Double-A Players/Pitchers of the Year
Again, this is not the same thing as PROSPECT of the Year. The purpose here is to honor outstanding performance.
PLAYER: Not a prospect at age 27, but Reading first baseman Randy Ruiz had a hell of a year, leading the Eastern League in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. He was also fourth in RBI, despite appearing in just 89 games.
STARTING PITCHER: I'll go with a real prospect here, Portland lefty Jon Lester. He led the league in ERA, strikeouts, and tied for third with 11 wins. He should be ready to contribute in Boston sometime in 2006.
CLOSER: Just what the Twins need, another relief prospect. New Britain closer Pat Neshek was third in the league with 24 saves, but struck out 95 guys in 82 innings while posting a 2.19 ERA. Save leader Edwin Almonte of Erie saved 33, but his ERA was 4.97. Second-place finisher Justin Pope of Trenton racked up 29, but was behind Neshek in ERA and K/IP.
PLAYER: Several candidates among the hot prospects, including Delmon Young, Jeremy Hermida, Russ Martin, and Chris Young. I think it boils down to Young and Hermida, and that's a "pick your blessing" type thing since both were outstanding. Hermida has better plate discipline and a higher OBP, but Young has more power. I think I will go for Hermida, on the strength of his .975 OPS compared to Young's .968. Hermida has broader secondary skills as well.
STARTING PITCHER: I will go with Cubs prospect Ricky Nolasco, who led the league in wins, strikeouts, and was third in ERA. Chad Billingsley isn't far behind and is a better long-term prospect, but for purposes of this exercise Nolaso has the advantage of ERA and better control.
CLOSER: League save leader Dale Thayer racked up 27, to go with a 2.34 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 58 innings. Chris Resop and Casey Daigle put up similar numbers.
PLAYER: Justin Huber of Wichita matched what Randy Ruiz did in the Eastern League, Huber leading the Texas circuit in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Unlike Ruiz, Huber is young and is an excellent prospect, who should put up numbers similar to a healthy Mike Sweeney in time.
STARTING PITCHER: Corpus Christi starter Jason Hirsh wins this, finishing second in the league with 15 wins, second in ERA, and leading in strikeouts and innings pitched. He definitely deserves notice as one of the top RHP prospects in the game right now, although on a national basis he hasn't received that much attention.
CLOSER: Save leader P.J. Bevis racked up 21, but with an unattractive 4.26ERA and weak K/IP ratio. Cory Doyne posted a 1.95 ERA with 19 saves, but managed to walk 36 guys in just 55 innings. Alex Santos and Alex Serrano were also effective, but neither pitched more than 42 innings. I think I will go with Doyne.