Tigers' Oliver Impressive In First Full Season





BEST PLAYER: Third baseman Wade Gaynor had a fine season for low Class A West Michigan. He bounced back nicely after struggling with short-season Oneonta in 2009, his first pro season after being drafted in the third round out of Western Kentucky.

This year Gaynor stabilized the middle of the batting order for the Whitecaps, tying for fifth in the Midwest League in RBIs with 80 while finishing second in runs scored with 81 and hitting .286/.354/.436. The 22-year-old showed marked improvement as the season progressed, batting .336 in July and .319 in August; the downside was just three home runs in his final 60 games.

BEST PITCHER: Lefthander Andy Oliver entered this year with just 16 Arizona Fall League innings on his résumé. But his impressive minor league performance, which saw him post a misleading 9-8 record while splitting time between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, will likely earn him a shot at the Tigers' rotation next spring.

In 130 minor league innings, Oliver struck out 119 and had a 3.45 ERA. What's more, instead of moping about a demotion from Detroit, he continued to work on polishing his breaking ball and improving command of a fastball that sat consistently in the 94-96 mph range. And the results were obvious: in his final six Triple-A starts, the 22-year-old had a 2.86 ERA.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Lefthander Charlie Furbush was not ranked among the Tigers Top 30 Prospects when the season began, but he certainly turned heads with a fine season that saw him jump from high Class A Lakeland to Toledo.

Just two years removed from elbow problems that caused him to miss all of 2008, the 24-year-old split his season between Lakeland, Erie and Toledo, going 8-9, 4.25 with 183 strikeouts and 40 walks over 159 innings.

TIGER TALES
• Catcher Max St. Pierre took a long road to get to Detroit. He spent almost 14 full seasons in the minors, playing in 978 games before getting the call. St. Pierre spent 13 of those 14 seasons in the Tigers organization. He recorded his first major league hit on Sept. 4 against Royals lefthander Dusty Hughes.

• The only Tigers minor league team to make the playoffs was West Michigan, which went 21-9 in August to win the Eastern Division's second-half wild card spot. The Whitecaps lost in the first round to Lake County.