With no Tigers baseball to keep us entertained for a few more hours, 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 West Michigan Whitecaps, the Tigers' Single-A affiliate in the Midwest League.
Team record: 57-38, 1st in Midwest League East
Now that's more like it! The Whitecaps have played .600 ball thus far in the Midwest League, but only lead their division by half a game over the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Whitecaps already clinched a playoff spot by winning the division in the first half of the season, and are currently tied with the Silver Hawks with a 17-9 record in the second half. The team's strength is its pitching staff, which is second in the league with a 3.10 ERA on the year. They also rank second in the league in strikeouts and WHIP. The strong pitching staff has helped buoy a weak offense that ranks in the bottom half of the league in most categories.
Top performer: Buck Farmer
There have been several standout performances for the first place Whitecaps, but Farmer's league-leading nine wins and excellent 28.5 percent strikeout rate are particularly noteworthy. A fifth round pick in 2013's draft, Farmer has rewarded the organization's decision to keep him a starter thus far. He is a bit old for the league at 23, but as his touted teammate Jonathon Crawford has shown, dominance is not always guaranteed. Farmer has been great, and a promotion may be in order in the second half.
Top prospect: Willy Adames
Talk about bursting onto the scene out of nowhere. Adames didn't even get a whiff of our preseason top 30 list -- a product of the unpredictable nature of prospect wrangling, to be sure -- but has done nothing but hit at West Michigan in his stateside debut in 2014. His six home runs and 36 walks are tied for second on the team, while his .812 OPS is third. He has also played a capable shortstop thus far, and doesn't have people complaining on Twitter to move him elsewhere. Oh, and he's 18 years old.
Player to watch: Grayson Greiner
The 21 year old Greiner was just drafted in June, but has responded to an aggressive placement with an .899 OPS in his first 71 plate appearances. This could be nothing but a hot stretch from the massive young catcher -- he may be big enough to get moved off the position eventually -- but it's worth keeping an eye on. If Greiner continues to hit for both average and power, it won't matter where he plays defensively.
Stock up: Javier Betancourt
Betancourt has been overshadowed by his double play mate all season long, but the 19 year old Venezuelan has held his own in his first year of full season ball. His 4.9 percent walk rate is as advertised, but he has done a solid job of making contact against pitchers far older than him. His power likely won't get much better than the gap power he has now, but expect a few more doubles -- he only has eight so far -- as he gets more accustomed to the league in the second half.
Stock down: Jonathon Crawford
It's tough to ding a guy that has a 3.29 ERA in 79 1/3 innings in his first full season of minor league ball, but a lot of people expected the former first round pick to be much more dominant. Considered by some to be the second-best pitching prospect in the organization prior to the season, the 22 year old Crawford has only tallied 55 strikeouts to 31 walks, resulting in a 4.07 FIP. Considering how low his home run rate is, Crawford's xFIP would probably be closer to the mid-4's. Not a great start for someone expected to move quickly through the system.