With little to celebrate regarding the regular season for a number of the Detroit Tigers' minor league affiliates, a select group of players are using the final stretch of the regular season to instill hope for what lies ahead in 2016.
So, step away from that Detroit Tigers punching bag and set down the beer cans for just long enough to review a few individuals who commanded attention for the final full month of minor league regular season play. And, as always, let us know your thoughts by voting!
Triple-A Toledo: Kyle Ryan, LHP
What a difference a month makes. For lefthander Kyle Ryan, the month of July, as with a good portion of his 2015 campaign with the Mud Hens proved forgettable. With an 0-6 record before the All-Star break, Ryan maneuvered July with four losses in his four starts for Toledo, allowing 39 hits and 16 earned runs with a 6.75 ERA in 21 1/3 innings.
An about-face the following month not only grabbed the attention of Toledo fans, but caused the Tigers to come knocking. Ryan won all four of his August starts, posting a 1.30 ERA and slashing his July earned run count from 16 down to four. As a part of the first wave of September call-up activity, Ryan made the move to join up with Detroit to add depth to a bullpen already stretched to its limit.
Double-A Erie: Dominic Ficociello, 1B
While there won't be many job openings at first base in Detroit for quite some time, 6'4" infielder Dominic Ficociello has decided to slowly build a case for himself in the meantime. Beginning the 2015 season with Advanced-A Lakeland, Ficociello hit .297/.364/.401 for the Flying Tigers, an improvement from his .275 average from the previous year. Following his promotion to Double-A Erie in mid-July, Ficociello didn't drop any jaws by hitting .222/.288/.370 in his opening 14 games. Something about the month of August seems to have agreed with Ficociello, though, and he hasn't looked back. In August, Ficociello exploded with 29 hits in 23 games for the SeaWolves, hitting .349/.360/.542 with six doubles and a pair of home runs, proving to be a bright spot in a sub-par season performance for the SeaWolves overall.
Advanced-A Lakeland: Kevin Ziomek, LHP
Following a sensational season as a member of the talent-laden 2014 West Michigan Whitecaps pitching staff, 2015 has held a different flow for lefthander Kevin Ziomek. Taking a deeper look into the performance of the 23-year-old lefthander, memories of a shaky beginning are fading from view as the Florida State League strikeout leader has found his groove in the month of August. In addition to coming within a strike's reach of a no-hitter, Ziomek posted a two-hit gem against Clearwater, tacking up 11 strikeouts in eight innings for the Flying Tigers. Ziomek has only seen a single loss for the month, adding to his league-leading strikeout count of 140 in 148 2/3 innings.
Single-A West Michigan: Christin Stewart, OF
Extra-base hits appear to be a forte for former Tennessee outfielder Christin Stewart. As a junior with the Vols in 2015, Stewart punched 15 home runs, and the transition into the Tigers' organization appears to have caused no hiccups. He made his way to Single-A West Michigan in mid-July and has been nothing short of dazzling ever since. At the plate, Stewart hit .317/.423/.584 in August, with seven doubles, four triples and four home runs. As West Michigan makes their second consecutive trip to the Midwest League playoffs, don't be surprised if Stewart continues its steady upward climb into the postseason.
Short-Season Connecticut: Will Allen, C
If you haven't familiarized yourself with catching prospect Will Allen, we suggest you start. Standing at 6'3", the 2014 13th round selection out of Mississippi has found his groove with the Connecticut Tigers, so much so that he was selected as a member of the New York-Penn League All-Star team. Leadership is becoming a way of life for the 23-year-old and Allen's performance in August couldn't have set the tone any better for his younger teammates. Allen dominated at the plate, hitting .405/.473/.468 with 32 hits, five doubles and 17 RBI for the month. Allen's contribution looks to be a big deciding factor as the Connecticut Tigers work to move forward in the wild card race for a coveted playoff position.