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2012 Tony Awards: Reliever of the Year

2012 Tony Awards: Reliever of the Year
October 9, 2012
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Today we continue the IPI postseason awards with the announcement of the Relief Pitcher of the Year.

The starting pitchers often get most of the focus, so this award gives an opportunity to showcase and recognize some of the top relief pitching performances over the course of the 2012 season. Because there are so many worthy relief pitcher candidates who had good seasons this year, to be nominated for the award a reliever had to have made at least 20 appearances.

Here are the 2012 Tony Awards so far:

Rookie of the Year: Dorssys Paulino (SS)
Defensive Player of the Year: Giovanny Urshela (3B)
Biggest Disappointment: Dillon Howard (RHP)
Biggest Breakthrough: Cody Allen (RHP)

In the coming days the Comeback Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced.  Again, these awards are simply for fun to hand out at the end of the year.  Also, the Cleveland Indians in no way whatsoever had any input in these awards.

Onto the nominees…

Reliever of the Year Nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Cody Allen (RHP – Carolina, Akron, Columbus, Cleveland)
Minors: 3-2, 1.87 ERA, 31 G, 3 SV, 43.1 IP, 25 H, 9 R/ER, 4 HR, 9 BB, 53 K, .166 BAA
Majors: 0-1, 3.77 ERA, 26 G, 0 SV, 28.2 IP, 29 H, 12 R/ER, 2 HR, 15 BB, 27 K, .269 BAA

Allen is already the recipient of the IPI’s “Biggest Breakthrough” and was certainly one of the best relievers in the Indians system this year. He breezed through four different stops hitting every level from High-A Carolina to Cleveland within three months. His rapid ascent up the system was one of the biggest stories the first half of the system, and when he arrived in Cleveland he did not disappoint.

Shawn Armstrong (RHP – Lake County, Carolina, Akron)
2-3, 1.60 ERA, 45 G, 4 SV, 67.2 IP, 44 H, 12 R/ER, 0 HR, 37 BB, 78 K, .191 BAA

Armstrong had an exceptional campaign hitting three different levels on the minor league circuit. He was not in one place long enough to rank as a league leader, but he no doubt was one of the top relievers in the minors this season and he has opened some eyes and established himself as a legitimate big league bullpen prospect.

Scott Barnes (LHP – Columbus, Cleveland)
Minors: 2-3, 3.98 ERA, 31 G, 2 SV, 52.0 IP, 37 H, 26 R (23 ER), 1 HR, 23 BB, 67 K, .196 BAA
Majors: 0-0, 4.26 ERA, 16 G, 0 SV, 19.0 IP, 17 H, 9 R/ER, 1 HR, 7 BB, 16 K, .236 BAA

Barnes is still viewed as a starter down the road, but coming off a significant knee injury which limited the amount of innings he could pitch this year, the Indians killed two birds with one stone by having him pitch out of the bullpen to monitor his workload and also fill an immediate need at the big league level. He gave up nine runs in 19.0 total innings (16 G) in Cleveland, but five of those runs came in one disastrous outing on June 14th.

Rob Bryson (RHP – Akron)
5-5, 2.62 ERA, 43 G, 2 SV, 65.1 IP, 45 H, 20 R (19 ER), 4 HR, 43 BB, 76 K, .195 BAA.

Bryson continues to perform each year but has yet to crack the Triple-A level. This was the third straight season he finished the year at Double-A Akron, and given his performance and some value as a relief prospect he should be in line to pitch for Triple-A Columbus next season. He maintained his high strikeout rate this season, although his walk rate jumped significantly. His .195 batting average against and 10.5 K/9 were 3rd among relievers in the Eastern League.

