Found this over at the Mlive Whitecaps blog. Thought you guys might enjoy it.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to check in with Hit & Run, but that’s because I spent two months immediately following the West Michigan Whitecaps’ season glued to the Detroit Tigers throughout their postseason run to the World Series. What a wonderful ride! Except for the World Series, of course.
In the meantime, here's something that didn't get a chance to run in The Press: My annual end-of-season report card on the Whitecaps and list of the Top 10 prospects on the local low Class A Midwest League affiliate of the Tigers.
Don’t forget the Whitecaps won a championship this past fall.
The overall grades are reflective, for the most part, of a fantastic season-long run for West Michigan, which posted the MWL’s best record despite setting a franchise record for lowest single-season attendance.
The following are my final grades for the 2006 season:
1B Pedro Cotto -- B
3B Mark Haske -- C
DH Mike Hernandez -- B
SS Michael Hollimon -- B+
RF Matt Joyce -- B
LF Justin Justice -- B
LF Jeramy Laster -- C-
CF Cameron Maybin -- A
1B Rafael Mendez -- D
3B Cory Middleton -- D
2B Will Rhymes -- B-
C Joel Roa -- D-
C Dusty Ryan -- C+
ANALYSIS: The hitting lineup didn't produce as high of an average or as much power as advertised in spring training, but it was a complete team effort. Maybin, despite missing a month with a finger injury, exceeded expectations and was honored as both the Detroit Tigers' Minor League Player of the Year and the Midwest League's Prospect of the Year.
Team captain Hollimon had a monster second half, becoming the first player in club history to achieve a quadruple double -- double figures in doubles (29), triples (13), homers (15) and stolen bases (19).
Joyce and Rhymes were productive, but their averages dipped. The team had no full-time corner infielders with power and Ryan's decline from .300 in July to .245 at season's end was disappointing.
Defensively, it was the finest team in franchise history, especially up the middle with Ryan, Hollimon, Rhymes and Maybin.
Player of the Year
LHP Erik Averill -- B-
RHP Burke Badenhop -- A
RHP Anthony Claggett -- A
RHP Jose Fragoso -- B
LHP Luke French -- B
LHP Ramon Garcia -- A-
LHP Paul Hammond -- B+
RHP Josh Kauten -- B-
RHP Phil Napolitan -- C-
RHP Matt O'Brien -- B+
RHP Orlando Perdomo -- B
RHP Josh Rainwater -- B-
RHP Matt Rusch -- B+
RHP Ricky Steik -- B
RHP Sendy Vasquez -- B+
ANALYSIS: The pitching staff, which posted a league-best 2.96 ERA, featured top prospects Badenhop, who was named Detroit's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and Claggett, who emerged as a dominant closer late in the season.
Injuries to Garcia and Perdomo in the second half had no effect on the league's deepest staff. The bullpen got fantastic performances from Rusch, Steik and Hammond. Vasquez emerged as a prospect in the second half with a personal 10-game winning streak.
Pitcher of the Year
Manager Matt Walbeck -- A
Pitching coach A.J. Sager -- A
ANALYSIS: In his third season here, Walbeck, who was promoted to Double-A Erie (Pa.) on Monday, did his finest job, leading the team to a championship right from the start. He's a great teacher who gets the most of out of his players. He did so without a hitting coach on staff for most of the season.
Sager, who spent five seasons here but also was promoted to the Erie staff Monday, took a highly questionable staff this past summer and convinced them to throw strikes. He transformed a group with so-so talent into a dominant bunch of starters and relievers that formed the backbone of a title team.
Lew Chamberlin/Scott Lane -- D
Jim Jarecki -- A
Team staff -- A-
ANALYSIS: The team had a disappointing season at the gate, attracting a total of 356,155 fans and finishing with its worst attendance in the 13-year history of the franchise -- despite pumping $1.3 million into offseason improvements. Its previous low: 361,545 in 2003.
The fair weather, Maybin's exploits, ballpark upgrades and a championship season should've boosted attendance numbers, but managing partner Lew Chamberlin and team president Scott Lane, who insist 400,000 is their annual goal, put Maybin billboards up too late, failed to pump up advertising and promotion and concerned themselves too much with improvements for VIPs (outdoor suite seating and stadium club) while letting the regular customers foot the bill through rising ticket and concessions prices.
Both have experience operating a franchise through the honeymoon period, but that has long since ended. Team attendance has declined in nine of the past 10 years. The cost of attending a game has reached the breaking point for low Class A baseball.
The ballpark experience, though, remains first class due to the uncompromising efforts of vice president Jim Jarecki, who was named Midwest League Executive of the Year, and his courteous staff.
TOP 10 PROSPECTS
ANALYSIS: It wouldn't surprise me to see Maybin win the starting center fielder's job with the Tigers next spring. Yes, he's that talented. More than likely, he'll start at high Class A Lakeland (Fla.) or Double-A Erie and reach Detroit after the all-star break.
Badenhop and Claggett are good bets to reach the majors. Hollimon has a lot of skills, but, at age 24, he needs to keep improving to keep moving up. Joyce, Vasquez and Ryan all might reach the majors if they continue to make significant progress. In all, there's nothing but question marks beyond the top six -- and no sure things other than Maybin.