Season Preview: West Michigan Whitecaps (Class-A)

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Over the next week or so, I'll be doing season previews for each of the Tigers minor league teams. I'll do West Michigan, Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo first, and then in about a month or so I'll get to the GCL Tigers and Connecticut. These previews will just give a basic overview of who I expect to make up the respective rosters.

Note: Keep in mind that I don't know with 100% certainty where each minor league player will be assigned to. These previews are where I expect that they will go. Also, as I am not the manager of any of these teams, the starting lineups/rotations/bullpens that I preview here are also just what I expect will happen, not necessarily will happen. Also, I just got done with the Top 50 rankings, so I'm not going to give scouting reports on each guy. That would be redundant. Without further ado:

West Michigan Whitecaps: Class A

Starting Lineup:

1) Austin Schotts, CF

-Schotts is coming off of an excellent professional debut in 2012, and while he's only 19, he's proven that the rookie leagues are not enough competition for him. His calling card is his 70 grade speed, with enough bat to hit at the top of the order.

2) Devon Travis, 2B

-Travis played well at Connecticut in 2012 before an injury cut his season short. I'm higher on Travis than most other prospect hounds that I've read, but I believe he will show scouts that he has a future on the right side of a MLB infield. Solid across the board, Travis should excel in the 2 hole.

3) Danry Vasquez, LF

-Vasquez struggled at West Michigan in 2012, but then went to Connecticut and hit over .300. He also reportedly tore up the fall league. Profiling as a middle of the order bat with solid D in LF, 2013 could be a breakout season for Vasquez, who I ranked 4th in the Top 50.

4) Lance Durham, 1B

-More of an org guy at this point, Durham still brings solid pop and a good overall idea at the plate. He won't wow anyone, but with 1B prospects loaded at the higher levels (which you'll see), Durham fits best in the org in the middle of the West Michigan lineup

5) Jeff McVaney, DH

-I like McVaney more than others, but I still don't see a profile beyond that of a 5th OF/up and down type at the MLB level. He'll get more than his share of reps in the OF, where he isn't bad, but there's a higher priority OF prospect who you'll meet later on the list that I see "starting" over him.

6) Jake Stewart, OF

-I like Stewart. I think he has a really solid 4th OF profile, highlighted by plus defense in CF. He has some work to do with the bat, and he really should be in CF, but given that Schotts is already there I think he'll "start" in RF. I think he and the 3 other OF's will all get some time at DH during the season to spread out the reps.

7) Tyler Hanover, 3B

-More of an org guy, but a solid one. Can play both 2B and 3B, and isn't a bad defender at either. He'll hit OK with gap power, steal a few bases, and overall just be a solid player.

8) Patrick Leyland, C

-Should also see some time at 1B, but his bat doesn't profile there. People will speak of nepotism, but he's still young and has some projection left. May end up at Lakeland as the season wears on.

9) Jared Reaves, SS

-Similar to Hanover in that he's a solid org middle infielder, but not really a prospect at this point. Good glue guy,

Bench:

C Adolfo Reina

-Actually hit pretty well at Lakeland last year, but is an org catcher who will split time with Leyland.

2B Colin Kaline

-Org infielder who can't hit a lick, but should stick as roster filler

SS Luis Cortez

-All glove IF who couldn't hit .200 at the rookie levels. Could repeat Connecticut, but hey this is my projection.

Starting Rotation:

1) Logan Ehlers, LHP

-I like Logan Ehlers so much that I think he'll be the "ace" of the West Michigan staff, even with the big names that will be with him. Polished lefty with good command along with a 4 pitch arsenal. Could move rather quickly if he stays healthy (shoulder fatigue in 2012).

2) Jake Thompson, RHP

-No. 5 on my prospect rankings, Thompson profiles as a mid-rotation starter with a plus fastball, potential plus slider, and developing change. Needs to refine command, but West Michigan should be a good test for him. Doesn't strike me a "quick mover" through the system, but he showed better in rookie ball than anyone expected.

3) Endrys Briceno, RHP

-I'm most interested to see if Briceno has put on some weight over the winter, as he was listed at 6'4" 160 last season. Lightning-quick arm with projection on his fastball into the high 90's, he still has a lot of work to do on his breaking ball and overall command profile. Very promising changeup, which is nice to see.

4) Edgar De La Rosa, RHP

-Similar to Briceno in that they're both really projectable righties with high 90's potential. He's already been clocked as high as 98, but has significant work to do in nearly every other facet of pitching. Regardless, he's exciting.

5) Charles Gillies, RHP

-He was on my "just missed" list addendum to the Top 50. A sinkerball guy who intrigues scouts, as he really does have an excellent sinker. Posted an insane 4+ GAO ratio last season.

6) (?) Brenny Paulino will be in West Michigan. The question is how fast. Depending how he looks when he reports to spring training, the Tigers could choose to keep him in extended spring training while he gets back into the swing of pitching after being injured all of last year.

Bullpen:

Note: Bullpens are a fickle thing to predict at any level, especially in this particular instance because theres a few guys that are in between the SP/RP categories. For example, if the Tigers want to try Joe Rogers as a SP, he may stay in extended spring to stretch out, may start the season in the WMI rotation, or may go to Lakeland as a RP. Like I said, it's hard to say, so keep in mind that this is my best guess and not a bible fact.

RHP Will Clinard

-Love this guy. Power cutter that dominates. Pitched well at the end of 2012 in WMI, I think he starts 2013 back there and should move on to Lakeland relatively quickly. 7th-8th inning profile, but a good one.

RHP Jose Valdez

-Closed in the GCL in 2012, he dominated but was old for the league. May be West Michigan's "closer", but I could see any of 3-4 guys in that role. FB/SL combo, 7th inning profile

RHP Montreal Robertson

-Keith Law stunned the world (shock) by having him as the 10th best Tigers prospect. He must see a better SP profile, because I don't. Robertson started at Connecticut last season, but fits best as a power reliever long term. Tigers could choose to keep him as a SP, but I think he'll go to the bullpen full time in 2013.

LHP Joe Rogers

-As I said above, the Tigers are toying with the idea of making Rogers into a SP. He could be a 4th-5th starter there, but I like him best as a left handed set up reliever (think Phil Coke's role now. This is not a player comp. It's a role comp). Gets his fastball up to 94-95 in short bursts, also has nice secondary stuff and a solid command profile.

RHP Julio Felix

-Did good work in rookie ball last season, and impressed in the fall league. Gets his fastball into the mid-90's with good life, a 2 seamer that works very well when down in the zone, and projectable slider/change combo. Doesn't have a huge profile long term, but looks to be a solid reliever overall.

LHP Matt Davenport

-Huge (6'8") lefty that dominated short season ball in 2012, he gets strikeouts and can get groundballs. Doesn't have a great long term profile, but 6'8" lefties that don't walk anybody don't grow on trees.

LHP Josh Turley

-Polished college lefty, was excellent in Connecticut in 2012. May have the best command in the system, but lacks overpowering stuff. Solid change up, overall a decent profile.

Keep in mind, these lists are subject to change. Someone could get injured, do really bad in spring training, or blow people away in spring training. Any of those situations could leave to this list being wrong. I have faith in my projections here, but as I've said, they shouldn't be taken as hard fact.

Reminders: You can follow us on twitter @TigersProspects and on Facebook as well.

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