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Midwest League 1998

West Michigan Whitecaps

Midwest League Playoff Champions


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This page is a profile of the 1998 West Michigan Whitecaps, a Single-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers and a member of the Midwest League. The main object of this page was to give clues about which players you should watch when the Caps visited each team; this page was first published in April and was updated through the season.

Except when another date is specified, statistics on this page are through the end of the season.


Grand Rapids, Michigan; affiliated with the Detroit Tigers.
Manager: Bruce Fields
Coaches: Steve McCatty (pitching), Skeeter Barnes

High Attendance: 10,979 (July 3)
Low Attendance: 3,351 (April 14)
Average Attendance: 7,144 (through end of season)
1997 Season Average: 8,000
Note: These unofficial numbers may have errors.


Post-Season Profile

This summer's Whitecaps squad looks a little pale after their terrific 1997 nine, but the Caps are probably the league's best team again this year. They've got a good, but not great, pitching staff. While the offense features a couple strong hitters, much of the team's scoring results from extremely aggressive baserunning. Baseball America judged this squad to be the tenth-best team in the minors for 1998.

The everyday lineup is extremely strong. Although their stats are pretty mediocre, their statistics are depressed by the League's best pitchers' park. Antuan Bunkley is a fine, fine hitter, and Alexis Zapata was almost certainly the best MWL hitter after July 1. Pedro Santana and Ryan Grimmett are the best of an excellent basepath squad, since Rod Lindsey was hurt. Grimmett's probably the MWL's best center fielder, too.

Old Kent Park helps the pitchers. The Caps lost their best pitchers to mid-season promotions. Even so, this staff is very good. Alan Webb gets strikeouts on his curve. Shane Loux had a disappointing season but is the team's best talent. Jeff Weaver, Detroit's first draft pick this summer, made two terrific appearances late in the season, and had an even better outing in the first playoff round. Jose Castillo was nearly flawless in a closer role.


MWL Fan's Guide

Team Profile

Season Summary

  • First Half: 43-29 (.597), 1st place, 2.0 ahead
  • Second Half: 40-28 (.588), 2nd place, 3.0 behind
  • Pitching: 83-57, 3.01, 36 saves, 1177 strikeouts
  • Hitting: .251, 660 runs, 55 HR, 188 steals
  • April: 12-9 (.571)
  • May: 17-13 (.567)
  • June: 16-10 (.615)
  • July: 14-14 (.500)
  • August: 21-7 (.750)
  • September: 3-4 (.429)
  • Playoff Round 1: Defeated Michigan, 2-1
  • Playoff Round 2: Defeated Clinton, 2-0
  • Championship Series: Defeated Rockford, 3-1

  • Best Player on the Team: First Baseman Antuan Bunkley

  • Best Starting Pitcher: Alan Webb (10-7, 2.93, 202 strikeouts)
  • Bullpen Stopper: Jose Castillo (0-1, 2.44, 28 saves, 47 strikeouts)
  • Best Strikeout Pitcher: William Snyder
  • Best Control Pitcher: William Snyder

  • Best Hitter: Antuan Bunkley (.297, 74 runs, 8 HR, 91 RBI, 4 steals) or Alexis Zapata (.298, 57 runs, 11 HR, 70 RBI, 20 steals)
  • Highest BA: Alexis Zapata (.298)
  • Home Run Leader: Alexis Zapata (11)
  • Best Baserunner: Pedro Santana (64 steals)
  • Best Batting Eye: Antuan Bunkley

July Profile

Detroit moved the best pitchers up during July, and the Whitecaps suffered somewhat. There's still some terrific pitching talent on this squad, but the bullpen's not so deep; the offense remains solid.

These guys run; there's some power scattered through the Whitecap lineup but they win games on the basepaths. Outfielder Rod Lindsey seems set to repeat as MWL steals leader, and outfielder Ryan Grimmett and second baseman Pedro Santana are among the league's top five thieves. They're smart runners, too; it's impressive. Alan Webb's assumed the rotation ace role quite admirably, though Craig Johnson has some claim to the title; Jose Castillo continues to impress as the team's closer.

Two more to watch: Outfielder Alex Zapata and pitcher Adam Pettyjohn.


June Profile

Many of us believed the Caps were making a mistake when they dropped their PDC with Oakland. We were wrong, and this is my apology. West Michigan's won the last five Eastern Division half-championships (one was a tie)....

This is a fine, fine team. The pitching's excellent, and the offense is very good.

There's not a weak hitter in the lineup or on the bench, and two starters are playing very well. Antuan Bunkley's going to be a major league star. Rodney Lindsey isn't. Aside from that, they're having very comparable, though differently valuable, seasons; they're not among the very best MWL hitters, but they're very good. There are some speedsters in this lineup, and some power to push them around. The pitching's better than the offense, even though their ace (Matt Miller) has been promoted: Shane Loux has the best talent, but Greg Romo's a far better pitcher right now. There's no weak link, in the rotation or in the pen.


May Profile

The Caps are putting a good team out there, although it looks a bit pale after last summer's squad. There aren't any exceptional hitters on the team, but the talent's spread out usefully; and though the pitching's predictably a notch below the last crew, it's still a very good staff. These guys are pretty hard to beat.

