising trade, Travis had nothing but positive things to say about the Tigers organization.
“The Tigers do it right,” he stated to MLive.com. “Through and through. I wouldn’t have rather been drafted by any other team. I’m thankful for everything they’ve done for me.”
In exchange, the Tigers get left-handed hitter Anthony Gose, who is expected to possibly platoon in center with Rajai Davis, who bats right. I’m not sure why Detroit would trade their number one prospect for a platoon player, but the team has been without a true center fielder since trading away Austin Jackson. Gose is sure to help defensively, though. It’s frustrating sometimes seeing some pretty good prospects play in the minor just to be traded away, but that’s the business of baseball. We do wish Travis the best in Toronto’s organization. Detroit’s top 10 list by Baseball America includes seven former Whitecaps including Steven Moya, Buck Farmer, Domingo Leyba, Kevin Ziomek, Hernan Perez, and James McCann. As for Gose, we actually saw him play a couple of games for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats back in 2011, one in Manchester and one on the road in New Britain.
Erie SeaWolves vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League)
Jerry Uht Park-Erie, PA: It’s always fun to see some Detroit Tiger affiliates, and in the SeaWolves I know I would be seeing some players who did some time in West Michigan. Jerry Uht Park is located in downtown Erie, but parking isn’t too bad for its location. We got there plenty early and waited for the gates to open. The team store is right in front of you when you walk in, so we did some shopping and got a t-shirt, pennant, pen, and a C. Wolf plush for Brian. The layout of the ballpark is very unique. Down the third base side, there is an upper level, separated by a walk-way. This is where the press box and suites are located. Behind home plate is pretty open, and down the first base side, there is actually an elevated upper deck. This is fairly rare compared to the other Double-A Eastern League games we’ve been too. The ballpark only holds 4,200, which is small, but it’s intimate, and hard not to fall in love with. I had plenty of time before the game to explore and get some pre-game photos.
We also got to meet the mascot, C. Wolf, and got a photo with him. He was a very active mascot and really is a hit with the fans, especially the younger ones, and there where plenty there for a Sunday matinée.
The game itself wasn’t too pretty for the home SeaWolves. Starting pitcher Jeff Ferrell went five innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits, and striking out four. Relief pitcher Jose Valdez gave up one more run in the ninth. Offensively, the SeaWolves got off to a good start with a home run blast by Steven Moya, who was 1-3 on the day. Marcus Lemon and Dean Green each went 2-4 on the day, also. Outfielder Jason Krizan went 1-4, but knocked in two RBIs.
We ended the game by playing some catch on the field. I really enjoyed the game at Jerry Uht Park, and this is a team I would really love to come and watch again. Highly recommended for any minor league baseball fan. Final: SeaWolves 3, Flying Squirrels 7.
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As a former second-baseman myself, I tend to pay more attention to that position while watching the games, and tracking players. Especially when it comes to the West Michigan Whitecaps, and tracking them through the Detroit Tigers’ system. I’ve had the luxury of seeing some pretty good players over the years, with the number four printed next to their name on the lineup card, with the likes of Wil Rhymes, Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, Brandon Douglas, Hernan Perez, and last season’s sensation Devon Travis. This season patrolling the infield of Fifth Third Ballpark is 18-year old Javier Betancourt, who is ranked as the Tigers 14th best prospect by Baseball America. Last season he played split time between the Venezuelan Summer League and the Gulf Coast League Tigers, hitting for an impressive .333 average. The Tigers were impressed also, and assigned him to West Michigan this spring.
“I was surprised when they told me I was going to spend the year here and that I would be in long-season,” Betancourt stated to MiLB.com. “But I’m looking forward to playing here and getting 500 at-bats. It’ll be hard, but baseball is what I love to do. I thank God for the opportunity.”
Betancourt doesn’t seem to have missed a beat so far this season, as his 34 hits are second in the Midwest League. He also is second on the Whitecaps in batting average with .304, and leads his team with 17 runs scored. The 5’10”, 155 pounder, also has hit five doubles and knocked in 14 RBI’s in the first month of the season. He has also seen time at short-stop and third base in West Michigan, and it would be nice if he was able to compete in the MWL All-Star in June, hosted by the Whitecaps.
“You always want to do your best, whether it’s batting .300 or hitting 20 homers,” he stated. “I just want to play for the team, get better and help win a championship. I’ll do what I know how to do.”
