2012 TPR Awards: Hitter and Pitcher of the Year

Last week I posted the TPR Awards, which went team-by-team through the Tigers system, denoting a Hitter and Pitcher of the year at each level.  Winners included such names as Austin Schotts, Jake Thompson, Tyler Collins, Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, and Bruce Rondon.  For this post, we as a staff have made our selections for overall hitter and pitcher of the year, which takes into account all of the individual winners from last week.


Hitter of the Year-Nick Castellanos, 3B/RF, Lakeland/Erie

There wasn’t a better hitter in all of the minor leagues for the first couple months of 2012 than Castellanos, who absolutely shredded A+ pitching at the age of 20, still 2-3 years “young” for that level.  He showed increased power, contact, and walks at High-A, while striking out less and showing at least marginal improvement at 3B.  Castellanos was promoted to AA Erie, where he started strong again, continuing to hit for increased power.  He slowed significantly down the stretch, struggling to make contact which was due, in part I’m sure, to his position change (he moved to RF for the 2nd half).  Castellanos was quoted as saying that the biggest difference between A+ and AA was that pitchers were able to command their stuff on the edges of the zone better, which led to his increased strikeout numbers and drop in contact.  He’ll start 2013 in Erie (hopefully), and it would shock me if we don’t see him in Detroit some time next summer.

Pitcher of the Year-Bruce Rondon, RHP, Lakeland/Erie/Toledo

It was hard for me to justify selecting anyone other than Rondon, but candidates such as Adam Wilk, Jake Thompson, and others were certainly worthy of consideration.  I just couldn’t ignore the strides that Rondon made this season.  He increased his strikeouts, decreased his walks, and was much more efficient as a pitcher while he climbed all the way to AAA in 2012.  He has an 80 fastball with 80 movement, a promising slider, and a potential changeup as well.  His command is terrible, but as a general rule, if the pitch is going 100+ MPH, spotting it at the knees on the black isn’t all that vital to success.  Rondon will have an opportunity to earn a bullpen job in 2013, but I don’t see him closing until 2014.


Hitter of the Year-Nick Castellanos, 3B/RF, Lakeland/Erie

Well, this one was easy. Nick put together two of the best months in recent memory, hitting .405/.461/.553 in Lakeland, proving he was far too good for the level. While he only managed a .678 OPS in AA ball upon promotion, his .320/.365/.451 combined line, with 46 XBH gives the Tigers an interesting conundrum come 2013. With Miguel Cabrera at third base for the next two years, will Castellanos break into the Tigers every day lineup at some point next season? I think it’s possible, given the uncertainty of the corner OF spots going forward.

I would, however, like to see Nick improve his plate discipline, as he only walked 14 times in 341 AA plate appearances. He seems like the type of hitter whose power will improve, as he hasn’t even grown into his “man” body yet. On an unrelated note, while the move to the OF is good for the short term, I think that ultimately, Nick is more valuable as a third baseman for the Tigers in the future.

Pitcher of the Year-Adam Wilk, LHP, Toledo

Jacob Turner would have been a pretty easy choice for this award if he were still in the organization. I would love to give the award to Bruce Rondon, however, starters are much more valuable than relievers, and Adam Wilk threw three times as many innings as Rondon, while putting up similar numbers. Actually, Wilk walked 28 in 149.2 innings, while Rondon walked 26 in 50 innings.

The much maligned soft-tosser had a fantastic year for the AAA Mudhens. In his aforementioned 149.2 innings, wilk allowed only 123 hits, surrendered a measly 28 base on balls (1.7/9 IP) and struck out 128 (7.7/9 IP). While his numbers were excellent in AAA, I just don’t believe that he’s got enough to get outs at the big league level. Wilk probably needs to develop something to keep hitters, especially right handers, from diving out over the plate. I know he’s got a cutter, but in order to succeed, his cutter needs to be his best pitch. The good news for Wilk, however, is that the Tigers don’t really have a “LOOGY”, and Wilk could compete with Darin Downs, Andy Oliver, Duane Below, and whomever the Tigers bring into next season for that role.


Hitter of the Year-Avisail Garcia, RF, Lakeland/Erie

Garcia was named the Tigers’ Minor League Player of the Year and with his numbers, it’s easy to see why.  Between Lakeland and Erie this season, he hit .299/.333/.455/.789 with 14 homers and 58 RBI.  Garcia is a legitimate five-tool prospect.  The 6’4’’, 240-pound Venezuelan can hit for average, is working on his power (he threw in 17 doubles), can field, can throw (see ALDS Game 2), and can run (8 triples and 23 steals in the minors this season).  He’s not very disciplined (18 walks, 95 strikeouts in 513 plate appearances) but that will come in time.

Pitcher of the Year-Bruce Rondon, RHP, Lakeland/Erie/Toledo

Rondon is the closer of the future for Detroit.  He spent 2012 with Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo, going 2-1 with a 1.53 ERA and 29 saves.  He allowed only 32 hits and recorded 66 strikeouts over 53 innings.  Rondon’s fastball regularly hits 100 mph and his off-speed stuff is improving.  The 26 walks in 53 innings is a little worrisome (especially the 7 he issued in 8 innings at Toledo), but it’s not like it’s something he can’t tame.  Rondon will probably be in Detroit by the middle of next season.


Hitter of the Year: Avisail Garcia, RF, Lakeland/Erie

Garcia made the biggest jump of any Tigers minor league hitter in 2012. Going from High-A Lakeland all the way to the Big Leagues. Which, no one saw coming. At Lakeland, Garcia hit .289 with eight doubles, five triples, eight home runs, 36 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. Upon his promotion to Double-A Erie, Garcia continued to produce. Hitting .312 with nine doubles, three triples, six home runs, 22 RBIs and nine steals for Erie. With the Tigers in 23 games and 47 at bats, Garcia hit .313 with 15 total hits, all being singles and three RBIs. He didn’t show off his extra base power but, that’ll come in time as he learns how to hit in the majors. Garcia had also produced in the Tigers postseason run thus far too. Hitting .308 with four hits and three RBIs. Avisail is a very exciting looking prospect because of the tools he possess speed, power, arm strength and lots of star potential. Look for him to make a run at the Tigers right-field starting job in the Spring of 2013.

Pitcher of the Year: Bruce Rondon, RHP, Lakeland/Erie/Toledo

Rondon is another guy who made a big jump in 2012. Going from Lakeland to Erie to Toledo. Along the way, Rondon racked up 29 saves in 53 innings while striking out 66. He also represented the Tigers along with Nick Castellanos in the MLB Futures Game in Kansas City. While pitching in the Futures Game, Rondon reached 102 mph on the radar gun. Bruce is a big guy at 6-foot-2 240 pounds (at least). He posses a fastball that sits around 95 mph regularly and can reach 102 mph at times. His 3/4 arm slot gives him some deception and a slider that can be wild at times because of the added movement from his arm action. Rondon is another exciting Tigers prospect who could make an impact for the Tigers in 2013.

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