With no Tigers baseball to keep us entertained until Friday, now is as good of a time as any to look to the farm system and see how the Tigers' minor league affiliates are doing. Today, we look at the Erie Seawolves, the Tigers' Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League.
Team record: 44–52, 4th in Eastern League West
The Seawolves are fourth out of six teams in their division, despite having the highest team ERA, 5.05, in the Eastern League. All of their starters have an ERA higher than 4.60 and four of them are above 5.00. Their saving grace has been a solid offense that ranks in the top half of the league in runs per game and leads the league with 194 doubles. Hopefully, the addition of Jake Thompson — who was promoted from Advanced-A Lakeland Tuesday — will lead to an improvement down the stretch.
Top performer: Steven Moya
While far from a finished product, Moya's development has taken big strides this season. He is finally starting to harness his immense raw power, with 22 home runs and 49 total extra base hits in 369 plate appearances. His plate discipline still needs a lot of work — he only has 14 walks all season long — but he was still able to compile an .833 OPS despite an on-base percentage less than .300. If Moya can lay off the soft stuff and improve his pitch recognition, he could be a key contributor in Detroit. He is still a couple years away, though.
Top prospect: Devon Travis
Travis doesn't have the eye-popping numbers he put up in Single-A ball last season, but he has adjusted to Double-A pitching fairly well, hitting .283/.335/.420 in 249 plate appearances. The power has dipped considerably, but Travis missed more than a month early in the year with an oblique injury. More impressive are his walk and strikeout rates, which have not budged since last year. He is only whiffing in 12.9 percent of plate appearances, and has been drawing walks at a 7 percent clip. Since July 1, he is hitting .298 with a .379 on-base percentage.
Player to watch: Dean Green
Green is a curious case, if nothing else. A first baseman by position but a designated hitter at heart, Green's only road to the big leagues is through his bat. He has done an impressive job adjusting to Double-A ball in 2014, hitting .306 with a .361 on-base percentage in 274 plate appearances. However, there isn't much power to go along with that solid average. At least, not for someone listed at 6'4", 255 pounds. Green has just three home runs and 16 doubles on the year, numbers you would like to see doubled at this time of year in the minor leagues. He is still a big league longshot — and at 25, that window is closing fast — but it will be interesting to see if he starts to hit for more power in the second half.
Stock up: Jake Thompson
All of Thompson's numbers have been compiled at Advanced-A Lakeland, but the decision to promote him now is worth reading into, in my opinion. Just 20 years old, Thompson has plenty of development still ahead. The Tigers have never been shy about pushing good pitching prospects through their system, but there is no "deadline" for Thompson's big league arrival. The Tigers already have a Max Scherzer replacement ready in Robbie Ray, and a possible Rick Porcello replacement will not be needed until 2016. If the Tigers are looking to trade Thompson, why run the risk of having him get hit hard at Double A? Maybe this is just another case of the team testing a good young player, but I think there's more to this than meets the eye.
Stock down: Francisco Martinez
Any hope the Tigers had that the lottery ticket they sent to Seattle in the Doug Fister trade would pan out has all but vanished. Martinez struggled in his first attempt at Double-A ball in the Mariners' organization, and he isn't doing much better in 2014. Through 67 games played, Martinez is hitting just .248/.285/.306 with one home run. He is still only 23 years old, but barring a near-miracle turnaround, don't expect to see him in The Show in the next couple years.