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Quarter Season Awards at Each Level

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Tabbing the top hitter and pitcher at each level of the Minor Leagues a quarter of the way through the season.

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We are about a quarter of the way through the MiLB season, so I figured I would go ahead and award the best hitter and pitcher at each level thus far. This is specific to each level, so Juan Soto will not be an “MVP” as he has not done enough at any one level, although if this was just a season so far for all the minors, he may be the pick. With that said, let’s get started:

Triple-A MVP: Franmil Reyes – El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres) – Reyes was just recently called up the big leagues, but he dominated in his time at Triple-A. His 14 home runs in just 36 games are the most in all the Minor Leagues and had an average of .346 with an OPS of 1.180. His power and eye at the plate helped catapult him from an often overlooked prospect to a now big leaguer that has Padres fans excited to see if he can continue his hot start at the highest level.

Triple-A Top Pitcher: Jalen Beeks - Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston Red Sox) – Beeks is another prospect that came into the season without a lot of buzz but has dominated to start the year. He has more than 10 more strikeouts than anyone else in Triple-A with 59 in 37.1 innings thus far. Coming into the season he was striking out 8.4 batters per nine innings but is at 14.2 so far this year. His 1.93 ERA this season is significantly lower than his 3.63 career ERA, while he has a WHIP under one, with his career WHIP over 1.2. He is on the Red Sox 40-man roster, so if he continues this hot start, he just may get a look at the back end of the rotation at some point this season.

Double-A MVP: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto Blue Jays) – I wanted to tab Peter Alonso as the MVP in Double-A as he has had a great start to the season, but Guerrero has just plain been unreal. He leading Double-A in RBIs (40), Hits (56), Total Bases (94), and tied in Doubles (15). He is also second at the level hitting .415 going into Thursday. There is already a movement for the 19-year old to be called up to the Blue Jays and, as unrealistic as it may sound, he just may be able to pull it off.

Double-A Top Pitcher: Erik Swanson – Trenton Thunder (New York Yankees) – Tied for the Double-A lead in strikeouts, nobody can compete with his record and ERA. He is 5-0 in six starts with an unreal ERA of just 0.44. He has given up just two runs in 40.2 innings with a WHIP of 0.811. He is striking out 4.33 batters per walk, which is actually worse than last season with Tampa where he had a K/BB ratio of 6. He is not on the Yankee’s top 30 on MLB.com, nor was he on John’s Yankees list to begin the season, but he has certainly forced scouts to sit up and take notice early on this season.

Class A Advanced MVP: Nathaniel Lowe – Charlotte Stone Crabs (Tampa Bay Rays) – Another player not on the MLB.com team top 30 nor on John’s team list, Lowe has been one of the more impressive bats in Class A Advanced in the first quarter of the season. He is second at the level in batting average, hitting .378, while just four runs and two home runs off the pace of the leader. He is tied for the lead in hits with 54 and leading the level in RBIs with 36 through 37 games. The first baseman out of Mississippi State is on pace to potentially earn a call-up to Double-A at some point this season but his position limitations have kept him from being a real prospect.

Class A Advanced Top Pitcher: Emilio Vargas – Visalia Rawhide (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Tabbed as “others of note” by John in the D-Backs list before the season, Vargas has been on fire in the hitter-friendly California League. He has been somewhat lucky given his 1.26 WHIP is not one of the best at the level, but in 41.1 innings he has allowed just four runs, all earned, for an ERA of 0.87, best in Class A Advanced. He is third in the level in strikeouts with 53, or 1.5/9. The concern for Vargas going forward is the command, as he has allowed five walks per nine, or just six fewer walks than hits this season, meaning that WHIP is inflated by the walks.

Class A Full Season MVP: Kevin Smith – Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays) – Yes, another Blue Jay hitter comes in as MVP for me. Splitting his time thus far between short and third, Smith has more RBI, hits, doubles (by seven), total bases, and the best OPS of anyone at the level. He is third in batting average hitting .379, which is one of his lesser tools. His ability to hit for average has been a question after being selected in the fourth round out of Maryland where he hit .267 in college and .271 in the Appy league. He has shown power with six through 36 games, and is solid in the field, although his lack of speed likely limits him to be a third baseman long term.

Class A Full Season Top Pitcher: Elijah Morgan – Lake County Captains (Cleveland Indians) – Undersized at just 5’10” and with a fastball that sits at 90 when good, Morgan has been baffling hitters ever since his impressive Junior campaign at Gonzaga that saw him selected in the eighth round last year. He dominated the New York-Penn League and has continued in the Midwest League. He has an ERA of just 1.83 and a WHIP of 0.88. He is striking out 11.4 batters per nine, and seven for every batter he gives a free pass to. His 56 strikeouts are best at the level but he has shown some lack of command with six wild pitches thus far. His path to becoming a big league starter is an uphill battle given his size and lack of velocity, but his command and excellent changeup just may be able to make it happen.