Results tagged ‘ Erie SeaWolves ’

Notable Quotables: Detroit Tigers Organization All-Stars

By Ashley Marshall

During my research and selection of the best performing players in the Detroit Tigers organization, I spent a lot of time on the phone with the team’s director of player development Dave Owens.

You can read the full article and position-by-position picks here:

And here are some more thoughts and observations from Owens, including what he had to say about Nick Castellanos’ ceiling, Eugenio Suarez’s defense and his first impressions on 2013 Draft pick Corey Knebel.

Owens on Jordan Lennerton’s all-around game:

“[He’s] another guy that had a very nice year for us. He went to the Futures Game and he’s a very, very solid defensive first baseman. He’s not afraid to stay within himself. He really knows the strike zone and his ability. He laid off pitches this year and showed he could take a walk.”

Owens on Devon Travis’ development:

“Devon has the ability to show some pop if it’s in the right place and he shows up every day to play. He’s a baseball player. He grinds out at-bats and doesn’t give at-bats away. He plays the game like you want to see it played. He was a really fun guy to watch this year and we expect him to continue his journey and hopefully see him in Detroit.”

Owens on the defensive growth made by Wade Gaynor:

“I think he won the Rawlings Gold Glove out of all the third basemen in Minor League Baseball, so that’s a nice package. Ever since I first saw Wade, he’s been a very solid defender. At times, he can have a long arm action on double plays, but he’s working very earnestly to correct that and he has gotten better. He’s one of those young men that understands there are two sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. The nights he may struggle offensively, he’s making the plays on defense.”

Owens on Eugenio Suarez’s ability in the field:

“I know he made some errors, but he’s really growing as a young infielder. Most of his errors were throwing errors and he’s working on being more consistent with his arm slot. He’s a very talented young man that has the ability to play the middle of the field and his bat will be a very nice addition. The errors will come down as he matures as a defender. Sometimes he’ll hold on to a ball that, in the past, he might have thrown away trying to make a play, but you never want to take that aggressiveness away from him. He’ll learn and calm that down on his own as he continues to get experience in the field.”

Owens on catching prospect James McCann:

“I see him as a very good defensive catcher, but I also see him as a guy who’s not an automatic out either. He’s going to give you good at-bats and as he continues to grow and mature with the understanding of his swing and learning to stay on breaking pitches the other way, he’s going to be a guy who will be OK at the plate too. He’s a gap-to-gap guy. He’ll show you a little pop every now and then, but he’s a doubles guy who will drive in some runs.”

Owens on Nick Castellanos’ potential:

“His best years are in front of him. We sure like where he is right now. He got a little bit of experience in Detroit when he got called up in September, so we’re expecting Nick to have a nice offseason and come to Spring Training next year. We really like Nick. He’s done some good things at a young age and we’re really excited about the future. He can be a guy that really does some damage and drive in some runs. He will eventually have power down the road and he has a great body that he’s growing into. He’ll add more strength and weight as he matures and he will hit in the middle of the order and do some good things for the team.”

Owens on 2013 Draft pick Corey Knebel:

“He has four pitches and the mentality of a closer. His makeup is off the chart, and right now, he has two plus pitches in his curveball and his fastball. It’s just a matter of us as an organization seeing how we want to use him in the future and let him go. It’s just a matter of him getting experience. His changeup is good. He has a feel for it and he’s learning to mix it in, a slider too. He’s a kid that is very smart and he has the mentality to be a closer if we decide to leave him there. It’s a great pick is what it is.”

Owens on right-hander Wilsen Palacios:

“We want him pitching to contact, but he’s got the ability to have that swing-and-miss too. He’s a very interesting young man. You can’t be afraid of contact. So if you pitch to contact, good things will happen. The guys behind you get paid to do a job too. As these young men mature and get experience, they understand that more. Being with Mike Maroth this summer has helped him and helped him with his split. He had a solid year, we expect good things out of him.”

Notable Quotables: Burning down the house

By Jake Seiner

The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.

