The Single-A Tarpons have had a number of offensive struggles so far this season. We’re nearly two months into the season and a lot of what I’ve seen is reminiscent of what their parent club in the Bronx has been experiencing.
That said, the Tarpons don’t have an Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton or Gerrit Cole to carry the team. The best bat on the team is INF Jared Serna, a prospect who has really had a break-out season thus far and wasn’t on anyone’s Top 30 going into the 2023 season, and there really isn’t a dominant pitcher on the Tampa rotation.
If this situation feels oddly familiar, that’s because this same kind of performance happened last year. Tampa is currently in second to last place in the Florida State League, with a record of 12-22 with only a .353 winning percentage after getting swept in 6 games by Single-A Fort Myers (Minnesota) and winning last night’s game versus Dunedin (Single-A Toronto) by a commanding 12-7.
Tampa ended last year’s first half in last place, with a winning percentage of .409. The first half ends in a little over a month, and they’re not trending in a positive direction.
Tampa ended 2022 with a 34-28 record, good for a .548 winning percentage, and a majority of that group is now in High-A Hudson Valley. Many players are performing considerably better in HV than they did in Tampa, with Alexander Vargas and Antonio Gomez as good examples (although Gomez has significantly regressed in May, but that’s by-the-by).
To further cement the fact that Tampa is experiencing a lot of similarities to the Yankees, two of their starting pitchers have gone down to injuries in the past month (Will Brian on 4/20, and Leonardo Pestana on 5/15), similar to how the Yankees are still without Rodón, Severino, Gil, Loáisiga, Montas… the list goes on.
The Tarpons are facing a game where they don’t have a scheduled starter tonight (should have been Pestana), and the rotation already was bumped up a day when Brian was pulled during a game due to an apparent arm injury. Like the Yankees, the bullpen is running very thin and is also very tired. Looking at the current roster, I can’t say I have a concrete go-to situation for tonight. Yorlin Calderon has started before; he pitched a 7-inning no-hitter last May. Kris Bow was just called up from Extended Spring Training, but last year he only made appearances of 1 to 2 innings, so he likely wouldn’t be able to provide a ton of inning depth.
With Germán now getting suspended for 10 games, the Yankees are in a similar situation, especially since they can’t call anyone up to replace him in the rotation. They’ll have to pitch a bullpen game at some point.
I need to admit that watching both teams both in-person and virtually via MLB.TV or MiLB.TV has had my head spinning with the similarities, despite the differences in overall polish and performance. I was fortunate to be credentialed for the series finale in St. Pete of the Yankees versus the Rays and seeing Oswaldo Cabrera bobble a throw from Gleyber Torres across the diamond to 3B was incredibly reminiscent of errors I see all the time with the Tarpons.
As Toronto pitcher Alec Manoah said, “pressure is something you put in your tires.” We’ll see how Tampa faces this adversity, although realistically, their existence is to develop players. A league championship is a fortunate happenstance if anything. This situation will be a good team-building experience for the if and when some of them make it to the Majors.
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