Tag Archives: Lakeland Flying Tigers
2013 Roster: The West Michigan Whitecaps, along with the parent Detroit Tigers, set and released the opening day ‘Caps roster yesterday. Well travelled manager Larry Parrish will take the helm of a more veteran club than we’ve seen in West Michigan the last couple of seasons. Every player on the roster is over 20, with the exception of top prospects Austin Schotts and Danry Vasquez, who will be 19 for the entire season. Schotts was the Tigers second pick in the 2012 draft, and is ranked as their fifth overall prospect by Baseball America. Last season with the GCL Tigers, he hit .310, stealing 15 bases, and scoring 31 runs in just 40 games. Schotts has the speed and athleticism for center field, which earned him a brief promotion to the Lakeland Flying Tigers late in the season. Vasquez, also and outfielder, started the 2012 season with the Whitecaps as the youngest player in the Midwest League. He struggled early, but excelled after being sent to the Connecticut Tigers in the NY/Penn League, where he hit .311, racking up a league leading 90 hits, and slugging 20 extra-base hits. Vasquez is ranked the sixth overall prospect for Detroit by BA. Joining the outfield duo from last seasons C-Tigs roster are pitching prospects Montreal Robertson (ranked 18th), Endrys Briceno (22), and Edgar De La Rosa (29). All three are expected to be part of the ‘Caps starting rotation this season, although no opening day starter has been named. The grandpa of the team will be returning outfielder Michael Hernandez, who suited up for West Michigan back in 2006, helping the team win the Midwest League Championship. He hit for the cycle twice that season, and set a record at the time with seven RBI’s in one game. The Tigers re-signed Hernandez, after trading him away in 2007. He’s played the last four seasons in the independent Atlantic League. Also returning from last season team are pitchers Brennan Smith (3-4, 3.86 ERA), Chad Smith (0-2, 4.38 ERA), Slade Smith (1 sv, 3.59 ERA), infielder Jeff Holm (.254 BA), and Lance Durham (.238, 4 HR).
Although this is his first season with the Whitecaps, Larry Parrish has managed the Tigers, Toledo Mud Hens, and has been the hitting coach in Texas. He’s joined on the bench by first year pitching coach, and former Tiger Mike Henneman, and returning hitting coach Scott Dwyer. This looks like it could be a special season for the Whitecaps…I’m hoping so anyway!
Open Workout: Whitecaps fans can meet and greet the new players and coaches, and catch up with the returning ones on Wednesday, April 3. The team will be holding an open workout where fans can watch practice, and get some autographs afterward. The event starts at 1:00 p.m., with the team practicing at 1:30, and the meet and greet from 2:30-3:00. The event is free for the public, as is the parking! If I was living a little closer, I’d be there for sure, as it was a big hit last season. The ‘Caps take the field for Opening Day on the 4th, hosting the Dayton Dragons.
Whitecaps on TV: For all the games I can’t make it down from the Upper Peninsula for, the Whitecaps have signed a deal to have all of the their home games broadcast on MiLB.tv. I bought this last season, and loved it. It’s also very cheap if you buy it along with the MLB.tv package. They join all Triple-A teams, along with select Double and Single-A teams who are broadcast on the network. They join fellow Tiger affiliate the Toledo MudHens, and fellow Michigan team the Great Lakes Loons also. Living so far away from the ballparks, this is really a great deal for me, so I can keep up on all my teams. I wish the MiLB.tv would be compatible with the online streaming devises for my regular TV, though, like the MLB.tv is. Watching on computer or iPhone is ok, but doesn’t compare to watching them on the big screen!
Logo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Schotts photo courtesy of Flickr.com
Team photo property of Minoring In Baseball
The Detroit Tigers need a closer. GM Dave Dombrowski stated in a news conference that the won’t be pursuing former closer Jose Valverde, for very apparent reasons. In the same breath he also mentioned West Michigan Whitecaps alumni Bruce Rondon for a candidate for the role. After all, free-agent closers are in short supply this off-season, and in this Borus-esque world, the most routine pitchers will be wearing high-end price tags. So, it would make sence for the Tigers to look into their farm system, and why not look at a kid who can hit 103 on the radar gun. The 21-year-old from Venezuela takes care of opposing batters with quick innings, and the GM in Detroit is taking notice.