Blue Jays’ prospect Andy Burns on his unique path to pro ball (Burns does double damage in seventh):

“It was definitely a pretty crazy experience. I went up to the Cape after my sophomore year after having my scholarship pulled at Kentucky, and I had a good summer up there. Obviously, there were tons of good scouts there, and I know they saw me play.

“I ended up going to Arizona, and I was close to winning my eligibility. I think there’s a seven-person committee, and I lost out by one vote, the swing vote. I had spent my whole fall preparing as if I would play, and I didn’t find out I wouldn’t until two or three weeks before the season started. Scouts had seen me in the fall, though.

“I definitely thought it would be more of a draft-and-follow type of deal, but the Blue Jays liked me. Blake Crosby, our area scout out there, came out to see me play in intrasquads and see me in [batting practice] and stuff. I went to workout in California for the Blue Jays and did well there.

“I thought it would be a draft-and-follow deal, but they picked me in the 11th round and got me the money I was asking for. It was unfortunate I had to wait to sign because it was an overslot deal, so it took a while to get done, which delayed me getting started. I couldn’t be happier.”

ImageBurns on his work with New Hampshire hitting coach Richie Hebner

“[Richie Hebner and I] kind of decided to limit some of the movement in my swing and get started a little earlier. I was really late and getting beat by pitches that, down in Florida, I wouldn’t get beat by. I made adjustments with my movement and my swing and shortening it up so it’s not quite as loud, per se. That’s something that over the last four or five days, I’ve been working with. It seems to be helping.”

Brewers prospect Andy Moye on adjusting to Double-A (Stars’ Moye loses no-hit bid in ninth):

“One thing I’ve learned with this league that I didn’t do early on is just attacking these hitters. It’s my first year in Double-A, and it’s a learning experience, as coach says sometimes. I’ve learned to attack guys and just try to pound the zone with all my pitches and see what happens. I didn’t get ahead quite as well in the outing before, but I had similar results. I’m just trying to go right at guys. I think that’s been the term for me this year.”

Tigers prospect Drew VerHagen on his work with Erie pitching coach Jaime Garcia (VerHagen pitches three-hit shutout):

Jaime’s helped me a lot. The first couple of weeks, he was just kind of evaluating. In my bullpens, he’s helped me a lot with my off-speed pitches, my curve and my changeup. We’re doing certain drills before the [bullpen session], and that has helped a lot.

“I think my goal is to keep improving those pitches so I can throw them in any count at any time in the game. I want to throw them for strikes and throw them to whatever location I want.

“I think Jaime and my High-A pitching coach Mike Maroth have both helped a lot. Jaime put in specific drills to work on the curve and the change that I think have definitely helped with staying consistent and throwing the ball for strikes.”


Ten first-half climbers: Eastern League

By Jonathan Raymond

We’re about halfway through the Minor League season, so we’re going to start identifying 10 prospects from each full-season league who significantly improved their stock through the first half of the Minor League season. By the very nature of already being highly ranked within their organizations, it’s hard for top-10 prospects to do much more climbing, so we’ll stick to prospects that were either ranked outside their team’s top 10 — as rated before the season by’s Jonathan Mayo – or who went unranked entirely.

1. Anthony Ranaudo, SP (Portland Sea Dogs) — 2010 Draft, 1st round, 39th overall, Red Sox No. 16

What he did: 8-2, 2.67 ERA, 94 K/32 BB in 91 innings. And there it seemed like Ranaudo had been all but written off after a disastrous debut with Portland in 2012. Last year, the 23-year-old made just nine starts and posted a 6.69 ERA with an ugly 27/27 K/BB. Now, the shine appears to be back, with the former LSU standout leading the league in WHIP, ranking in second in strikeouts and third in ERA.

Where he might rank now: Though the Red Sox certainly have a deep, talented farm system, it’s difficult to imagine Ranaudo left out of the top 10 after the year he’s having.