Jose Flores (RHP – Carolina, Akron)
1-3, 2.42 ERA, 42 G, 15 SV, 44.2 IP, 41 H, 18 R (12 ER), 0 HR, 15 BB, 39 K, .243 BAA

Flores has never really been a high profile relief prospect for the Indians, but he continues to put up good numbers every year. He finally got a shot late in the season to pitch at the Double-A level and overall this season he responded well with his most consistent season to date in his six year career. He finished 4th in the Carolina League in saves (15) and 4th in games finished (30).

Preston Guilmet (RHP – Akron)
2-2, 2.39 ERA, 50 G, 24 SV, 52.2 IP, 41 H, 14 R/ER, 4 HR, 13 BB, 51 K, .211 BAA

Guilmet had another outstanding year closing out games for an Indians affiliate, this time at Double-A Akron. Even though he does not throw hard or have exceptional stuff, he continues to add to his value each season with the way he commands his fastball, uses his unorthodox delivery, and his unbelievable confidence and composure on the mound. He finished tied for 1st in the Eastern League in saves (24), 2nd in games pitched (50), and 1st in games finished (39).

Trey Haley (RHP – Arizona, Carolina, Akron)
4-1, 2.33 ERA, 25 G, 2 SV, 38.2 IP, 26 H, 14 R (10 ER), 0 HR, 19 BB, 49 K, .188 BAA

After some struggles early in his career, the light bulb went on late last season for Haley and carried over into this season. He struggled with a groin issue last season and this season which was finally corrected with a sports hernia surgery earlier in the year, and once he came back later in the year he was flat out dominating. He settled in well at Double-A Akron, consistently popped his fastball in at 100 MPH, and showed improved command and confidence in his stuff.

Jeff Johnson (RHP – Lake County, Carolina)
4-5, 3.99 ERA, 45 G, 16 SV, 58.2 IP, 45 H, 28 R (26 ER), 2 HR, 21 BB, 75 K, .210 BAA

Johnson is a good example of how ERA does not really tell the whole story. His 3.99 ERA for the season was okay, but 10 of the 26 runs he allowed on the season all came in his first three appearances for Low-A Lake County. After those first three appearances he went on to have a 2.57 ERA for the season. He finished 6th in the Midwest League in saves (15) and 9th in games finished (30).

Matt Langwell (RHP – Akron, Columbus)
4-0, 2.74 ERA, 42 G, 3 SV, 69.0 IP, 59 H, 23 R (21 ER), 0 HR, 27 BB, 81 K, .234 BAA

Langwell finished off his fourth straight stellar season pitching out of the pen and did it for most of the season at the Triple-A level. In addition to the success this season he also had a 3.01 ERA and .237 BAA in 2011, 2.41 ERA and .219 BAA in 2010, and 1.97 ERA and .217 BAA in 2009. Even with the good numbers year in and year out, he is often overlooked….but maybe not any longer.

Cody Penny (RHP – Mahoning Valley, Lake County)
4-3, 2.39 ERA, 22 G, 2 SV, 37.2 IP, 27 H, 11 R (10 ER), 1 HR, 12 BB, 34 K, .203 BAA

The Indians had a few nice debuts out of the pen from their 2012 Draft, but of all of them Penny was the most impressive. He showed a power arsenal with the ability to get a strikeout and also get a decent amount of groundballs, and could be a guy that moves quickly next season with an assignment to High-A Carolina to start the season.

Grant Sides (RHP – Lake County, Carolina)
3-1, 2.22 ERA, 39 G, 6 SV, 65.0 IP, 45 H, 19 R (16 ER), 1 HR, 34 BB, 75 K, .197 BAA

Sides had a very good season splitting his time at Low-A Lake County and High-A Carolina. He dominated at Lake County with a 1.05 ERA and .157 BAA in 18 games (34.1 innings) before he was a midseason promotion to Carolina. He showed the same dominating stuff at Carolina, but he struggled a little with his command as his walks spiked and his performance evened out a little.