“He’s a rare talent”, Dombrowski told the Detroit News. “You would not believe the number of clubs that have called me about Bruce Rondon to trade him. This guy is a closer, with the makeup of a closer. Normally, you’re not going to thrust that (job) in a young guy’s hands and say, automatically, ‘It’s your job’. But it would not surprise me if he earned that job.”
What DD means in the ‘makeup of a closer’, is that Rondon simply overpowers hitters. A closer needs to intimidate the opposition and deny them any chance of a rally. Throwing fastballs at 100 mph usually does that, but he also has an effective slider, and can thow in the change-up. He’s impressed his pitching coach at Double-A Erie, too, former ‘Caps coach Ray Burris.
“The average is 99-100”, Burris also told the News. “It’s a comfortable velocity for him. But, he’ll also throw 103, and then maybe back off to 95 or 96. He’ll throw that slider at 91 and his change-up is up at 88-89. If you look at the discrepancies in velocities, what you see is that he knows what pitching is all about. He knows when to back off. And he knows when to get the strikeout. It just shows this young man, at his age, has a great feel for pitching.”
He spent the 2011 season with the Whitecaps, where he walked 34 batters in 40 innings of 41 games. He did, however, have 61 strikeouts and only 22 hits against him. In 2012, he played High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A ball. At Lakeland, he gave up only 12 hits and struck out 34, and only walked nine in 23+ innings. At Erie in 21+ innings, he also had nine walks, with 23 strikeouts and gave up five hits. He did struggle a bit in Toledo, though. He gave up six walks and five hits, while striking out nine. The Tigers drafted him in 2007 when he was only 16 years-old. Rondon is currently pitching for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelen Winter League pitching in three games, six innings, while striking out five and walking five. The opposition is only hitting .158 against him. Hopefully this success will carry over to spring training, and a spot on the Tigers roster.
Photo courtesy of MLive.com
Former West Michigan Whitecaps catcher Robert Brantly has been called up to the Miami Marlins, and is the 99th ‘Caps Alumni to play in a Major League Baseball game. He was drafted in the third round in 2010 by the Detroit Tigers, and played in West Michigan during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He played in 52 in 2010, hitting .255, and was hitting .303 last season in 75 games before being promoted to the Lakeland Flying Tigers. This season, he was batting .254 in 36 games for the Toledo Mud Hens before being traded along with Jacob Turner and Brian Flynn in exchange for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. A trade I wasn’t completely happy with, I might add. While with his new Triple-A team in New Orleans, Brantly was hitting. .365 in 14 games. So far with the Marlins, he was 0-3 in his first game, and 1-3 in last night’s 5-3 loss to Colorado. As he’s the 99th Whitecaps Alumni in the majors, the organization is holding a contest to see who fans think will be number 100 here: http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120808&content_id=36348184&vkey=pr_t582&fext=.jsp&sid=t582
Top photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Bottom photo courtesy of the Miami Marlins
Two players from the Detroit Tigers organization have been chosen to play in the 14th Annual Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game this season, held at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Third-baseman Nick Castellanos and pitcher Bruce Rondon, both of whom also played for the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2011. Castellanos seemed to be an easy pick for the U.S. roster, as he’s currently one of the best hitters in Minor League baseball. With Class-A Lakeland, he was hitting .405 with 17 doubles, three triples, three homers, and has knocked in 32 RBI’s. Since being promoted to Double-A Erie on June 5, he was batting just .225 until he finally found his swing this week in a game against the Bowie Bay Sox. He went 3-4 in the game with three RBI’s, and was just a single away from hitting for the cycle.
