by Evan Wildey
Now that the weather is finally cooperating, it’s time to take part in one of Michigan’ favorite pastimes: baseball. If you can’t make it out to a Detroit Tigers game, don’t fret, you have a number of minor league baseball teams to choose from. While you’re on vacation, check out the Independent League Traverse City Beach Bums. If you’re on the east side, head up to Midland to check out the Great Lake Loons or visit our state capital to see the Lansing Lugnuts.
Any of these would be a fine choice, but today I’ll focus on the West Michigan Whitecaps for two reasons: (1) they’re ahead of the Lugnuts and the Loons in the standings, and (2) they’re a part of the Detroit Tigers’ organization.
So, if you want to check out some future Tiger’s, here’s who you should be looking out for:
The Prospects (Yes, they’re all pitchers.)
Jonathon Crawford — Crawford was the Tigers’ first-round draft pick (#20 overall) in 2013 and is their sixth rated prospect. He’s off to a good start with a 2.16 era (earned run average) and a 1.03 WHIP (walks + hits allowed / innings pitched). Unfortunately, Crawford hasn’t been blessed with much run support, so his record is only 2-1.
Kevin Ziomek — Ziomek is also off to a good start, posting a 2.00 era and a 1.20 WHIP with a 3-4 record. The tall lefty was the Tigers’ second-round draft pick in 2013 and is living up to that billing so far.
Austin Kubitza — Not considered as high of a prospect as Crawford or Ziomek, Kubitza has shot out to a 5-0 record with a 2.08 era and a 1.06 WHIP. Those are some impressive stats to start the year, and it will be interesting to see how he fares the rest of the way.
Willy Adames — Be sure to check out this 18-year-old short stop. He’s a slick fielder who’s hitting .264 with five doubles and six triples. He’s an entertaining player to watch who has a lot of fun out on the field.
Wynton Bernard — Let me be clear, Wynton Bernard is not really old (he’s 23), but he’s playing Class A baseball, three levels beneath the major leagues. For reference, Tigers’ current third baseman Nick Castellanos is 22, and pitcher Rick Porcello is already in his sixth season with the team at age 25. So, the odds are against Bernard making it to the majors, but he’s still great to watch. He’s leading the team in batting average (.278), stolen bases (14), and doubles (13). He’s got speed to burn. At the last game I attended, he scored from first base when the pitcher tried to pick him off and threw the ball away. He also plays great defense in centerfield.
Ben Verlander — The clear fan favorite at Fifth-Third Ballpark this year owes a lot of his fans to his brother Justin. That would be Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander. Younger brother Ben is the rightfielder for the Whitecaps this season, and while not a top prospect (he was drafted in the 14th round), he is having a stellar season. Hitting .228, he leads the team with 23 runs batted in.
Even if you can’t make it out to see these future Tigers, there’s a minor league team near you, and I encourage you to head out to the ballpark and enjoy one of the best parts of Michigan summer.