The Detroit Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos went 2-5 in last nights Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. He batted fourth, and was the DH for the West team. His first hit was a shot to right-center off Twins’ prospect Kyle Gibson, and his second was a rip though the left side of the infield off Mariner prospect left-hander James Paxton. Playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, he’s hitting .239 with one home run and three RBI’s. In Lakeland this season, he hit .405 with three home runs, while in Erie he had an average of .264 and pounded seven homers. He played for the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2011, there he hit .312 with 76 RBI’s. He is joined on the Mesa team by some fellow Tiger prospects and Whitecaps alumni. Catching prospect James McCann is hitting 7 for 26 in ten AFL games. First baseman Aaron Westlake played for the Whitecaps this season, where he hit .249. For Mesa, he’s .220 with three home runs. Pitching prospect Luke Putkonen is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA, while striking out six batters. Relief pitcher Mike Morrison has appeared in eight games, only allowing three runs. Pitcher Matt Hoffman and Tyler Clark also play for Mesa.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Bruce Fields is back with the Detroit Tigers organization as their new Minor League hitting coordinator. He got his start with the Tigers almost ten years ago, and is back after a stint with the Cleveland Indians as their hitting coach. After the change in management, Fields’ contract wasn’t renewed in Cleveland. The change brings him into a familiar situation, though, as he spent a good chunk of his playing career in the Tigers’ farm system. He made his Major League debut with Detroit in 1986. As a coach, he started with Class A Jamestown before being promoted to the Toledo Mud Hens. As manager of the Whitecaps, he coach current Tigers Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago. He sported an impressive 331-220 record in West Michigan, including three season with the league’s best record. Fields was twice voted the Midwest League’s Manager of the Year, and led the ‘Caps to MWL championship in 1998. He was inducted into the Whitecaps Hall of Fame in 2010.
Another perk to his job with the Tigers organization, is the opportunity to work with his son, Daniel, who is a 2009 draft pick of Detroit, and spent last season with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. He’s currently the 7th ranked prospect in the system, behind plays such as Bruce Rondon, Nick Castellanos, and Avisail Garcia. Coaching your own son isn’t always easy, but it can always be very rewarding.
“It’ll obviously be a challenging situation–the father-son, coach-player dynamic,” he told MLB.com. “But our dynamic is strong. Whereas some people I know say they have a hard time coaching their children, my son listens. We might not see eye to eye on everything, but they’ll listen. Both my sons are good that way. There won’t be any issues that way.”
Photo courtesy of Jim Hill
Last Monday the West Michigan Whitecaps’ season came to an end. Also coming to an end, was Ernie Young’s tenure as the ‘Caps manager, as he was notified after the game by the Detroit Tigers organization that his contract won’t be renewed. This news he handled with class, and kept to himself, until he was back home in Arizona the next day.
“They’re not going to renew my contract for next year,” Young stated to MLive.com over the phone. “I knew yesterday, I just didn’t tell anyone. They gave a reason (but Young did not state the reason). There are going to be some changes, but that’s the only one that I can tell you about. I can’t speak to or for anyone else.”
The ‘Caps went 72-68 this season, and 70-69 in 2011. Unfortunelty, they missed the playoffs both years even with winning records. At this point it’s unknown whether pitching coach Mark Johnson or hitting coach Scott Dwyer will be brought back, but both did their job well. Coaching in the minors is a tough gig, but I thought Young has done a pretty good job. Last season with top prospect Nick Castellanos struggling out of the gate, the coaching staff helped him turn his season around and lead the league in hits. West Michigan struggled at times this season more due to injuries than anything else. They lost power hitters Steven Moya and Dean Green to injuries, then a promotion to Green. They also lost catcher Curt Casali when he was promoted. Young is a former manager of the Class-A Kannapolis Intimidators in 2009-10. The 2009 team lead the South Atlantic League with a 82-57 record. He has also served as hitting coach for Great Falls in the Pioneer League in 2008 following his Major League career that included eight seasons with Oakland. His 142 wins is fifth all-time for the Whitecaps. He seems positive he’ll land with a new team, though.
“I’ll redo my resume’ tonight and tomorrow and get it out to the other teams and go from there”, Young said. “I’ll bounce back and I’ll be on my feet. I’ll tell you what, I enjoyed my time in West Michigan. The fans were great to me. I don’t have anything to be upset about because I know how hard I worked and what I gave to the organization.”
I wish Young all the best, as I think that he did well the last two seasons in West Michigan. Now, I guess, is the time to try to guess who the new manager will be, although we may not get an answer for several months. Back in February, I wrote that I thought that former Tigers infielder Brandon Inge would be a perfect fit in West Michigan. Some of my reasons included his 12 year stint with Detroit, and owner Mike Illitch’s reputation for taking care of his loyal players, and the fact that Inge still lives in Michigan and has his family here. His experience at various positions and the fact that his playing career may be coming to and are other factors. In fact, this season for Inge has already come to an end due to injury. Now, also playing for the Oakland A’s, Inge suffered a season ending shoulder injury on the first of the month. He originally dislocated it on August 11, and had just come off the DL when he injured it again.
