Newfound Control Puts Bruce Rondon On Right Track

BEST PLAYER: Nick Castellanos opened the season with a 10-game hitting streak with high Class A Lakeland, and Florida State League pitchers never did figure out how to get the 20-year-old out. Castellanos batted .405/.461/.553 in 55 games with the Flying Tigers to earn a promotion to Double-A Erie.

A switch from third base to right field coincided with a .183 swoon in his last 31 games, and Castellanos finished at .264/.296/.382 in 79 Eastern League contests with seven home runs and 15 doubles. He still has some things to figure out after drawing just 14 walks while fanning 76 times in 341 Double-A plate appearances. But he finished with a .320 batting average, tops in the organization, while adding 10 home runs and 57 RBIs.

BEST PITCHER: It looks as if righthander Bruce Rondon may have figured out how to consistently throw his 100 mph fastball for strikes, and the result was dominating two levels on his way to Triple-A. After posting a 4.50 ERA and seven walks in eight innings to start the season with Lakeland, Rondon allowed just six hits and three walks over 15 innings in his last 15 appearances to rise to Erie in mid-June.

Rondon dominated Double-A, allowing just 15 hits and nine walks while fanning 23 in 21 innings to earn 12 saves in 21 games. He was promoted to Triple-A Toledo in August, and in nine games there Rondon gave up five hits but walked seven in eight innings.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Righthander Melvin Mercedes finished strong for low Class A West Michigan, collecting saves in seven of his 11 August appearances while flashing a fastball that has touched 97 mph.

But Mercedes gets ground balls, not strikeouts. His ratio of groundouts to flyouts was nearly 2-to-1 this season as Midwest League opponents batted just .230 against him and hit into 10 double plays in 64 innings. Mercedes finished with 43 strikeouts but needs to cut down on walks.


• The Tigers will send Castellanos, four pitchers—Tyler Clark, Matt Hoffman, Michael Morrison and Luke Putkonen—catcher James McCann and first baseman Aaron Westlake to the Arizona Fall League. Castellanos is slated to play in the outfield there.

• Lakeland captured a berth in the Florida State League playoffs by winning the second-half North Division title. The only other team in the organization to reach the playoffs was the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Tigers, which won the North Division but lost a one-game playoff to the Red Sox by a 1-0 score in 10 innings.