2007 Minor League Awards

A-Rod blasts two as Mariners use every pitcher in baseball
Hughes not as good as we believed?

So there we have it, another riveting season of minor league baseball is in the books. It’s great to look at the affiliate rosters and see the number of older, non-prospect roster-filler types going down, especially in the pitching department. The number of guys that exceeded expectations this year is far greater than the number of guys that underperformed, the polar opposite of recent years.

Yankee farmhands were named the Eastern League & Florida State League Pitchers of the Year, Scranton manager Dave Miley took home International League Manager of Year honors, and countless Yankee prospects were named to their league’s year end All-Star club. Eleven total players have made their Major League debut for the Yankees this year (so far), 9 of which were direct products of the farm system.

Keep in mind that this isn’t some kind of best prospect list, it’s a recognition of the guys who had great years, regardless of prospect status. In an effort to keep things fresh, I deemed the guy who won the Player of the Year Award ineligible for the Pitcher/Hitter of the Year Awards.

Minor League Player of the Year
: Ian Patrick Kennedy, RHP, A+/AA/AAA/MLB
From when he first toed the rubber to when he threw his final pitch in the minors, no player was more consistently great than Mr. Kennedy. The numbers are sparkling (12-3, 1.91 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .182 BAA), the rise through the system is certifiably meteoric, and perhaps best of all, the man many people wanted the Yanks to draft instead of Kennedy last year, Dan Bard, has been nothing short of a disaster for the Red Sox. Had the Honorable Mentionees not received such sudden calls to the bigs, it’s entirely possible one of them would have supplanted IPK for the award.
Honorable Mention: Joba Chamberlain, RHP, A+/AA/AAA/MLB; Shelley Duncan, 1B/OF, AAA/MLB

Minor League Pitcher of the Year
: Joba Chamberlain, RHP, A+/AA/AAA/MLB
Despite missing over a month to start the year because he yanked his hammy when his spike got caught fielding a bunt, Joba splashed on the scene in a way as big as his shoulders. Thanks to one dominant outing after another, Joba made his Major League debut on August 7th, exactly 3 months after he made his High-A Tampa debut on May 7th. Enjoy folks, this kid’s somethin’ special.
Honorable Mention: Alan Horne, RHP, AA; Dan McCutchen, RHP, A+/AA

Minor League Hitter of the Year
: Shelley Duncan, 1B/OF, AAA/MLB
Duncan tormented International League pitching right from the get go, clubbing 7 homers in the first 3 weeks of the season. Despite being called up in mid-July, Duncan led all Yankee minor leaguers in HR (25, a single season record for the Scranton franchise) and was 4th in RBI (79). No disrespect to Shelley, but I know we were all hoping a different Duncan would have a year like this.
Honorable Mention: Juan Miranda, 1B, A+/AA; Mitch Hilligoss, 3B/SS, A-

Minor League Manager of the Year
Dave Miley, AAA
While we all moaned & groaned whenever a pitcher went down with injury earlier in the year, Miley was the one who had to deal with having almost his entire pitching staff being called up to the big leagues. At one point in April, Miley’s 25-man roster contained only 8 pitchers. Barely three months later his 3-4 hitters were permanently summoned to the big league squad. Despite all this, Scranton won the International League’s Northern Division by 7.5 games. Bravo.
Honorable Mention: Tony Franklin, AA; Mike Gillespie, SS

Breakout Player of the Year
: Edwar Ramirez, RHP, AA/AAA/MLB
No one, and I mean no one, saw this coming. 38 total bases allowed & 102 K in 56.2 IP in the minors…are you kidding me??? We’re not likely to ever see someone breakout like this again, so from now on the Breakout Player of the Year Award will be known as the Edwar Ramirez Award.
Honorable Mention: Frankie Cervelli, C, A+/AAA; Mike Dunn, LHP, A-

Best Pro Debut
: Justin Snyder, IF/CF, SS
A 21st round pick because of signability, Snyder places amongst the NY-Penn League leaders in BA (.341, 2nd), OBP (.467, 1st), OPS (.953, 2nd), hits (85, 1st), walks (57, 2nd) and runs scored (65, 1st) with only 2 days left in the season. Snyder’s also proved versatile, spending time at 2B, 3B, SS and CF.
Honorable Mention: Damon Sublett, 2B, SS; Ryan Pope, RHP, SS

Comeback Player of the Year
: Jesse Hoover, RHP, A-
Hoover missed all of 2005 & 2006 due to a variety of injuries; a balky back being the most problematic. Once fully recovered, he headed to Low-A Charleston after a brief tune-up in Extended Spring, and allowed only 37 hits in 41.1 IP (.239 BAA) against 38 K.
Honorable Mention: Lance Pendleton, RHP, Rk; Jason Stephens, RHP, Rk/SS

Bounceback Player of the Year (started out bad, but picked it up in the second half)
Winner: Austin Jackson, OF, A-/A+/AA/AAA
Despite hitting to the tune of .260-.335-.374-.709 with Charleston, Ajax was summoned to Tampa in mid-June and went on an absolute tear that lasted the rest of the year. Jackson went .345-.398-.566-.964 the rest of the way and also cut down on his strikeouts (5.38 ABperK after 3.98), putting him in position for an end-of-year cameo with Triple-A Scranton, where he doubled in his only game.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Whelan, RHP, A+/AA; Marcos Vechionacci, 3B, A+

Most Disappointing Player
: Eric Duncan, 1B/3B, AAA
It’s a shame because he’s such a great kid and such a hard worker, but this is Duncan’s second consecutive MDP Award. After slamming a career high 19 HR in 2005 & showing signs of life after being demoted to Trenton in 2006, Duncan basically laid an egg in 2007, batting .241-.323-.389-.712, and even that had to be helped out by a torrid August.
Dishonorable Mention: Angel Reyes, LHP, Rk, SS, A-; Ivan Nova, RHP, A-

