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
Winner: 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
Winner: 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
Winner: 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
Winner: 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
Winner: 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
Winner: 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
Winner: 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
Winner: 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
|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…