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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
I kind of went off the beaten path the Logo of the Month on this one. It is such a cool logo, though, I just had to feature it. Tickets for the 50th Midwest League All-Star Classic that will take place just north of Grand Rapids, go on sale on March 4th, with the game itself scheduled for June 17th. This will be a great way to kick off our baseball trip for sure. Grand Rapids boasts the name ‘Beer City, USA’, after winning an online poll for two years in a row. Fifth Third Ballpark also host the annual Michigan Brewer’s Guilds Winter Beer Fest in February, with many local breweries at the event. This is the third time in history that the Whitecaps have hosted the All-Star Classic, the other years being 1995 and 2003. Last season, Whitecaps’ second baseman Devon Travis won the Most Valuable Player award. Deik Scram also won that award in 2007 for his all-star game performance. Four current Detroit Tigers’ players have represented the Whitecaps in the past, including Ramon Santiago (2000), Don Kelly (2002), Hernan Perez (2011). and Bruce Rondon (2011). Miguel Cabrera participated during the 2001 season, representing the Kane County Cougars. Other notable MWL alumni to play in the all-star game are Mike Trout in 2010 (Cedar Rapids), Clayton Kershaw in 2007 (Great Lakes), Prince Fielder in 2003 (Beloit), and Wil Myers in 2010 (Burlington).
This time of year, Minor League Baseball honors the players in each organization’s farm who had the best seasons. This season was a good one for the Detroit Tigers‘ minor leaguers, as many of them had some solid stats. I’ve always enjoyed following the players up through the system, especially the ones who played in West Michigan for the Whitecaps. I plan on making trips down to Toledo and Erie, along with my usual stops in Grand Rapids, so I’ll have a good chance to see most of these players next season. It looks like eight out of the 12 selected played for the Whitecaps at one point in their career.
Catcher-James McCann (Erie Seawolves): Suited up for nine games with West Michigan in 2009. This season with Erie, he hit .277, with 30 doubles, eight home runs, and 54 RBI’s. His BA, doubles, along with 178 total bases and 50 runs scored, lead all catchers in the system. Behind the plate he threw out 28 of 76 base runners (1/3), and had a .991 fielding percentage.
First Base-Jordan Lennerton (Toledo Mud Hens): Played for the Whitecaps during the 2009-10 seasons. This season with Toledo, he lead all first basemen with 17 home runs and 143 hits. He placed second in the Tigers organization with 84 walks, fourth with 57 RBI’s, and fourth with 221 total bases.
Second Base-Devon Travis (West Michigan Whitecaps/Lakeland Flying Tigers): Played most of the season in West Michigan before being promoted to Lakeland. Travis was the Midwest League All-Star Game MVP, the Tigers’ Minor League Player of the Year, and won two MiLBY Awards for Breakout Prospect and Offensive Player. He hit .351 across both leagues, and lead all middle infielders with 16 home runs and 76 RBI’s. He was also successful in 22 out of 26 base stealing attempts.
Third Base-Wade Gaynor (Erie Seawolves): Played for the ‘Caps during the 2010 season. This season with Erie, he lead all players at the hot corner with 108 hits, 179 total bases, 64 RBI’s, 31 doubles, and 12 stolen bases. He also contributed 12 homers and 45 extra-base hits.
Shortstop-Eugenio Suarez (Erie Seawolves/Lakeland Flying Tigers): Won a Gold Glove last season with the Whitecaps, as the best defensive shortstop in the minors, and a Midwest League All-Star. In 2013 with Lakeland and Erie, he hit .264, added 10 home runs (career high), 57 RBI’s across both levels. He led all Tiger shortstops with six triples and 70 runs scored.
Outfield-Danny Dorn (Toledo Mud Hens): Dorn led all Tigers’ minor leaguers with 25 home runs and 82 RBI’s. He ranked second in the system with 228 total bases, also. He was signed by Detroit as a free-agent in 2012.
Outfield-Tyler Collins (Erie Seawolves): Skipped over the Whitecaps, moving up to Lakeland from Connecticut. He ranked second in the system with 21 home runs and 79 RBI’s, hitting .240, with 29 doubles, and 67 runs scored.
Outfield-Nick Castellanos (Toledo Mud Hens): Played with the Whitecaps in 2011. Was called up to the big team for 11 games this season, but with Toledo he hit 18 homers and 76 RBI’s. He also led all outfielders with 240 total bases and 81 runs scored. His biggest improvement, was cutting down on strikeouts, and drawing more walks this season (54). I’d like to see him starting for Detroit next season in left field.
Utility Player-Daniel Fields (Erie Seawolves): The Michigan native hit .284 for Erie this season, hitting 43 extra-base hits including 10 home runs. He added 58 RBI’s, 24 stolen bases, and 71 runs scored.
Starter/RHP-Wilsen Palacios (Lakeland Flying Tigers): Played for the Whitecaps last season. In 2013 with Lakeland, he posted a 3.07 ERA and struck out 109. He held opponents to a .238 batting average and 1.23 WHIP. Had a 7-8 record in 23 starts, including a complete game. He’s currently pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Starter/LHP-Kyle Lobstein (Erie Seawolves/Toledo Mud Hens): Playing 15 games with the ‘Wolves and 13 with the Hens, he went 13-7 this season. He led all pitchers in wins and with 148 strikeouts. across both leagues, he boasted a 3.27 ERA.
