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.
The Detroit Tigers have another hole to fill in their lineup, and this time it’s at the short stop position. Will starter Jose Iglesias out for most of the season due to stress fractures in both shins, GM Dave Dombrowski has stated that he’ll look to the organizations internal options then sign a free agent or trade for another infielder. The safe bet would be to go with Danny Worth (former ‘Cap), he has some big league experience and is having a nice spring. If Worth for some reason doesn’t get the job done, however, I’d like to see Eugenio Suarez step up and get his shot with Detroit. The only thing really against him at this point, is that he’s on 22 years old and hasn’t played above the Double-A level. Last season he split time between Erie and Lakeland, hitting .264. He had a very nice season back in 2012 with the West Michigan Whitecaps, also, hitting .288, earning 147 hits, 34 doubles, 6 home runs, and 67 RBI’s. He earned a Gold Glove as the best short stop in the Minor League that season, also. So far this spring, he’s hitting .200, with RBI’s in only 14 games of Grapefruit League action. The Tigers weren’t really expecting big things from Iglesias’ bat anyway, just a solid glove, and Suarez can provide that. He’s also the 8th ranked prospect in the Tigers’ system according to Baseball America. The other two options might be another former Whitecap Hernan Perez or new utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi. I think that Suarez has the highest ceiling, though, and Lombo will probably stay the utility guy off of the bench. The Tigers have options, it will be interesting to see which route they go.
UPDATE: This past week the Tigers acquired both Andrew Romine from the Angels and Alex Gonzalez from the Orioles to play shortstop this season. This pretty much ends any speculation, and Suarez has been optioned to Erie, Perez to Toledo, and Worth to minor league camp. This is really a slap in the face for Worth, who’s been having a nice spring and playing well at the position.
Andrew Graham, who managed the Connecticut Tigers of the NY-Penn League the last three seasons, will take the helm in West Michigan for the 2014 season. Former manager Larry Parrish was promoted to take over the Toledo Mud Hens last fall. Graham is the first Whitecaps alumni to come back and manage in West Michigan, as he was a catcher in 2003-04. He previously coach the Gulf Coast League Tigers from 2009-10, and served as the Tigers Minor League catching coordinator in 2010.
Graham, a native of Sydney, Australia, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 19th round of the 2003 draft. He played six seasons in the Tigers’s system, including the ‘Caps. In 2004, he helped West Michigan claim the Midwest League championship, hitting ,253 in 26 games. In 2005, he hit .190 in 32 games before being promoted to Lakeland. He was also in attendance when the team won the 2007 MWL title, and seems to have fond memories of his time north of Grand Rapids.
“I loved it”, he stated to MLive.com. “West Michigan fans are just the best. The area is beautiful and, to me, it’s like the big leagues in the minor leagues.”
While in Connecticut, he led the Tigers to a 33-42 last season, 35-40 in 2012, and 39-31 in 2011. He seems to be ready for the step up to the Midwest League level.
“I’ve done three years in Connecticut, and I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong time, but I think I was able to handle myself there”, Graham said. “I think I developed good relationships with the players and I’m ready to do that with the Whitecaps.” While stating that he’s a players coach, “In that meaning I like to get to know the players and foster relationships to develop trust. I want them to know I have their backs when it comes to evaluating them and helping to develop their game.”
Both the Whitecaps and Tiger organizations seem very pleased with the promotion of Graham. Jim Jarecki, the ‘Caps Vice President, stated to the Grand Rapids Press: “Andrew was definitely a player that you could look at and see that he had the make-up to manage once his playing days were over. Being the first former Whitecap to come back to manage in West Michigan is a great opportunity for him and I know that the Tigers are confident in his leadership skills to manage at this level.”
And Dan Lunetta, Detroit’s director of minor league operations had this to say: “After three years managing our Connecticut affiliate, we believe Andrew is ready to take the helm and advance to the Whitecaps. He has worked diligently and prepared himself well for the opportunity to advance to the next managerial step in our system. We’re also very pleased that for the first time, a former Whitecaps player as a Tiger will be managing the club. West Michigan is a very special place to play and work and we know Andrew is looking forward to returning to Grand Rapids with great anticipation.”