Individual Level Awards

Triple-A Double-A High-A Low-A Short Season Rookie
MVP Ben Kozlowski Matt Carson Edwar Gonzalez Mitch Hilligoss Justin Snyder Brandon Laird
Cy Young Matt DeSalvo Alan Horne Eric Wordekemper Mike Dunn Ryan Pope Jairo Heredia
Surprise Angel Chavez Scott Patterson Frankie Cervelli Seth Fortenberry Jonathan Ortiz Kelvin Perez
Disappointment Eric Duncan Cody Ehlers Tim Battle Angel Reyes Austin Krum Melky Mesa

All-Minor League Teams

First Team Second Team Third Team
C Frankie Cervelli Kyle Anson PJ Pilittere
1B Juan Miranda Chris Malec Kevin Smith
2B Damon Sublett Prilys Cuello Kevin Russo
SS Justin Snyder Angel Chavez Alberto Gonzalez
3B Mitch Hilligoss Brandon Laird Marcos Vechionacci
OF Seth Fortenberry Edwar Gonzalez Brett Gardner
OF Jose Tabata Josue Calzado Colin Curtis
OF Austin Jackson Matt Carson Abe Almonte
DH Shelley Duncan Bronson Sardinha Cody Ehlers
SP Ian Kennedy Mike Dunn Ryan Pope
SP Joba Chamberlain Dan McCutchen Zach McAllister
SP Alan Horne Jeff Marquez Matt DeSalvo
RP Edwar Ramirez Scott Patterson Chris Britton
RP David Robertson Eric Wordekemper Jonathan Ortiz

Lifetime Achievement Award
And last but most certainly not least, we come to the final award presentation of the evening. Here to present this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award is last year’s recipient, Andy Cannizaro.

Cannizaro waves to the roaring crowd as he walks to the podium. He arrives, clears his thoat, adjusts the microphone, and speaks…

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of calling this year’s recipient “teammate” for the past 5 seasons, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine the grind without him. Despite not being blessed with the most physical talent in the world, he just wrapped up his 8th season as a professional; this past season being his 3rd full year, and 5th stint, with the Yank’s Triple-A affiliate, located this year in the grand metropolis of Scranton. (the crowd laughs) Drafted out of the University of San Diego by his hometown San Diego Padres in the 27th round of the 2000 draft, he was traded to the Yankees in an under-the-radar deal in December of 2001 for minor league infielder Bernie Castro. (Castro receives a small hand when shown at his seat via the jumbotron) Receiving cups of coffee in each of the last 2 years, he’s reached base 8 times in his 16 big league plate appearances while providing more than adequate relief for fatigued Yankee outfielders late in September. With nearly 900 minor league games under his belt, he’s racked up over 950 minor league hits in under 3300 at-bats, (the crowd applauds) but his greatest achievement has been providing invaluable leadership to not just me, but to the countless Yankee farmhands who’ve been lucky enough to call him “teammate.” Ladies and gentlemen, please give a nice round of applause to this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Kevin Reese.

The crowd erupts as Reese rises from his seat and makes his way to the stage. Reese & Cannizaro share a friendly embrace at the podium while a video montage of Reese’s career highlights plays on the jumbotron behind them…

A-Rod blasts two as Mariners use every pitcher in baseball
Hughes not as good as we believed?
  • Jeb

    That was awesome, mike! What a great way to end the minor league season.

    I hope scranton can beat Richmond. FYI, in college (1988) I worked for the Richmond Braves in the players’ parking lot. My job was to tell people “you can’t park here”. Aside from getting autographs from stellar guys like Jeff blauser, dave justice and Lonnie smith, I drove my boss crazy by wearing a yankees hat when Columbus came to town.

    And I saw jay buhner light up the ballpark one time in a 3 game set (I could go watch the game in the 5th). I was PO’ed when the yanks dealt him. Its nice to see that down on the farm is about growing the future now.

  • Jersey

    Great post! Especially the end.

  • JP

    Nice! I never thought about it until I saw your list…. look at how many guys were promoted three levels or more this year! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. Great year for the farm system!

  • Richard G.

    I assume you included Chris Kunda on the all-minor league team because either:

    a) he’s a friend of yours.

    b) you have a wicked sense of humor.

    c) you’re just checking to see how closely people are paying attention.

    d) you’re giving him extra credit for pitching a few innings. or

    e) you’re confusing him with Kevin Russo.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Blast, I confused him with Russo. Russ Raley, Kevin Russo, Chris Kunda…I get them all confused.

      My bad, thanks for pointing it out.

      • Richard G.

        No problem …. atleast you didn’t get tripped up by the Scott Patterson, Garrett Patterson, Paul Patterson, Nick Peterson, Jonathan Poterson conundrum! Not to mention Wilmer Pino/Ramiro Pena .. that one gets me every time.

        • Greg G.

          I’d even add David Robertson to that list. For some reason, I find his name indistinguishable from Scott Patterson.

  • http://www.yanksblog.com James Varghese

    Very nicely done…and man, looking at the nine starting pitchers on that all-minor league team, I gotta give props to Cashman and Mr. Oppenheimer. Very well done my man.

  • Greg G.

    Mike — awesome post, you’ve done some serious homework.

    Been meaning to ask: what’s the story on Betances? I thought there was a chance he was coming back before the season ended.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Dellin’s fine, he’s throwing down in Tampa. The Yanks are just being super cautious with him, as they tend to do.

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