Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to go through and preview the 12 Eastern League teams in reverse order of last season’s record. Rosters won’t be finalized until the week before Opening Day, so my Players to Watch is pure speculation at this point.
Up next, we have the Erie SeaWolves…
2015 record: 64-78
Affiliation: Detroit Tigers
Manager: Lance Parrish
Hitting coach: Phil Clark
Pitching coach: Willie Blair
Five Players to Watch
SS JaCoby Jones – The Louisiana State product has a tantalizing combination of power and speed especially coming from the shortstop position. 2016 will be a test for Jones as he has to finish serving a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse before hitting the field over a month after his peers.
LHP Kevin Ziomek – The southpaw out of Vanderbilt has steadily climbed up the Tigers’ ranks using a combination of deception and feel. Double-A will be a good test for Ziomek to see if he can keep racking up strikeouts like the 295 batters he’s whiffed over the last two seasons.
OF Jiwan James – James re-signed with the Tigers’ organization after latching onto them as a minor league free agent last season. The athletic speedster can cover a ton of ground in the outfield and the SeaWolves could use his veteran presence in the lineup.
LHP Jairo Labourt – The big Dominican joined the Tigers at the trade deadline last year as part of the David Price trade with Toronto. Labourt features a plus slider but the big question mark in his arsenal is his fastball control which too often finds him pitching from behind.
1B Dominic Ficociello – The 23-year-old had his best offensive season last year despite getting his first taste of both High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. Ficociello flashed power from both sides of the plate but became little more than a singles hitter against the tough competition of the Arizona Fall League.
After years of a bare farm system, the Tigers are rebuilding the minor leagues through a number of prospect-rich trades and draft picks. Unfortunately for the SeaWolves, the next wave of players that can really make a difference in the standings are a year or two away. Expect Erie to languish in the bottom half of the division all season.