Lakeland Flying Tigers (Class Advanced-A) Season Recap

Tigers Pitching Prospect Bruce Rondon delivers during the 2012 Futures Game - Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Hands down the most successful team in the Tigers farm system, the Lakeland Flying Tigers finished the regular season at 73-58, and then went on to win the Florida State League Championship.

Lakeland's roster consisted of many big name prospects at the beginning of 2012, including 3B/RF Nick Castellanos, OF Avisail Garcia, and P Bruce Rondon. Those 3, including other prospects like OF Daniel Fields and C James McCann were all promoted to Erie at some point during the season, but that still left Lakeland with several legitimate prospects.

OF Tyler Collins led the remaining cast of characters in Lakeland, as a guy who hit for average, XBH power, and ran pretty well while hitting 3rd most of the season. As I said in my post yesterday, I really like Collins' game, enough to where I have him penciled into the 2015 Tigers starting lineup prediction. Many have him profiled as a 4th OF/2nd division starter, but I see more than that. He'll never be a glove-first guy, but I think he can be at least solid-average in LF, and his arm plays well from there. While he had a great season in 2012, the overall power wasn't really there in the statistics. It's important to remember that Joker Marchant Stadium is like Death Valley, and a lot of would-be homers turn into doubles there. I think 2013 will be a breakout season for Collins, specifically in the way of his power numbers.

1B Dean Green was promoted from West Michigan late in the season, and absolutely tore the cover off the ball at High-A. He may have the most power potential of anyone in the Tigers system, with the possible exception of Steven Moya, but as a 1B/DH, he doesn't really have a future position with the Tigers, which makes him a prime trade candidate. It's hard for me to get excited about DH types as prospects, because their value is strictly limited to what they can do with that bat, but in Green's case, I'm pretty excited. I think he can eventually fill the role of left-handed power bat off the bench in Detroit, something the Tigers have lacked sorely. He should start 2013 in Erie playing everyday, and could be a fast mover.

2B Hernan Perez is a guy we caught a glimpse of in Detroit this season, for a brief 2 AB cameo when the Tigers were desperate for Middle IF help. He brings plus D and a plus arm to the table as a second baseman, and also profiles as at least an average SS if need be (although Eugenio Saurez is a better SS prospect). I don't believe that Perez will ever hit well enough to be an everyday player in the major leagues, but I certainly believe that he can be a major-league utility guy who can play both middle infield positions effectively. He also runs pretty well, so he brings 3 above-average to plus tools to the table, but unfortunately the hit tool will limit him from being a starter.

C Curt Casali tore up West Michigan before a callup to Lakeland, where he slowed a bit but still held his own. He and James McCann both profile as major league caliber backup catchers in my opinion, but for different reasons. While McCann will make his name known for his glove while holding his own with the bat, Casali is the exact opposite, being a hit-first catcher. He'll hold his own with the glove effectively enough to make a major league roster, but I don't see a starter ceiling for him. Eventually I expect to see either McCann or Casali backing up Alex Avila in Detroit, but it remains to be seen which one it will be.

SS Dixon Machado had briefly been dubbed the SS of the future before everyone heard of Eugenio Suarez, and he did nothing in 2012 to take that designation back. He plays good D, has a good arm, runs very well, and has excellent plate discipline, but he's 6'0', 140lbs, and just does not have the strength to hit the baseball well enough. Without looking, I'm going to assume that his BABIP is very low, which tells me that while he may have had some bad luck, he was simply making a ton of weak contact due to lack of strength.

SP Drew VerHagen was just drafted in June, and after signing he debuted with the GCL Tigers and then was quickly and aggressively promoted to Lakeland, where he pitched very well down the stretch run and into the FSL playoffs. To me, he's the #4 starting pitcher prospect in the Tigers system, behind Crosby, Thompson, and Paulino (I'll be doing rankings in the coming weeks) but some have him profiled as a reliever, which I can also see. He could be a very quick mover in the system, particularly if he moves to the bullpen, but I think we'll see him start 2013 in Lakeland with a quick promotion to Erie if he's successful off the bat. We could see him in Detroit as quickly as next season in the bullpen, but 2014 is a more likely timetable.

P Tyler Clark took over as closer after the promotion of Bruce Rondon, and earned a promotion of his own to Erie after he absolutely dominated the FSL for nearly the entirety of 2012. He was a very late round pick, so he's going to have to prove himself at every level, but the numbers he posted cannot be ignored. He'll start 2013 in AA, and probably stay there for the majority of the season. I could see him competing for a bullpen job in Detroit by 2014, but 2015 seems like a more likely timetable should all go well for Clark in the coming seasons.

Other guys had good years, and have a little bit of major league potential, but not enough for me to write full profiles of them. That list of names include guys like 2B/OF Marcus Lemon, 3B/LF Wade Gaynor, SP Warwick Saupold, and P Matt Crouse.

Now let's move on to the hard numbers:

Position Players

-1B Dean Green (22) (Combined A & A+): .304/.375/.474/.850/105 Games. 392 AB, 119 H, 27 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 79 RBI, 51 R, 34 BB, 69 K

-2B/OF Marcus Lemon (24): .324/.388/.445/.833/81 Games. 281 AB, 91 H, 19 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 47 R, 28 BB, 40 K, 10 SB

-OF Tyler Collins (22): .290/.371/.429/.800/126 Games. 473 AB, 137 H, 35 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 66 RBI, 68 R, 58 BB, 64 K, 20 SB

-2B Hernan Perez (21): .261/.298/.338/.636/124 Games. 441 AB, 115 H, 11 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 44 RBI, 50 R, 24 BB, 70 K, 27 SB

-3B/LF Wade Gaynor (24) (Combined A+ & AA): .252/.352/.442/.794/118 Games. 405 AB, 102 H, 19 2B, 5 3B, 16 HR, 74 RBI, 65 R, 56 BB, 96 K, 11 SB

-C Curt Casali (23) (Combined A & A+): .270/.365/.427/.792/94 Games. 330 AB, 89 H, 25 2B, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 43 R, 38 BB, 46 K, 2 SB

-SS Dixon Machado (20): .195/.283/.252/.534/119 Games. 421 AB, 82 H, 16 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 37 RBI, 59 R, 51 BB, 61 K, 23 SB

Pitchers

-SP Alex Burgos (21): 8-10, 4.90 ERA, 121 1/3 IP, 115 H, 88 BB, 78 K, 1.67 WHIP

-SP Luis Angel Sanz (24): 12-3, 3.31 ERA, 119 2/3 IP, 110 H, 42 BB, 95 K, 1.29 WHIP

-P Matt Crouse (22): 8-2, 1.91 ERA, 70 2/3 IP, 49 H, 25 BB, 47 K, 1.05 WHIP

-P Tyler Clark (23) (Combined A+ & AA): 6-1, 1.62 ERA, 50 IP, 27 H, 23 BB, 66 K, 1.00 WHIP, 9 Saves

-SP/P Warwick Saupold (22) (Combined A & A+): 4-3, 3.13 ERA, 89 IP, 90 H, 21 BB, 82 K, 1.39 WHIP

-SP Drew VerHagen (21) (Combined GCL & A+): 0-3, 3.48 ERA, 31 IP, 25 H, 14 BB, 19 K, 1.26 WHIP

And that's it for me, folks. Look for the GCL Tigers and Connecticut Tigers Season Recaps in the coming days, along with some other content that I'm really excited about. Remember to follow me on twitter @B_Sakowski or @TigersProspects.

Go Tigers!

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