Yes, it’s that time of the year again when we get to vote for the very best of Minor League Baseball this past season. As usual, a few of the local players made the list. I’ll be voting as much as possible, and hoping some of them can bring home an award or two.
Top Offensive Player: Former Great Lakes Loons short stop Corey Seager had a fantastic season for the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He led all of the minors with 50 doubles, and was tied for first with a .349 batting average. Throw in 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s, and you have a player worthy of being named a top offensive player.
Breakout Prospect: Most Tiger fans knew outfielder Steven Moya was a top prospect going into the season, but he really earned that moniker in 2014. Hitting .276 with the Double-A Erie Seawolves, he also belted 35 home runs and drove in 105. He also showed some speed, stealing 16 bases this season. Those stats were good enough to be named the Eastern League MVP, but will they be good enough to be the breakout prospect? As a former West Michigan Whitecaps, he’ll be in completion for that crown with hurler that pitched for the ‘Caps this season. Kevin Ziomek quickly moved up the Tigers prospect list with his accomplishments this season. A member of a rotation stacked with top prospects, he led the Midwest League with a 2.27 ERA, and his 152 strikeout were second in the league. With is 10-6 record, he can certainly be considered a breakout prospect.
Photo of the Year: No monkey business here, as the ‘Caps are up for the photo of the year award. The above photo was taken during one of the promo nights (Team Ghostrider) where the monkeys ride around on dogs and heard sheep. We didn’t get to see the act this season, but last year in West Michigan. It’s a funny photo and I’m voting for it to win! You can vote for your favorites HERE.
Seager and Ziomek photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Monkey photo courtesy of MiLB.com
Players of the Year: The Detroit Tigers have named outfielder Steven Moya their Minor League Player of the Year, and Austin Kubitza the Pitcher of the Year. Moya, playing for the Erie SeaWolves this season, hit .276, with 33 doubles, three triples, while stealing 16 bases. He set records with Erie with 35 home runs and 105 RBI’s this season, also. Moya lead the Eastern League with 70 extra-base hits and was named the league’s MVP. He’s ranked as the Tigers’ No. 7 prospect by MLB.com. Kubitza pitched for the West Michigan Whitecaps this season, but we never had a chance to see him on the mound. He was named the Midwest League’s Pitcher of the Week on two separate occasions, and had an impressive 2.34 ERA this season. He had a 10-2 record for the ‘Caps and had 140 strike outs.
Executive of the Year: The Whitecaps’ vice president of ticket sales Steve McCarthy has been named the Midwest League Executive of the Year. This season the ‘Caps averaged 5,595 fans per game, good for fourth in the league, and their total attendance of 391,000 was the most through the gates of Fifth Third Ballpark since 2002. In all, this was one of West Michigan’s best seasons for advertising revenue, attendance, and ticket revenue. McCarthy was in intern for the Whitecaps in 1995, then with Van Andel Arena and The Palace of Auburn Hills. He worked for the Detroit Pistons as a ticket sales account representative and Director of Group Sales, before returning to West Michigan in 2001. He was promoted to vice president of ticket sales in 2005.
Tigers call up…Reatini? The Whitecaps’ clubhouse attendant Sam Reatini has been temporarily called up to the Detroit Tigers. He has been the clubhouse attendant in West Michigan for the last two seasons, and is now sitting in the opposing teams clubhouse at Comerica Park. If he needs any supplies for the ‘Caps, he contacts John Nelson, who is the assistant equipment manager for Detroit and handles minor league equipment needs for the affiliates. Nelson asked Reatini to join him when his college interns left toward the end of the season to go back to school. With the Whitecaps season over, this is a great opportunity for Reatini, and I’m sure at least heard the Tigers’ celebrate winning the Central crown for the other side of the field.