“My damn shoulder came out again,” Inge told the Sporting News. “I gave it my best shot. I knew it was going to be rough coming into it. In a year like this, you don’t leave anything on the table. I literally gave everything I had to offer to this team. And I’m at peace with it.”
He also stated he was in pain before the re-injury, but wanted to help the A’s in their playoff push. In 74 games with Oakland, he hit .266 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI’s. Inge was brought in last April when fellow Whitecaps alumni Scott Sizemore went down with a season ending injury of his own. If Sizemore is good to go by next season, it will be unlikely that Inge’s contract will be picked back up, and courting a new time at this point in his career could prove difficult. Now, I like Brandon Inge, I really do. I love the fact that he wants to compete and contribute to his team, and I respect the hell out of that. At this point in his life, though, it may be time for a change. A job with the Whitecaps would put him very close to his family, and give him a stable environment. Inge is still very popular in West Michigan and has said nothing but good things about playing there. I’m sure if the Whitecaps themselves had a say in it, he might be a top candidate. It’s the Tigers organization, however, that will make that call. Honesty, I don’t see any other reason that Young would get the axe unless they really had someone else lined up to replace him. Hitting coach Scott Dwyer has head coaching experience, so he would be a solid candidate to get promoted also, with maybe Inge taking his job. If any of these bold predictions do come to pass, however, remember you read it here first: http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/2012/02/12/the-future-of-brandon-inge/
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Kauffman Stadium-Kansas City, MO: Nick Castellanos has been the Tigers top positional prospect ever since he was drafted by Detroit in the first round of the 2010 Draft 44th overall. He seems to be doing his best in keeping up with the Motor City’s expectations, as seen last night at the All-Star Futures Game. Castellanos went 3-4 including a three-run homer, three runs scored, and three RBI’s. He was awarded the honor of being named the games’ MVP for his efforts. The 20-yr-old prospect from Florida kicked off a nine-run sixth inning with a single before being hit home by fellow Tiger’s prospect (and former Whitecap) Rob Brantly. Castellanos would bat a second time in the inning for Team USA, this time taking a high fast-ball deep into center field almost 406 feet! The U.S. team defeated the World team in a 17-5 blowout.
“I think I gave a couple of fist pumps rounding second, and I remember saying to myself, ‘That’s huge. That’s awesome.” Castellanos stated to MLB.com. “It was a great at bat. The pitcher pitched me really well. I worked a 3-2 count and he left, I think, a two-seamer that got in. And I was able to get the good part of the bat on it and it got enough to get out. That at-bat’s definitely up there with the greatest at-bats I’ve had in pro ball.” Also, on his bat going to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, he stated:
“The bat’s probably the coolest thing ever. That’s right up there with playing in this game. I don’t even think I’ve taken that in yet, that the bat I used is going to Cooperstown. I went to Cooperstown when I was 12 for a tournament and I was just walking around. The names that are in Cooperstown and that my bat’s going to Cooperstown, saying that out loud is pretty cool. …”
He is currently hitting .307 for the Double-A Erie Seawolves, and was hitting. 405 with the Lakeland Flying Tigers before his promotion. Last season in West Michigan, Nick hit .312 with 36 doubles, seven home-runs, and 76 RBI’s.
Brantly was also a 2010 draftee of the Tigers, and played with Castellanos most of last season with the Whitecaps before being promoted to Lakeland. He was a late injury replacement to the U.S. team, but contributed to the victory both offensively and defensively. He went 1-3 with an RBI after entering the game in the fifth inning. He also gunned down a steal attempt in the fifth inning. So far in this 2012 season, he has split time between Double-A Erie and the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. Combined, he is hitting .300 with 19 doubles, three home runs, and 29 RBI’s. Last season with the ‘Caps, he batted .303, adding 16 doubles, seven home runs, and 44 RBI’s.
Getting lost in the World team pitching suffle, is Tigers prospect and former Whitecap Bruce Rondon. The Venezuelan born reliever pitched one inning in the Futures All-Star Game, pitching a scoreless inning in the eighth. He also hit the 102 mph mark on the radar gun…. Rondon was also split time this season, between Class-A Lakeland, where he was named to the Florida State League All-Star team, and Double-A Erie. He is 1-0 this season, with a 1.38 ERA, 23 saves, and 45 strike-outs. Last season in West Michigan, he went 2-2, with a 2.02 ERA, 19 saves, and 61 K’s.