“This season, this game is up there, definitely in the top five. It’s my first game with three extra-base hits. I drove some balls the opposite way pretty well and I got my swing back. I wasn’t being myself for a few games,” Castellanos told MiLB.com. For him, every level has been somewhat of an adjustment. “It’s still a transition. The pitchers are very consistent with what they do so you have to battle every at bat. I really don’t believe in mechanical changes. I believe in my swing and I think it works, so if things are not going well I watch video because it is almost always because of my timing.”
Castellanos, only 20 years old, was Detroit’s top draft pick in 2010. With the Whitecaps in ’11, he hit .312 with 36 doubles, seven home runs, and 76 RBI’s. He’s probably Detroit’s top hitting prospect right now, but as a third baseman, I’m not sure where they plan on putting him in a couple of years if he makes the Tigers’ roster.
In the opposite dugout of the Futures Game, will be Venezuelan born relief pitcher Bruce Rondon. This flame-thrower has hit 100+ mph on the radar gun a few times this season already. With Lakeland he picked up 15 saves in 22 appearances this season. He’s struck out 34 hitters in over 23 innings of work, while only allowing 12 hits. He was promoted to the Seawolves at the same time as Castellanos, and picked up his first Double-A save this week, also, hitting the 101 mark while striking out the side. Last season with the ‘Caps, Rondon went 2-2 with 19 saves, with an impressive 2.03 ERA. If he stays healthy, he’ll be a huge addition to the Tigers bullpen in a couple of years.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Recently MiLB.com released the Detroit Tigers organizational All-Stars. Basically they honor the players who had the best seasons in their organization, regardless of age or prospect status. The Whitecaps are highly represented here, in players from the 2011 season, and alumni from previous seasons. Plenty of players here that we’ve seen and met, and hoping to see at Comerica Park someday.
Catcher-Rob Brantly. Brantly was hitting .303 with seven homers in 75 games with the Whitecaps before being promoted to Lakeland. He totaled a .274 average, 10 long balls, and 62 RBI’s between the two leagues.
First Base-Ryan Strieby. Spending the whole Minor League season in Toledo, he led all Minor-Leaguers in home runs with 19, and second with 76 RBI’s.
Second Base-Brandon Douglas. I remember Douglas well from his time in West Michigan. He spent the entire 2011 campaign in Double-A Erie. He hit .281, had a career-high 46 RBI’s, nailed 30 doubles, and scored 72 runs.
Third Base-Nick Castellanos. We saw Castallanos play plenty of times this season, and had the opportunity to see him progress. After a very slow start, he ended up hitting .312, had 76 RBI’s, 36 doubles, and 156 total hits. Tigers are banking on him, but he’s still a few years away.
Short Stop-Audy Ciriaco. Played most of the season with Erie (101 games), but also saw some time in Toledo (14 games). Between the two levels he batted .255, with 58 runs, and 57 RBI’s. This is the third season in a row that he’s seen a little action in Triple-A, so he needs to make the jump for good next season.
Outfield-Justin Henry. Believe it or not, I’ve been sitting on this pic of Henry since 2008 when he was with the Whitecaps, and playing second base. Not sure why they moved him to outfield with the Tigers needing infield help, but maybe Douglas playing the position so well could have something to do with that. All said, Henry split time with Erie and Toledo also. He hit .314 between the two, and stole 23 bases. He drove in 47 runs for Erie to be named to the Eastern League Midseason All-Star Team.
Outfield-Jamie Johnson. In only his third season as a pro, he spent the entire season with Erie, setting personal highs in RBI’s with 51, doubles with 33, and stolen bases with 14. His 93 runs scored was tops in the Eastern League.
Outfield-Timo Perez. Perez is 36, a former World Series Champion, and still going strong. Playing in Toledo, he hit .304 and stole 16 bases. He also pounded out six homers and 32 doubles. Most impressive, though, is that he only struck out 41 times in 473 at bats.
Utiliy-Tony Plagman. Plagman spent the season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, scoring 97 runs that led the organization. He hit .257, with 18 homers, 32 doubles, and 62 RBI’s. Good turn around for him, as he only hit five homers last season for the Whitecaps.
