With no Tigers baseball to keep us entertained until tomorrow, 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 Lakeland Flying Tigers, the Tigers' Advanced-A affiliate in the Florida State League.
Team record: 47–43, 3rd in Florida State League West
The Flying Tigers have carried last season's second half success into 2014, posting a winning record through their first 90 games. The starting rotation has been stellar, with four pitchers carrying an ERA of 3.14 or better. The staff's 3.23 ERA and 1.25 WHIP both rank fifth in the league, while their hit rate is the second-lowest in the league. The offense has been slightly below average, scoring 4.07 runs per game. Despite the lackluster offense, the Flying Tigers have a +23 run differential on the season.
Top performer: Josh Turley
Turley was utterly dominant in the first half of 2014, holding opposing batters to a .529 OPS in 97⅓ innings. His performance, which includes a 2.70 FIP and 3.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio, earned him a promotion to Double-A Erie. Turley's ascent is particularly noteworthy because he was only inserted into Lakeland's starting rotation after left-handed pitcher Jordan John — one of the prospects just outside of our preseason top 30 — unexpectedly retired from baseball. Turley, nearly 24, has added a knuckleball into his pitch arsenal. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself in the high minors.
Top prospect: Jake Thompson
Just 20 years old, Thompson has already impressed the organization enough to earn a promotion to Double-A. His numbers pale in comparison to Turley's, but Thompson's younger age and better arsenal make him the better prospect going forward. Thompson struck out nearly a batter per inning in Lakeland, the seventh-best strikeout rate in the league. His promotion is aggressive, but well deserved after holding opponents to a .613 OPS with a 3.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Player to watch: Connor Harrell
Harrell, the Tigers' seventh round pick in 2013, is an interesting prospect having a solid season. A four year player at Vanderbilt, Harrell's tools and stat line would have prospect hounds drooling if he were drafted out of high school. However, at 23, his future hinges on him putting things together quickly. He is a long shot to become anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder at this point, especially considering the questions about his hit tool. He hit .310/.354/.425 in June, but a rough start to July shows that the light still has yet to come on.
Stock up: Edgar De La Rosa
De La Rosa's 2.39 ERA looks fleeting at best, but it and his 1.05 WHIP are an encouraging sign for the monstrous 23 year old. Jordan detailed De La Rosa as a prospect to watch prior to the season, but ultimately thought that he would end up in the bullpen. The decision to keep De La Rosa in the rotation has paid off thus far, but he will need to strike out more hitters to have a future in the Tigers' organization.
Stock down: Endrys Briceno
It's tough to give Briceno this label because of an injury, but it goes to show how much we liked him coming into this season. Briceno could have established himself as one of the premier pitching prospects in the organization, especially if he showed progress with a middling curveball. Now, Briceno will essentially miss two years of development at a point where he, still raw at age 22, was already behind his peers. The Tigers may move him to the bullpen and fast-track him when he comes back, but he has the potential for a starter's arsenal if everything comes together.
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