Brantly stated to MLB.com about the possibility of facing Rondon in the Future’s Game:
“I think everybody was thinking about that at the beginning of the game. I don’t know if you guys saw the radar gun there, he didn’t throw anything below 101. Guys were coming out of their shoes early. They were looking forward to getting out of the box — single, home run, whatever. He pounded the zone, so kudos to him. I’m proud of him.”
I think it’s pretty cool that they all played together most of last season, and were able to share the experience of this game. Hopefully they’ll all be on the Tigers roster together in a few years. Sorry, no pic of Bruce, though…
Top photo courtesy of the Associated Press
Bottom photos property of Minoring In Baseball
There’s no real reason to hurry along Tigers’ prospect Nick Castellanos. With the arrival of Prince Fielder, and Miguel Cabrera moving to third base, he’ll have plenty of time to develop before being moved up to Detroit. Castellanos was penciled in at third base in the lineup to take on the Astros yesterday, before the game was postponed due to rain. Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a chance to talk to MLive.com about him, though.
“You don’t want to fill a 20-year-old kid full of too much,” Leyland stated. “You’ve got to be careful about that as well. It’s good (for him) to be around. It’s probably good to listen to everybody. It’s probably not good to hear everybody.”
Castellanos even had a chance to work out with Cabrera in the offseason, and said that it has been ‘awesome’ working with him in Spring Training.
“It’s mostly about learning how it’s done in the big leagues,” Castellanos said about the spring. “Just watching, observing and also getting my work in because I also have a season to prepare for.”
Leyland also commented on him in camp: “I think it’s valuable experience. But like all the young players, it’s about time for him to get over there (to minor-league camp) and get to work where he’s playing every day.”
With the third base spot taken for now, it will be interesting to see if they experiment with him at any other positions, like second base or out field. I’m glad to see, too, that they’re not rushing his development along, like they’ve done with a few other players, and give him the time he needs to become a big league ball player. I can’t wait to see him up with Detroit, but not until he’s ready. Last season with the Whitecaps he batted .312, with 36 doubles and seven home runs.
Justin Henry is another player who has been developing in the Minors for Detroit. He’s played every infield and outfield position in the minor so far, and has posted a .291 average with 104 stolen bases in five seasons. The last two seasons, he’s split time between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. With West Michigan in 2008, he batted .295 with 24 doubles and 46 RBI’s.
Leyland had some very positive things to say about Henry, also: “It looks like he can play anywhere. He look like he’s got a good swing and he can run..with not a lot of power. I think he’s one of those guys that’s kind of grown on the organization. He just kept getting better, and all of the sudden people are taking a little notice. I don’t think he came here with some big fanfare about being some great prospect. All of the sudden, he’s turned himself into a prospect.”
Nice words from the skipper. When he played here in West Michigan, he was at second base. With so many outfielders in the system, I’m wondering if they plan on moving him back to second or even try him out at short stop. We’ll be keeping an eye on him, to this season.
Photos property of M.I.B.
I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while, now, so I thought I might as well vent my feelings on the subject. Brandon Inge continues to be a sensitive topic for Detroit Tiger fans, and has become a player that some simply love, hate, or love to hate. I like Brandon Inge, I really do, and would like nothing more than to see him succeed and have a very productive MLB career. The fact is however, he batted .197 last season and is a career .235 hitter. So… I can understand why fans have a problem with him making $5.5 million a year this season, when it’s not even a ‘gimme’ that he’ll make the Major League roster. I think he will, though, and we’ll find out here in a few short weeks if all of the work he’s done in the offseason will pay off. The signing of Prince Fielder didn’t help Inge’s case, either, with Miguel Cabrera now being moved back to his old position at third. A bit of deja’ vu, as Inge went through this before when Cabrera was originally signed, and even back when the Tigers got Pudge Rodriquez who took his catching position. Tigers manager Jim Leyland really didn’t help matter either, by stating at the Prince press conference that Inge “isn’t the happiest camper”. I guess he could have put a positive spin on it, or not really mentioned Inge at all. All this does is give the media a chance to open up a Pandora’s Box of Inge bashing, without him even making a statement himself. I really think that I can step back and see both sides. I can see how fans may have a problem with Inge’s average and salary, but how can you blame a guy for just wanting to play? I don’t see what’s wrong with a guy stating that he wants to work hard enough and play well enough to earn a starting position. I would like to think that Cabrera will be the DH much of the time, with him being gradually inserted into the hot corner throughout the season. Inge’s defense is enough to at least earn him a spot on the bench, but if he can out-hit Don Kelly in spring training, he could see plenty of starts at third until Miggy gets used to third base again. Leyland stated that he wants Inge on the team, but he’ll have to accept the position as a reserve player, which isn’t bad considering he doesn’t have many options. It’s doubtful that any other team will pick him up with his salary, unless Detroit eats most of it. Last season he was demoted to Triple-A Toledo, and stated he didn’t want to play anywhere else but Detroit. When he was called back up to the Tigers and hit a home-run in his first at bat, you would have thought they won the Series. Despite all of the haters, many fans still like Inge, and would like to see him stay. Even GM Dave Dombrowski seems positive about Inge’s contribution to the Tigers in 2012 stating, “Probably the best thing is to let him come to spring training, let him play well, and let’s see what happens from there. He’s still an important part of our club at this point. ”