RHP/Starter-Brennan Smith. Smith played 14 games in Connecticut, and nine games in West Michigan. He was 4-3 with a league leading ERA of 1.53 in the NY-Penn. He had an impressive scoreless streak through 34 2/3 innings.
RHP/Starter-Jacob Turner. Turner played in Detroit this season, but before that he split time between Erie and Toledo, posting a 4-5 record with a 3.44 ERA and 110 strikeouts. Kevin Eichhorn was also mentioned, after an impressive season in West Michigan where he went 11-5 with a 3.61 ERA.
LHP/Starter-Drew Smyly. Smyly pitched 14 games for Lakeland and eight for Erie in 2011. His 2.07 ERA is the lowest in the organization, and went 7-3 in Erie, and with Toledo posted a 1.18 ERA with 53 strikeouts.
LHP/Starter-Jay Voss. Between Lakeland and Erie, he won 12 games and struck out 131 batters. While with Lakeland, he won an organizational best 15 wins.
Relief Pitcher-Chance Ruffin. Ruffin played in both Erie and Toledo before swept up by Seattle as the ‘player to be named later’ in the deal that brought Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers. While with Erie, he made 10 saves in 14 attempts, with a 2.12 ERA and 3-3 record. In Toledo, he saved nine games in 10 tries with a 1.84 ERA.
Photo property of M.I.B.
The Detroit Tigers recently handed out some Minor League hardware, with the Whitecaps’ Nick Castellanos being awarded Minor League Player of the Year, and Lakeland’s Drew Smyly awarded Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Both players are from last seasons draft and just completed their first pro seasons.
Castellanos was the top draft pick last season, and is the Tigers top position prospect. He had a slow start adjusting to the Midwest League, but his bat started to heat up with the weather in May. The nine-teen year old ended the 2011 campaign batting .312 with 36 doubles, seven home runs, and 76 RBI’s in West Michigan.
Smyly was Detroit’s second round selection from last years draft out of the University of Arkansas. His award is very impressive, considering the Tigers have prospects like Jacob Turner and Andy Oliver in the mix. He started the season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, going 7-3 with a 2.58 ERA and 77 strikeouts before being promoted to Double A Erie in July. With the Seawolves, he was 4-3, but pitched himself to a miniscule 1.18 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance.
Good luck to these players as they move up the latter in the Tigers organization.
Bottom photo property of M.I.B.
ESPN just did a nice write up on the Sanz brothers who play for the West Michigan Whitecaps. What makes the story interesting, is that the article’s about Lius A. Sanz. And Luis A. Sanz. Yeah, two brothers…same name. Wow, if this doesn’t remind me of the classic film (ok, maybe not so much, but one of my favorites) Major League 3: Back To The Minors. They had a brother duo named Juan Lopez, who manager Gus Cantrall (played by Scott Bakula) dubbed Jaun 1 and Juan 2. Not sure if Whitecaps manager Joe DePastino has made a similar naming of the brothers, but he told ESPN, “I’ve been in this game for 18 years now and I’ve never seen it or heard of it.” Aparently no one els has either, so there is no record of brothers with the same name in Major Legue Baseball. In the movie, the Lopez’s played shortstop and second base, and were played by Tom and Tim DiFilippo, respectively. The real life
Sanz brothers play pitcher and catcher, and are separated by their middle names. Luis Angel (no. 44) is the pitcher of the two, while little brother Luis Alberto (no. 13) wears the tools of ignorance. They were both named after their father who was named, yeah, well, Luis Sanz. Luis Angel explains, “In the house, my mother called us by our middle names. i’d be Luis Angel or Luis Alberto, so it was no problem growing up because she new our name.” The two became teammates after Luis Alberto was demoted from High-A Lakeland Flying Tigers to help out the fledging Whitecaps. They’ve only been in one game toghether, though, on July 5 when the ‘Caps lost to Dayton 6-5. At the game this weekend, maybe I can get both to sign a program or something-same name, different signatures.
Sanz photo courtesy of ESPN
Buzz photo courtesy of Yahoo! Movies