Henneman leaving: The Whitecaps pitching coach Mike Henneman has informed the Tigers he won’t be coming back next season. To be closer to his family, he is returning to the D-Bat baseball academy, where his duties include pitching coach and camps coordinator. Starting with West Michigan in 2013, he greatly improved the teams’ ERA from 3.62 to 3.05 this season, one of the best in the Midwest League, and in the teams history. Henneman pitched for the Tigers for nine of his 10 years in the majors. We’ll miss Mike at Fifth Third Ballpark, as he was one of my favorite players as a kid. We did have a chance to meet him, though, and he signed some cards for the kids. We wish him the best down in Texas. UPDATE: Henneman has come back to the Tigers organization, and will become the pitching coach for the Erie SeaWolves.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
The Detroit Tiger prospects seem to be doing very well this season, with the Erie SeaWolves’ outfielder Steven Moya being named the Eastern League Most Valuable Player. The native of Puerto Rico is the first SeaWolves player to earn this honor since Erie joined the Eastern League in 1999. Moya is batting .271, with 32 doubles, 34 homers, and 102 RBI’s so far this season. He’s already set a new single season record for Erie for total bases with 277, and his 34 home runs and 102 RBI’s ties the record. His totals for home runs, RBI’s, slugging percentage (.549), and total bases (277), and extra base hits ( 69) leads all other Eastern League batters. Moya’s also tied for 10th in the league with eight outfield assists, and has only made three errors in the outfield. He caught fire in July, hitting .304 with 10 home runs, 33 RBI’s, and 20 runs scored. Good enough to be named the Eastern Leagues’ Player of the Month. He also earned the Top Star Award as MVP of the Eastern League All-Star game, after hitting a grand-slam to win the game 5-2 for the Western Division. Mayo also participated in the All-Star Futures game in Minnesota, suiting up for the World Team.
Adding to this seasons success, he named to the Eastern League’s post-season All-Star Team, also, and selected by Baseball America as the ‘Best Power Prospect’ in the league this season. Moya was signed by Detroit as a non-drafted free agent in 2008. He played two seasons for the West Michigan Whitecaps. In 2011, he struggled with a .204 batting average, hitting 13 home runs and knocking in 31 RBI’s in 86 games. He bounced back in 2012, however, hitting .288, with 14 doubles, nine home runs, and 47 RBI’s in only 59 games.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
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
Dow Diamond–Midland, MI: For a little early holiday, the kids and I headed down state to Midland to see the West Michigan Whitecaps on the road taking on the Great Lakes Loons. The kids have never been to Dow Diamond until now, so it was a special game for them! It was the annual ‘Bark in the Park’ event, so fans were able to bring their dogs to the game. We don’t have a dog, but since Brian was on a leash, we figured it was close enough! They had dogs performing tricks between the innings, too, and the kids couldn’t stop laughing after one of the canines did his, uh, ‘business’ right on the field. The poor grounds crew was kept pretty busy! The kids were able to meet the mascots Lou E. Loon and Rall E. Camel, so they were really happy with that. Dow Diamond sports a really nice playground, too, so that kept them busy for a while.
The game itself was a quick one, and the Whitecaps’ bats were a little sleepy. In fact, the Loons had a no-hitter going into the eight inning until Steven Moya broke it up with a base hit. The ‘Caps would only manage one more hit in the 1-0 loss. A little frustrating, since they beat the Loons 8-5 the night before, and the night after. Before the game, we ate at Logan’s Roadhouse, and my steak burger and chili was some of the best I’ve ever tasted! The kids loved eating peanuts, and throwing the shells on the floor, too. Nice touch, imo. Despite the loss, we still had a great time, and will probably try to get to another game here soon, or next season. Our next game planned is Star Wars Night at the Traverse City Beach Bums. Final: Loons 1, Whitecaps 0.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
This season the Midwest League Summer All-Star Classic was held at Fifth-Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Illinois, home of the Kane County Cougars. The stadium should not be confused with Fifth-Thrid Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI (Whitecaps), or the two different Fifth-Third Fields in Dayon and Toledo, OH (Dragons and MudHens). Anyway, the West Michigan Whitecaps were well represented in the 2012 ‘mid-season’ classic, as outfielder Steven Moya, infielder Eugenio Suarez, and pitchers Tommy Collier and Michael Torrealba attended the event. Designated hitter Dean Green was also selected to the Eastern Division team, but was unable to play due to being on the DL. The Eastern Division decimated the Western squad 18-2, and a few of the ‘Caps contributed to that score. Moya went 1-2 with two runs scored, and drove in three runs on a bases-loaded triple. He walked and scored a run the first inning, as the Easterners went up 5-0. They ended up scoring 13 runs in the first two innings on 20 hits against the Western Division pitchers. Moya seemed happy with his performance.
“They made a pitching change, the bases were loaded and I was just waiting for a fastball”, Moya stated to MLive.com. “The first pitch I saw was a fastball, and I hit my triple. It fest amazing. The guys swung the bats very well tonight, and were swinging at good pitches. It was a good feeling to help my team score that many runs and it was an honor for me to be here for the first time. I have been having fun the whole time.”
