Minor League Ball Triple-A Players of the Year
This is NOT "Prospect of the Year." The purpose is to honor who I think was the best overall player in the league this year, which is not necessarily the same thing as best long-term prospect. If the best player is a 30-year-old journeyman, so be it. Note that I'm not really considering guys who spent just partial seasons in the league; I want to recognize players who spent all or almost all of the season in one league.
POSITION PLAYER: B.J. Upton, Durham. Ranked third in on-base percentage, slugged .490, hit .303, second in league with 44 steals, third in league with 36 doubles, giving him the best balance of power, batting average, and other contributions among regular player who spent the whole year in the league. Red flag here is 53 errors at shortstop, but even considering his defensive problems, I think he made the biggest impact in the league this year.
STARTING PITCHER: Jason Scobie, Norfolk. Third in league with 3.34 ERA, led league with 15 wins, tied for second in league with 167 innings pitched. Prospect-wise, probably a Quadruple-A pitcher, but a very good one. Francisco Liriano was more dominant, but split the year between Double-A and Triple-A.
CLOSER: Travis Bowyer, Rochester. 23 saves ranked third in the league, but he was more dominant than the guys ahead of him (Mark Corey and Matt Whiteside) with 96 strikeouts in just 74 innings.
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE
POSITION PLAYER: Natural inclination here is to go with New Orleans' Rick Short, who made a valiant run at .400 before finishing at .383. He also finished eighth in slugging percentage and third in on-base percentage. Other candidates include Kevin Orie (.352, 20 homers), Nick Gorneault (108 RBI), and prospect Todd Linden (321, 30 homers, 62 walks). I'll go with Short, a 32-year-old journeyman who had the year of his life.
STARTING PITCHER: Another journeyman gets this nod, Memphis righthander Kevin Jarvis, who led the league with a 3.38 ERA and was second with 11 wins. Prospects like Adam Wainwright, Edgar Gonzalez, and Matt Cain also acquitted themselves well, with Cain being the most dominant and leading the league with 176 strikeouts.
CLOSER: Jermaine Van Buren, Iowa. Second in the league with 25 saves, his 1.98 ERA pushes him ahead of save leader Brad Baker. Van Buren could end up being a very effective middle reliever if the Cubs give him a fair chance.