Every August I start to fully break down the statistical season. The results lead to multiple awards and accolades, but none more prestigious than minor league player of the year. Most Augusts bring a handful of monster seasons to light, but this season has been different. Standout starting pitchers have been promoted to the majors at an alarming rate, and the elite position players have been hit with injuries. Those circumstances result in a cut in production. It will be tough to pinpoint just one player this year.
The candidates for minor league player of the year:
Matusz dominated Single-A competition, prompting a bump up to Double-A Bowie. A dominant stint there solidified his status among the game’s top prospects. Over eight starts in the Eastern League Matusz went 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA. In a surprising move, Baltimore brought him up to test his stuff against big league competition this week. If he stays in the big leagues for the rest of the year he will lose rookie status. And, unfortunately, when it comes to awards season, it may be hard to justify handing the minor league player of the year award to a young man that has only pitched 113 innings over 19 starts. He is the front runner, though.
Montero will miss the rest of the season, but his impact has been felt. He won’t win, due to the injury cutting into his stats, but he deserves the recognition. He has been playing the toughest position on the field, and been making progress in that regard, while his offense has ascended to a tremendous level. Perhaps most impressive of all, this 19-year-old has just 47 strikeouts in 347 at-bats.
Jennings’ tremendous talent has materialized in 2009. The walks and steals are up, and so is his lead-off hitting potential. He reminds me so much of Dexter Fowler, but Tampa Bay is hoping that his power potential is even higher than Fowler’s. Yet his power is not fully there right now, and that will hinder his shot at award season hardware. But he was recently promoted to Triple-A Durham, and if the stats keep pouring in he could win by default.
Various injuries have hindered Heyward’s statistical season, but when he has been on the field few have matched his production. The Braves’ young star may find himself at the top of this list if he can put together a monster August, which is certainly within his capabilities. I have been hankering for more steals out of him, but his power, contact skills, and plate discipline leave little room for complaint.
Madman successfully carried over his unreal Single-A performance from last year. High-A San Jose didn’t provide much of a challenge, but Double-A Connecticut has at least slowed down his utter dominance. He has a 2.01 ERA over 76 innings there, but his strikeouts are down and his walks have trended upward. The young man just turned 20 years old and has been fantastic, but not the shoo-in minor league MVP some were expecting. Not unless his strikeout rate goes through the roof, which is unlikely this late in the season.