Suarez played a little shortstop, and went one for two in the game, including a two-out single in the sixth inning. Relief pitcher Michael Torrealba never entered the game, but Collier did face one batter. He stopped the Western Divisions two-run ‘rally’ with a strke-out to end the inning. He also seemed happy with the game.
“I got in there and did my job,” he also stated to MLive.com. “I did what they asked me to do and that’s all I can do. I thought I was going to have the whole seventh inning, that was the plan, but it ended up being one batter in the sixth. It was fine because they had other guys who they wanted to get out there and get a chance to pitch.”
The hero of the game, however, was Great Lakes Loons first baseman O’Koyea Dickson. He was a late addition to the Eastern squad, replacing the injured Whitecap Green, but made the most of his opportunity. He went 2-3 in the game, including a two-run homer in the first inning. Dickson was named the Midwest League All-Star game’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
We’ll be able to see all of these great players in action in just under two weeks, as the Loons will host the Whitecaps on July 2. It should be a fun time, and the kids have never been to Dow Diamond before, so they’re really looking forward to it!
Whitecaps photo courtesy of Dean Holzworth/MLive.com
Dickson photo courtyes of Jon Garcia/The Saginaw News
Wow, where has the season gone? The West Michigan Whitecaps ended the first half of the 2012 season playing some very good baseball, though. They went 15-5 in the last twenty games, to end up with a winning record of 36-34. They came up just short of landing the wildcard spot for the Midwest League‘s West Division, as they were beat out by the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The ‘Caps did beat BG in Kentucky two out of three games, and did the same thing to South Bend, including a 14 inning win on the last day. No team was going to catch Lansing, who went 47-22 in the first half. West Michigan’s recent play, though, has fans optimistic that they can capture a play-off spot in the second half. The team also tied a record of hitting a home run in eight consecutive games, first set by the 2004 team. They were led offensively by Eugenio Suarez, who hit a team high .311 in the first half. Dean Green and Steven Moya tied for the team lead in homers with nine, and Moya led the ‘Caps with 43 RBI’s. The team leaders on the mound were Wilsen Palacious with seven wins, Marcelo Carreno with 58 strike-outs, and Daniel Bennett with nine saves. The Whitecaps return to action on June 22 to start the second half of the season after the All-Star break.
Moving on up: I’ve been so busy catching up on my posts from my baseball trip, I’ve almost forgotten my boys in blue (except for the previous post..) The West Michigan Whitecaps have been playing some very good baseball lately, as they’ve won eight of their last ten game. Their record now stands at 30-31, and in fourth place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. They’re only three games out of second place, and securing a playoff berth. The team went on a five-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Great Lakes Loons in Midland. The Loons did earn a small victory, however, as their mascot Lou E. Loon beat out our very own Crash the River Rascal in MiLB.com’s Mascot Mania. Crash made it through the first two rounds, but was somehow ousted by Lou E. We’ll be in Midland watching the ‘Caps next month, and we’ll let them know we think Crash is the best!
Weekly MWL Award Winners: Two Whitecaps were won the weekly Midwest League Awards on June 6. Infielder Eugenio Suarez won the Player of the Week, while Tommy Collier was named Pitcher of the Week. Suarez hit safely in all seven games last week and had multiple hits in six of those, including two four-hit outings. He went 18-28, batting .643, hitting four doubles, eleven runs scored, five stolen bases, with a .857 slugging percentage. Suarez is now hitting .318 for the season with two homers and 30 RBI. On the mound, Collier pitched a nine inning shutout and complete game against the Lake County Captians. That led to a ‘Caps 1-0 win, on the back of his seven strikeouts. He only allowed four hits and issued one walk. Collier is now 3-4 on the season with a 2.60 ERA and leads West Michigan in quality starts with seven.
Whitecaps All-Stars: Fiver players from this season Whitecaps roster were named to the 2012 Midwest League All-Star Game. Outfielder Steven Moya and DH Dean Green will be starting for the Eastern Division, while infielder Eugenio Suarez was selected as a reserve player, and pitchers Tommy Collier and Michael Torrealba will be making the trip to Kane County. Moya is hitting .299 with five home runs and 28 RBI. He started the season red-hot, hitting .377 before being placed on the DL. Green is batting .304 with nine homers and 34 RBI. His nine home runs leads the Whitecaps this season.
Pics: The pictures shown are from the ‘Caps recent home stand with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com. Last nights’ game also featured the return of Tiger Fridays, and former catcher and 1984 World Champion Lance Parrish was on hand to sign autographs.