Relief Pitcher-Corey Knebel (West Michigan Whitecaps): Played for the Whitecaps this season, after finishing his collegiate career at the University of Texas. He had 15 saves in half a season for the ‘Caps, good for fourth in the system. Had an impressive 41-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio, and held opponents to a .133 average, and had an ERA of 0.87.
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Yesterday was the Arizona Fall League‘s all-star game, properly termed the Fall-Star Game. The game is the half-way point of the AFL schedule for some of the best prospects in baseball. The game also featured two of this season’s most successful West Michigan Whitecaps players, and Detroit Tigers prospects. The West beat the East 9-2, but second baseman Devon Travis and relief pitcher Corey Knebel both made appearances. Travis went 1-2 with a triple and an RBI. Knebel pitched only 0.2 of an inning, giving up a home run, a solo shot, and striking out a batter.
Both players are suiting up for the Mesa Solar Sox this fall, a team that featured prospects from the Tigers, California Angels, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, and Washington Nationals. Travis is hitting .233, with two home runs, three doubles, and eight RBI’s. Knebel has a 1.50 ERA in eight games, with two saves, and seven strike outs. Three other former Whitecaps playing for Mesa are pitchers Tommy Collier (2012) and Kenny Faulk (2010), and shortstop Dixon Machado (2011). Collier has a 0.64 in four appearances, with 10 strike outs and giving up only one earned run. Faulk is 1-1, with a frightful 11.37 ERA. He did strike out eight and have one hold. Machado is batting .188 in only nine game, and added four RBI’s for his efforts. Other players in the Tigers system that are playing with the Solar Sox are pitcher Blaine Hardy and outfield Tyler Collins.
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Devon Travis, who has split time between the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Lakeland Flying Tigers, has been named the Detroit Tigers Minor League Player of the Year. He hit .351, with 16 home runs, 76 RBI’s, 28 doubles, four triples, and stole 22 bases between the Midwest and Florida State League. The 22-year-old second baseman was a 13th-round pick of Detroit in 2012, then playing collegiate ball for the Florida State Seminoles. Travis was also the MVP of the Midwest League All-Star Game in June, and was named a MWL post-season All-Star. He will suit up with six other Tigers’ prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League in October. It will be fun to track his progress, and see what level he starts out in next season.
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Castellanos gets the call: After toiling in the Minors the last few seasons, top Tigers’ prospect Nick Castellanos finally got the call to the big club yesterday. He came into the game to play left field, and went 0-2 at the plate. No worries, though, as none of the Tigers’ bats were working in a 4-0 loss to Cleveland. He was doing fine at the dish in Toledo, however, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 76 RBI’s for the Triple-A affiliate. Castellanos was drafted by Detroit as a third-baseman in 2010, but was moved to the outfield in 2012.
“I could hit .900 with 100 home runs and I still was not going to play third base in Detroit”, he stated to the AP. But he did look at the move as a positive one and a “very good thing” because “they saw me moving here in the future.” He also stated about the position change: “I was new to everything. I was new to reads off the bat, line drives that stay true and line drives that have topspin down. I was pretty rough with having wall awareness.” He also credits Gene Roof, Detroit’s roving minor league outfield and base running coordinator for taking the time to work with him. “Without him, I wouldn’t be in this locker room.”
Castellanos played for the West Michigan Whitecaps during the 2011 season, when he was just 19 years-old. He hit .312, with 36 doubles, seven home runs, and 76 RBI’s. Now, at the ripe ol’ age of 21, he’s being brought up to the bigs in the mist of a playoff race.
“I’m extremely fortunate to be able, first of all, to get call up, and second of all to be called up in a situation like this, where we’re playing for something,” he stated. “So I’m just going to take everything in, I’m going to learn as much as I can, and I’m going to enjoy the ride because it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
We wish the best of luck to Castellanos, who’s pictured above with Lily. If he makes it big, that baseball he signed for her will be something to treasure!
Travis named MWL post-season All-Star: Former Whitecaps’ second baseman Devon Travis, who was call up to the Lakeland Flying Tigers in July, has been named to the Midwest League post-season All-Star team for 2013. Only one player for each position is chosen, so it’s an honor to be picked as that one best player. He’s earned it, too, hitting .352, with 17 doubles, six home runs, 42 RBI’s, and 14 stolen bases, in only 77 games. Before being promoted to Class-A Advanced Florida State League, he was leading the MWL with 102 hits, games played, and a .982 fielding percentage. He also participated in the Midwest League All-Star game in June, being named the MVP after hitting a three-run triple while going 2-2. Travis is also the owner of the longest hitting streak in Whitecaps history, by hitting safely in 21 consecutive game from April 21-May 12. I was happy I could watch Travis play before his promotion, and we’ll be following him as he moves up in the system. The only other player from a Michigan based team to be named to the All-Star team was relief pitcher Geoff Brown, with the Great Lakes Loons. The Loons are also the only team to make the playoffs, so we’ll be keeping track of their bid for the championship, also. If they can just hold secure a home game for next weekend….
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