We wish him and the Whitecaps the best this coming season. We plan on making the trip down to a game in early April.
Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/MLive.com
20th Winter Baseball Banquet: The Whitecaps have announced that their annual winter banquet will be held on January 23 at the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. Attending this years ceremony will be the Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, winner of this seasons Cy Young award. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski will also be in attendance, as well as 20 other ball players, including newly acquired Joba Chamberlain and Steve Lambardozzi. Whitecaps’ co-owners Lew Chamblerlin and Denny Baxter will also be on hand to discuss the recent fire at Fifth Third Ballpark, and the renovation plans. Dombrowski and the players will be speaking and taking questions at the event, also. The proceeds from the banquet go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation, that donates the funds to the YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program, and the Detroit Tigers Foundation (affiliate with Ilitch Charities). Very positive things to look forward to this month, and throughout the constructions process.
Connolly HOF Induction: Pitcher Jon Connolly will be inducted into the Whitecaps Hall of Fame at the winter banquet, also. He played in West Michigan in 2003, earning a 16-3 record in 25 starts. Connolly’s ERA of 1.41 is the lowest for a starter in the history of the Whitecaps. He was drafted in the 28th round of the 2001 Draft, out of Oneonta (NY) High School. Connolly was probably familiar with the organization, as Detroit’s short-season single-A team was the Oneonta Tigers at the time, and where he played in 2001-02. He bounced around all levels of the minor with both the Tigers and Cubs organizations until 2008, when he ended his career with the Newark Bears of the Independent Atlantic League.
Spring Training Invites: The Detroit Tigers have invited 16 minor league players to their major league camp, come February. The list includes some former Whitecaps, like Duane Below, Devon Travis, and James McCann. Below is back with the organization after spending the last season with Miami and the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. Below was 12-3 with West Michigan in 2007, and carried a 2.97 ERA. McCann spent last season with the Erie SeaWolves last season, hitting .277, with 54 RBI, and a .731 OPS. He suited up for the Whitecaps for only nine games back in 2011. Travis was awesome last season, hitting .351, with 16 home runs, and 76 RBI’s between the ‘Caps and Lakeland Flying Tigers. He was the MVP of the Midwest League All-Star game, post season All-Star, Tigers Minor League Player of the Year, and won a MiLBY for Offensive Player of the Year. Here’s wishing these guys luck this spring!
Connolly photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/MLive.com
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.
It’s that time of year, where Minor League Baseball lets the best fans in the world vote their best Minor League moments, plays, bloopers, players, and so one. It’s simply time for the MiLBY Awards. Up for two of these awards is former West Michigan Whitecaps second baseman Devon Travis, who was promoted to the Lakeland Flying Tigers in late June. The awards that he’s in the running for, are the Offensive Player of the Year and Breakout Prospect of the Year awards. Travis batted .352 during his time in West Michigan, and .350 in Lakeland. His combined .351 average was the best in Minor League baseball for anyone with at least 350 at-bats. Between the two leagues, he also contibuted 28 doubles, 16 home runs, 76 RBI’s, and 22 stolen bases. Travis was only one of five players in MiLB to hit .330 and steal over 20 bases.
Also up for the Breakout Prospect of the Year Award, are short stop Corey Seager and pitcher Julio Urias of the Great Lakes Loons. Seager lead the Loons with a .309 average, and was tied for home runs with 12, despite playing 27 games with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League. He also hit 18 doubles and drove in 57 RBI’s with Great Lakes. Urias was one of the best rookie pitchers in the Midwest League, holding batters to a .206 average the second half of the season. The 16 year-old prospect struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings, a total of 67 on the year. Urias had a 2-0 record in 18 appearances for the Loons.
UPDATE: Travis won the Offensive Player of the Year and Breakout Prospect of the Year MiLBY awards, as voted by the fans.
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.