If Antuan Bunkley played in a more hitter-friendly ballpark, we'd see him for the strong hitter he is, but Old Kent favors quick players like Ryan Grimmett and (now) Rod Lindsey. The team's got a mix of sluggers and speedsters that Bruce Fields can build an offense around; they'll not often blow the other team away, but they find ways to win ballgames. Pitcher Greg Romo needs to convince Detroit's brass he can survive a long season, but no one doubts his talent; Matt Miller's pitched a bit better than Romo, and Shane Loux is this year's Bright Young Talent on this team. The relief staff's pretty strong, too, though lightly used so far.


April Profile

They've got some fine players, but this year's 'Caps team has a fairly average pitching staff and a really poor offensive record. They're playing very well, under the circumstances.


Pre-Season Profile

Manager

Manager Bruce Fields has managed in the minors for 3 years, mainly in short-season leagues. There's nothing particularly noteworthy about his game-strategy decisions.

Where they played last season

This year's Whitecaps team features many position players from last season's Jamestown team; the rest of the slots were filled from a number of sources.

Team          League            W/L    Place    Hitters Pitchers
                                      (Teams)
Lakeland      Florida State (A) 81-57   2(14)       0       2
West Michigan Midwest (A)       92-39   1(14)       3       3
Jamestown     New York-Penn (A) 25-49  14(15)       9       4
Tigers        Gulf Coast (R)    31-29   7(15)       3       4

Two Whitecaps played in other organizations last summer, and one did not play professionally. Another spent last summer on the disabled list. One of these players appeared briefly at the AA level last season. There was quite a bit of movement within the system; several players are counted more than once in this table.

Team Age

This information is based on the opening-day roster.

  • Oldest Player:
    • Chad Schroeder, 24 (9/21/73)
  • Youngest Player:
    • Alan Webb, 18 (9/26/79)
  • Average Team Age:
    • Pitchers: 21.8
    • Position Players: 21.8
    • Team Average: 21.8

First Round Draftee

  • Jeff Weaver (1998, 14th pick)

Honors

  • Jose Castillo
    • 1998 Midwest League All-Star Game selection
  • Bruce Fields
    • Dwight Lowry Award (Tigers' Player Development Man of the Year)
  • Ryan Grimmett
    • Baseball America Best Tools: fastest baserunner
    • 1998 Midwest League All-Star Game selection
    • Baseball America 1997 Tigers Draft Analysis: best defensive player
  • Craig Johnson
    • Tigers minor league pitcher of the month for July
  • Dan Lauterhahn
    • Baseball America 1997 Tigers Draft Analysis: best athlete
  • Rodney Lindsey
    • Baseball America best Tiger Prospects: fastest baserunner
    • 1998 Midwest League Post-Season All-Star Outfielder
  • Shane Loux
    • Baseball America best Tiger Prospects: #7 prospect
    • Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May
    • Midwest League Pitcher of the Week, June 14-20
    • Baseball America 1997 Tigers Prospects: #4 prospect
    • Baseball America 1997 Tigers Draft Analysis: fifth best pro debut by any high school player drafted, hardest thrower, closest to the majors
  • Matt Miller
    • Howe SportsData All Prospect Team nominee
    • Baseball America Best Tools: best breaking pitch
    • Howe SportsData Emerging Prospect
    • Baseball America Midseason All-Stars: starting pitcher (honorable mention)
    • Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for June 7-13
    • 1998 Midwest League All-Star Game selection
    • Tigers' minor league pitcher of the month for April
  • Juan Mora
    • 1997 Gulf Coast League: All-Star outfielder
  • Mark Persails
    • 1998 Midwest League All-Star Game selection
  • Adam Pettyjohn
    • Baseball America best Tiger Prospects: #11 prospect
  • Michael Rivera
    • Baseball America Best Tools: best defensive catcher
    • 1997 Gulf Coast League: home run leader, All-Star catcher
  • Greg Romo
    • 1998 Midwest League All-Star Game selection
    • Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for May 10-16
  • Pedro Santana
    • Baseball America best Tiger Prospects: #12 prospect, best defensive infielder
  • Alex Steele
    • 1997 New York-Pennsylvania League: #5 prospect, home run and slugging percentage leader, All-Star outfielder
    • Baseball America 1997 Tigers Prospects: #5 prospect
    • Baseball America 1997 Tigers Draft Analysis: third best pro debut by any college player drafted; best pure hitter and best raw power
  • Jeff Weaver
    • Baseball America best Tiger Prospects: #2 prospect, best breaking ball, best control
  • Alan Webb
    • Baseball America best Tiger Prospects: #6 prospect
    • Baseball Weekly 1998 Minor League All-Star: honorable mention
    • Baseball America 1998 Post Season MWL Prospects: Number 9
    • Baseball America Tigers Post-Season Prospect Summary: keep an eye on
    • Howe SportsData Teen Minor League Team: honorable mention
    • Tigers minor league pitcher of the month for June
    • Howe SportsData Emerging Prospect
    • 1998 Prospects, Projects, and Suspects Minor League All-Star (AL 1st team)
    • Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for May 31-June 6
  • Alex Zapata
    • Midwest League Post-Season Series Most Valuable Player
    • Midwest League Hitter of the Week for August 2-8


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The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

Disclaimers:
This website is a private project and has no official relation with or sanction from the Midwest League or Minor League Baseball.
The opinions expressed on this page are mine, and are worth about that.


Copyright © 1996-2010 Joel Dinda
Some Rights Reserved.