2. Cesar Puello, RF (Binghamton Mets) — 2007 international signing, Mets No. 14

What he did: .323/.384/.575, 15 HR, 15 2B, 55 RBIs, 19 steals in 24 tries in 67 games. Yes, Puello was implicated in the Biogenesis affair. But until something concrete emerges, it’s only fair to judge him on his performance — and that’s been terrific. At 22, making him one of the youngest regulars in the league, he came in second in OPS, second in average and tied for second in home runs. He’s also been a decent base stealer and built quite impressively on a .260/.328/.423 line in 66 games last year for Class A Advanced St. Lucie.

Where he might rank now: On performance alone, he should certainly deserve a bump up to at least the No. 9 or 10 spot in New York’s system.


3. Henry Urrutia,OF (Bowie Baysox) — 2012 international signing, Orioles unranked

What he did: .365/.433/.550, 7 HR, 15 2B, 37 RBIs in 52 games. Urrutia is a unique case, in that he fled his native Cuba for Haiti in 2011 and couldn’t authorized to sign until 2012. It’s effectively cost him a couple of years of his career, and, at 27, he’s older than your typical prospect. But clearly he can hit. Yoenis Cespedes debuted with the Athletics last year at 26, and while they’re not really similar players, his example can give you an idea of how to weigh the potential of a successful, albeit older, Cuban preparing for the Majors.

Where he might rank now: This one is almost impossible to peg, but I think top 10, or perhaps 11 or 12 if you’re being more conservative, would generally figure.


4. Andrew Susac, C (Richmond Flying Squirrels) — 2011 Draft, 2nd round, Giants No. 16

What he did: .265/.373/.489, 11 HR, 16 2B, 38 RBIs in 70 games. Susac is only in his second full season after being taken out of Oregon State, but he’s already reached Double-A thanks to an advanced approach coming out of the college ranks. The 23-year-old slugged just .380 in the California League last year but has obviously turned on the power this season, already surpassing his home run total from last year (nine) and equaling his 16 doubles.

Where he might rank now: Susac might actually have an argument for being the best San Francisco hitting prospect, but with so many quality starters among their ranks, anywhere from 6-12 could be justified.


5. Josmil Pinto, C (New Britain Rock Cats) — 2006 international signing, Twins unranked

What he did: .318/.418/.516, 13 HR, 20 2B, 62 RBIs in 85 games. The 24-year-old Venezuelan might have had one of the most complete offensive first halves in the league, coming in third in average, third in OBP and fifth in slugging. He debuted in the Minnesota system with huge seasons in the GCL and Appy League in 2008-09 before stumbling a bit the next two years but last year hit .295/.361/.473 in 93 games for Class A Advanced Fort Myers and has seemingly taken another step forward this year.

Where he might rank now: Somewhere in the 15-20 range seems about right.


6. Logan Darnell, SP (New Britain) — 2010 Draft, 6th round, Twins unranked

What he did: 6-6, 2.61 ERA, 77 K/23 BB in 96 2/3 innings. Darnell makes it back-to-back Rock Cats. The 24-year-old was second in the league in ERA and kept his walks-per-nine at just 2.14. The biggest improvement on his disappointing 2012 stint with New Britain (5.08 ERA, 98 strikeouts, 47 walks, 156 innings), though, has been the improvement in his K rate, from 5.65 per nine last year to a much sturdier 7.17 this season.

Where he might rank now: It’s hard to see him quite cracking the top 20, with how crowded the Minnesota system is, but he has received a promotion to Triple-A Rochester, and if he excels there could find himself alongside Pinto somewhere in the 15-20 range.


7. Jake Lowery, C (Akron Aeros) — 2011 Draft, 4th round, Indians unranked

What he did: .305/.375/.516, 5 HR, 12 2B, 18 RBIs in 38 games. Lowery got a bit of a late start on his year, missing all of April and a chunk of May, but he’s made up for lost time by putting together a very well-rounded offensive season after hitting just .232/.332/.397 between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Carolina last year. That the 22-year-old has done it after an aggressive promotion to Double-A, where he’s been younger than most, makes it all the more impressive.

Where he might rank now: He’s going to need a larger sample under his belt, but if he maintains something like this production, he could land somewhere like 18, where promoted teammate Chun Chen resides.