Now we come to the impass on how well the 2012 season goes for him, though. This is the last year of his contract, but even if he plays well enough, it’s doubtful that he’ll get more than a one year deal, and with Victor Martinez returning to the DH spot next season, the hot corner will be completely owned by Cabrera. They also have Nick Castellanos being groomed in the Minors and should be big league really in a few seasons, though they may move him to the outfield. With 2013 not looking like there will be a place for him, I do have a suggestion….I’d like to see Inge get into coaching. Hear me out…please. This is what Inge needs to do in 2012: work hard, don’t get caught by the press bad mouthing the organization, no matter how much he plays, or doesn’t play. The fact is, that Mike Illitch is one of the best owners in pro sports, and does a good job of taking care of players who are loyal to him. Look at all he’s done for some of the Red Wings alumni like Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Chris Chelios, and Chris Osgood. They all have pretty nice cushy jobs within the organization. Inge has been in Detroit longer than any other Tiger on the roster, and if he plays his cards right, could still be employed by the organization when his playing days are done. Granted he’s only 34, but is he starts coaching at 35-36, he could still be able to relate to the younger players. The fact that he’s played so many positions in at catcher, infield, and outfield, will also help his case. Just because he’s a career .235 hitter doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective hitting coach, either. Many players who don’t even have much of a Major League career have had success in coaching, including Leyland himself. I think Inge’s attitude would go long way in his coaching career, and could even lead to a manager job. Where else would I like to see him coach, also, than West Michigan? Inge lives in metro Detroit year round, and moving to Grand Rapids wouldn’t be much of a change for him. He’s also one of the most popular players to ever play for the Whitecaps and the crowds at Fifth Third Ballpark are riddled with Inge jerseys/shirts (though Brennan Boesch is starting to give him a run for his money). He also was part of the inaugural class of the Whitecaps Hall of Fame. Inge has only good things to say about his time in West Michigan, too. During a rehab game in 2010 he stated to the Grand Rapids Press, “I love it here, I really do. It’s kind of the starting point for me. This was the first full season I had in the Minor Leagues. This place produces great ball players, and it’s the first place you go to where you have larger crowds. People are very loyal here-the most loyal I’ve ever seen.” It seems like the Whitecaps are a perfect fit for Inge’s post-playing career. His alpha and omega….
Three Whitecaps are Midwest League post-season All-Stars
Third baseman Nick Castellanos, second baseball Hernan Perez, and catcher Robert Brantley have been named to the 2011 Midwest League All-Star team for the post season. Castellanos had a slow start to his first full pro season, but became one of the best players in the league though-out the course of the season. The nineteen year-old is fourth in the league with a .310 batting average, a team leading 71 RBI’s, and six home-runs. Castellanos is leading the league in hits with 147 (the ‘Caps record is 158 set by Robert Fick in 1997) and is tied for the league lead in doubles with 34. He’s solid in the clutch, also, batting a whopping .398 with runners in scoring position.
The twenty year-old Perez, from Venenzuela, returned from the Whitecaps last season to become the starting second baseman in 2011. He played shortstop for the ‘Caps last year, and has made some great plays on the infield at Fifth-Third Ballpark. This season he’s hitting .267 with eight home-runs and 40 RBI’s. He leads West Michigan with 67 runs and 22 doubles. He represented the ‘Caps at this seasons All-Star Game also.
Despite being promoted to Lakeland last month, Brantly has been honored as the top catcher in the MWL. He hit .303 with seven home-runs, and 44 RBI’s, and had 16 doubles. Behind the plate he threw out 34% of the runners trying to steal against him. I’m glad we had a chance to watch these guys plays this season, and look forward to following them up through the Tigers system.
Burgos MWL Pitcher of the Week
Whitecaps hurler Alex Burgos has also been named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for August 22-28. The left-hander threw eight scoreless innings last Thursday against the Lake County Captains, helping his team to a 12-innings 1-0 victory. Since joining the Whitecaps in June, Burgos has gone 6-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 14 starts. He’s struck out 82, while only giving up 55 hits this season, and has allowed opposing batters to only hit .190 against him. Burgos is the second West Michigan hurler to win the award this season, joining Kyle Ryan from July. We were lucky to see Alex pitch the Whitecaps to victory on Star Wars night on July 9.
Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps and M.I.B.