Enosil Tejeda (RHP – Mahoning Valley, Lake County)
5-1, 1.39 ERA, 26 G, 11 SV, 32.1 IP, 21 H, 6 R (5 ER), 0 HR, 10 BB, 25 K, .189 BAA

Tejeda is a tough guy to figure out. Last year at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley he racked up a 2.91 ERA, 12 saves, .171 BAA, and struck out 57 batters in 34.0 innings. Even after that impressive showing he opened the season in extended spring training and returned to Mahoning Valley when their season started. He finished the season by making his last 18 appearances at Lake County (1.23 ERA, .176 BAA).

And the Tony Awards goes to…Shawn Armstrong

Allen was a deserving candidate for the award as were some of the others like Penny, Haley and Tejeda, but all of these pitchers pitched what pretty much amounts to half a season. What this left were the likes of Armstrong, Guilmet, Langwell and Sides to be named the recipient of this award.

Guilmet and Langwell have been exceptional performers over the past few seasons and have really established themselves as good short term relief pitching options for the Indians, and Sides was brilliant this season, particularly in the first half.

But aside from Cody Allen no relief pitcher was more dominant in the Indians minor league system this year than Shawn Armstrong. And while Allen only spent a little over half the season in the minors, Armstrong was in the minors all season, which is ultimately why he won the award over Allen. Armstrong went from a wildcard big money signing out of the 2011 Draft into a Top 25 prospect for the Indians and a serious back end bullpen prospect.

Armstrong’s rise through three levels in one season was impressive and he will look to build on that success this offseason with a good showing in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) which starts up today. His command needs refining, but there is no doubt that he is a promising bullpen prospect because of his stuff and exceptional presence on the mound. Hopefully he can have a strong finish to his 2012 campaign with a good showing in the AFL and give him the proper foundation and springboard to a 2013 season where the big leagues may be in the crosshairs.

Up Next: Comeback Player of the Year

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

October 11, 2012 - 3:56 PM EDT
No doubt Guilmet had a very good season. He would have probably been my next choice. But simply looking at the numbers and the performance, Armstrong dominated more in almost every area. It wasn't even close if you ask me. Armstrong is obviously a much better prospect than Guilmet (which did not factor into this award), but he backed that up with a great year performance-wise and pitched at 4 different levels (Low-A, High-A, Double-A, AFL).
October 11, 2012 - 9:16 AM EDT
Armstrong is awesome...hard to argue those numbers...and he's the next great reliever in this doubt about it...

I'd give it to Guilmet for all the reasons that you mentioned, and while he doesn't have a half the upside of Armstrong, and won't have half the major league career (you never know though), I still gotta give that kid props.

You watch him pitch and think, "there's no way he's any good..."

Then you really watch, and think...

"how in the hell does anyone every hit him..."

I really hope he translates at Triple A, then ultimately, the bigs...

and Grant Sides could be ready to make an Allen/Armstrong run this year...
October 9, 2012 - 4:59 PM EDT
Yes, there is some talk about putting Haley back in the rotation next year. Just too talented to give up on starting....though may still remain in the pen.

Not sure I get the comment on Armstrong. Again, these awards are strictly performance driven. Development of secondary pitches, refining their delivery, improving their command, etc are not factored in (that's what the rankings are for). Looking strictly at the numbers, Armstrong outperformed every reliever except for Allen, and I skipped Allen simply because he was in the big leagues for almost half the season (this is a minor league award). Hard to argue against a pitcher in Armstrong who flew through three levels and is on the ML doorstep and dominated at each level getting strikeouts and being tough as hell to hit.
October 9, 2012 - 2:51 PM EDT
Call a spade a spade.. Shawn Armstrong came to the Cleveland Indians organization with a reputation for having good stuff but lacked command. After sliding through three levels of the minors, Shawn Armstrong has proven he has good stuff, but lacks command.. Getting recognition as the Reliever of the Year, after showing no change in what his issues are.. rings hollow..
October 9, 2012 - 1:13 PM EDT
Any chance Haley gets a shot in the Akron starting rotation next season?

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