8. Logan Verrett, SP (Binghamton) — 2011 Draft, 3rd round, Mets unranked

What he did: 8-4, 4.22 ERA, 83 K/23 BB in 102 1/3 innings. His ERA won’t stick out at you, but his peripherals have quietly been very strong. His K/9 stands at 7.30, his BB/9 is at 2.02, his K/BB is 3.61 and he tied for third in the league with a 1.13 WHIP. His one concern going forward will be cutting down on home runs, as he’s allowed 14 so far.

Where he might rank now: With a similarly strong second half and fewer gopher balls, he could slot in at the back of the top 20 around 18-20.


9. Michael  Almanzar, 3B (Portland) — 2007 international signing, Red Sox unranked

What he did: .282/.346/.474, 11 HR, 22 2B, 53 RBIs, 7 steals in 7 tries in 81 games. The 22-year-old Dominican Republic native gets big points for his youth, his mature approach (31 walks to 54 strikeouts) and his surprisingly efficient base stealing. After putting up OPS lines of .684, .573, .670 and .517 his first four years in the Minors, something appeared to click last year with Class A Advanced Salem, where he hit .300/.353/.458 in 124 games, and he’s built on that this year.

Where he might rank now: Once hugely hyped as a pricey international signing and then hugely disappointing until most forgot about him prior to last seasin, his 2013 performance is definitely impressive for someone his age at Double-A. I could see him finding his way into Boston’s top 15.


10.  Kyle Lobstein, SP (Erie SeaWolves) — 2008 Draft, 2nd round, Tigers unranked

What he did: 7-4, 3.12 ERA, 83 K/27 BB in 95 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old lefty rediscovered some of his shine as a prospect this year at Double-A. After middling returns the last few years in the Rays organization, the 47th overall pick in 2008’s Draft was plucked by the Mets this offseason in the Rule 5 Draft and then sent to the Tigers for cash considerations. This was his third stint in Double-A, but it’s easy to forget how young he was as he debuted at the level when he was just 21.

Where he might rank now: After finishing in the top 10 in ERA and strikeouts, he proved there was still some room for development. He’s now with Triple-A Toledo to see if he can realize more, and, if he does, he could figure anywhere in the 10-20 range for Detroit.


Biggest pitching surprises in the Minors (so far)

By Sam Dykstra

Last week, we took a look at the surprising batters of the start of the 2013 season in the Minor Leagues. Now, it’s time to look at the hurlers they’ve faced.

International League: Jose Alvarez, LHP, Toledo — Alvarez has shown promising command in the past — he led the Southern League by allowing just 1.66 walks per nine innings last season — but that hasn’t necessary led to the best results. He went 6-9 with a 4.22 ERA for Double-A Jacksonville a season ago. So when the Tigers signed him as a free agent in the offseason and put him at Toledo for his Triple-A debut, they probably weren’t hoping for more than rotation depth for the Mud Hens. Instead, Alvarez has a case for best IL starter at this early juncture. He ranks in the league’s top three in ERA (1.98, second), WHIP (1.01, third) and strikeouts (55, third). The command hasn’t gone anywhere either. His 1.48 BB/9 also ranks third.

Pacific Coast League: Chris Dwyer, LHP, Omaha — Being that he’s the Royals’ No. 16 prospect, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Dwyer has found success this year with the Storm Chasers. But at the same time, it kind of is. Due to command issues, the 25-year-old left-hander never really got it together at the Double-A level — 5.60 ERA in 27 starts in 2011, 5.25 ERA in 17 appearances last season — and the ERA was only worse (6.97) in a nine-game stint with Omaha last year. But he didn’t allow more than two runs in his first six starts of 2013 and tossed eight innings of one-run ball on Thursday to give him a 2.83 ERA through nine outings. If he can return to his early form and continue to refine his command, Dwyer has a chance to meet the potential the organization first saw in him.dwyer_576x323

Eastern League: Warwick Saupold, RHP, Erie — After signing out of Australia last year, Saupold worked mostly out of the bullpen for Class A West Michigan and Class A Advanced Lakeland with ERAs of 2.79 and 3.77 respectively at each stop. But as the saying goes, the biggest jump in Minor League Baseball is making that move from Class A Advanced to Double-A ball, and that jump became more treacherous for the 23-year-old as he would begin his first full year as a starter on American shores. Still, he’s held his own in the Eastern League, going 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA — fifth-best in the circuit — with a 1.20 WHIP in his first nine starts for the SeaWolves.

