Whitecaps alumni update

opening20day200091Castellanos 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!

TravisMVPTravis 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….

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps Update 7/13

Devon Travis leads the Midwest League in hits
Devon Travis leads the Midwest League in hits

Travis Promoted: The West Michigan Whitecaps second baseman, and the Midwest League All-Star game MVP,  Devon Travis has been promoted to the Single-A Advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers of the Florida State League. Travis was leading the league in hitting with a .352 average, and 102 hits. He also had a league high in games played with 77, was second in on-base percentage at .430 and runs scored with 55, and was fourth in total bases at 141. Travis was also slick with the glove, leading all MWL second baseman with a .982 fielding percentage. Playing his collegiate ball at Florida State, Travis was a 13th round pick by the Tigers last year. Replacing him on the Whitecaps rosters, is 19-yr-old Harold Castro. Castro is coming down from the Flying Tigers, where he was hitting .274.

Jeff Holm signs some autographs for Whitecaps fans
Jeff Holm signs some autographs for Whitecaps fans

Holm MWL PoW: The Whitecaps first baseman Jeff Holm has been named the Midwest League Player of the Week for the week ending 6/30. Holm has been pounding the ball in this seasons’ second half, batting .438 (.385 this past week), with a .484 on-base percentage, and .731 slugging percentage. He’s knocked two home runs, four extra-base hits, five RBI’s and six runs scored. For the season, the Michigan State product is now batting .308 and leads the ‘Caps with eight home runs and 54 RBI’s. He was selected the starting first baseman for the Eastern squad at the MWL All-Star game, and his .993 fielding percentage leads all the league’s first baseman.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Lennerton to play in All-Star Futures Game

From deep in the M.I.B. archives. Jordan Lennerton with the Whitecaps back in 2009.
From deep in the M.I.B. archives. Jordan Lennerton with the Whitecaps back in 2009.

Detroit Tiger prospect, and former West Michigan Whitecap, Jordan Lennerton was named to the All-Star Futures World team. The first baseman leads the Triple-A Toledo MudHens in batting average at .311,  and on-base percentage at .416. In the last 54 games, he’s batting .332 with seven doubles, nine homers, and 21 RBI’s. Last season, Lennerton led the Double-A Erie Sea Wolves with 34 doubles, 21 home runs, and 82 RBI’s. In 2009 with the Whitecaps, he hit .282 with 12 home runs and 71 RBI’s. He split the 2010 season between West Michigan and Lakeland, but hit .290 with three home runs and 23 RBI’s in 59 games with the ‘Caps. He was named the Midwest League Player of the Week on 06/01/10. Lennerton was drafted by Detroit in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft, after completing his collegiate career at Oregon State. Lennerton was named to the World roster due to the fact he’s from British Columbia, Canada, eh. At this point he’s the only Tigers representative to the Futures Game, but may be joined by Toledo teammate Nick Castellanos. Fans can vote for the final roster spots, and Castellanos is one of the finalists. You can vote for him HERE. He was the MVP of last years Futures Game after getting three hits, scoring three runs, and three RBI’s. Fellow Detroit prospects Bruce Rondon and Rob Brantley joined him in last season’s game, also.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps Update: The 20th Season Begins

Print2013 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!

Outfielder Austin Schotts is ranked as the fifth highest prospect for the Tigers by Baseball America
Outfielder Austin Schotts is ranked as the fifth highest prospect for the Tigers by Baseball America

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.

capsbg3Whitecaps 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

Rondon closing in on Detroit

Whitecaps alum Bruce Rondon will be competing for the Tigers closer role this spring.

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

Brantly gets the call to Miami

Rob Brantly at bat for the Whitecaps last season during Military Night

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

Brantly with Marlins GM Michael Hill signing his Major League contract.

Top photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Bottom photo courtesy of the Miami Marlins

 

The Future is now for West Michigan Alumni

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