Southern League: Spencer Arroyo, LHP, Birmingham — Since being selected by the Phillies in the 31st round of the 2008 Draft, Arroyo is already in his second organization and has yet to find big-time success at the full-season level — until now. After putting up a 4.59 ERA and .280 opponents batting average with the Barons last season, the 25-year-old has brought both numbers down to 2.10 and .208 through nine starts this year. In fact, he’s only gotten better as the season has progressed. In four May starts, the southpaw is 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA.arroyo

Texas League: Jake Buchanan, RHP, Corpus Christi — There was a chance Buchanan would be good for the Hooks this season — he was a Cal League All-star in 2011, and we even named him an Organization All-Star the same year — but no one thought he’d be this good. The 24-year-old has flourished in the Astros’ piggybacking system, hasn’t allowed an earned run since April 26 (six appearances, 27 2/3 innings) and leads all Minor Leaguers in ERA (0.84) and WHIP (0.73). He hasn’t pitched more than five innings in an outing yet this season, so he’s been spared from facing Texas League lineups a third time through. But you still have to like the results as they stand on paper.buchanan

California League: Daniel Winkler, RHP, Modesto — Since being taken by the Rockies in the 20th round of the 2011 Draft, Winkler has had a penchant for the strikeout — his 136 punchouts ranked second in the Sally League last season — but it hadn’t necessarily translated into results (4.46 ERA, 1.37 WHIP). The 23-year-old seems to be coming into his own for the Nuts this season, however. His 2.61 ERA ranks third in the circuit while his 0.89 WHIP is right up there at the top. And yes, his 58 strikeouts (in 51 2/3 innings) rank second.

Carolina League: Taylor Hill, RHP, Potomac — There was ample reason for excitement when the P-Nats started the year with Robbie Ray and Taylor Jordan — Washington’s No. 10 and 17 prospects respectively — in their rotation. But Hill, who owned a 4.91 ERA between Class A Hagerstown and Potomac last season, has been right there with them and has often been better. He ranks first in walk rate (1.18 BB/9), tied for first in WHIP (0.99), second in ERA (2.31) — behind only Jordan (1.24), who is now with Double-A Harrisburg — and third in wins (4). He’s also thrown the only solo shutout of the Carolina League season. That’s the kind of stuff that commands attention at any level.hill

Florida State League: D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Fort Myers — Make what you will of the wins stat for pitchers, but nobody has done a better job than Baxendale of compiling them as a full-time starter in the Minor Leagues this year. He’s a perfect 7-0 for the Miracle through nine starts, but none of those wins have been of the vulture variety. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start en route to an FSL-best 0.94 ERA, and that comes from  being nearly untouchable (0.78 WHIP, .166 opponents’ average). Coming out of the University of Arkansas, Baxendale was a breakout candidate after sliding to 10th round last June, but this is at a different level.baxendale

Midwest League: Brandon Sinnery, RHP, South Bend — Sinnery has been one of the feel-good stories of the early 2013 season. I recommend reading my colleague Jake Seiner’s story on his journey to affiliated ball, but here’s a quick Sparknotes version. Undrafted out of the University of Michigan, the right-hander moved onto two separate independent league teams before catching the eye of the D-backs, who signed him and sent him to the Midwest League this season. He’s thrived ever since, putting up a 2.25 ERA and 1.07 ERA over eight appearances (six starts).

South Atlantic League: Jake Cose, RHP, Kannapolis — The 2011 27th-rounder was OK (4.38 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) in his first pro season as a starter in the Appalachian League a year ago, but he seems to have taken things to a new level in 2013. He’s maintained a 1.61 ERA — second-best in the Sally League — thanks to an ongoing run of four straight starts, spanning 24 2/3 innings, without having allowed an earned run. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has also struck out 46 batters and walked just 16 in 44 2/3 total frames while holding batters to a .211 average.cose

Interview Outtakes: Tigers Prospect, Could-be-closer Bruce Rondon Answers Eight Extra Questions will publish our Q&A with Tigers could-be-closer Bruce Rondon in the next week or so. In the interim, the’s No. 92 prospect (bio, stats here) shared eight thoughts (below) that didn’t make it into the story. Thanks to Detroit official Aileen Villarreal for translating Rondon’s Spanish. Enjoy.

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

  1. On his favorite 2012 season highlight: “Saving 29 games. It was amazing because my goal was to save 20 and I saved 29. I couldn’t believe it. It was a real blessing.”

    (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

    (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

  2. On how he spent his offseason aside from playing in the Venezuelan Winter League: “I spent a lot of time with my family. I took them shopping, we went to the beach a lot. My workouts were early during the day, so I had the whole rest of the day to spend with them so it was great. Baseball isn’t easy because sometimes your family needs your support and love even when you’re far away. I always miss them a lot and it isn’t easy, but like I used to tell my mom, this is what I wanted and I was going to accomplish it.”
  3. On his first big league Spring Training: “It has been the best thing in my life so far, being next to all these big leaguers that I had never even dreamed of being next to. They talk to you like you’re the same as them,and I tell myself, ‘Wow, I haven’t even pitched a game in the Majors yet.’ They talk to you like you’re their equal, and it is really special and I give them many thanks for that.”
  4. On what he has learned from veteran Tigers pitchers during camp: “You know pitching in the big leagues isn’t just about pitching. Sometimes it’s about your character, sometimes about talking to the media, when things are going bad, when they’re good. In the clubhouse with the rules, that you have to respect to be respected. All those things, how to go dressed to the stadium, being prompt to practice, et cetera. Those are some of the things they’ve helped me with, and I’d like to thank them because sometimes you get to a team and nobody helps you with anything — you kind of have to learn on your own. This team is united. It is like a family, and that is a great thing.”
  5. On his scouting report of teammate/friend/fellow prospect/countryman Avisail Garcia“Him and I have played a lot together. He’s always been with me and helped me with different things. I’d like to thank him for that because he’s been a great friend to me and to a lot of other guys on the team. I have nothing bad to say about him because he has been a great guy.”

    (Paul Nelson/Toledo Mud Hens)

    (Paul Nelson/Toledo Mud Hens)

  6. On his best friend in the Tigers organization: “Since I came to the United States, actually since I was in Venezuela, Jose Ortega. We’ve come up together from the bottom. We’ve both been working very hard for our families, and now we’re both here trying to accomplish what we’ve been working hard for.”
  7. On the best hitter he’s faced in the Minors: “Like I say, there aren’t small or big enemies because everyone is batting against you. All of them to me are difficult. If I get too comfortable with one, he can hit a homer off me. That’s why I come out and see all of them as the best hitter and come out to pitch the way I come out to pitch because you can’t get too comfortable in the ninth inning. That’s when the errors come. You have to come out aggressive like always and not get too comfortable or overconfident whether he’s small or big, strong or skinny, it doesn’t matter who it is, I see them all the same.”
  8. On his goals for the 2013 season: “My goal is to work hard, to keep working hard, and not stop working hard. If you ease up and take thing for granted, that’s when the problems come. I don’t want to stop working. I know things right now aren’t as I would want them, but I know I’ll get through it.”

Prospect Uniformed: Tigers Outfielder Nick Castellanos in Every Minor League Jersey He’s Worn

Thanks to his .405 batting average in half a season last year at Class A Advanced Lakeland,’s No. 10 overall prospect Nick Castellanos made his Double-A debut at age 20. To smooth his path to the Majors, the Tigers switched him from third base to the outfield. Given that effort to keep his bat moving up the system — and Detroit’s historic aggressiveness for pushing prospects — it’s expected that Castellanos will play at Triple-A Toledo in 2013. The Mud Hens would be his fifth pro team. Here are the previous four, in a gallery.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.