2014 Tony Awards: Biggest Disappointment
Today we continue with the IBI’s year-end awards with the announcement of the Biggest Disappointment in the minors. This is the one year-end award that no one wants to win and goes to the player who was a highly rated prospect coming into the season who performed poorly or suffered through an injury plagued season.
In the coming days the Biggest Breakthrough, Reliever of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced. To see the history of the Tony Awards from previous seasons, go here.
Here are the 2014 Tony Awards so far:
As with any season - no matter how good things go - there will always be a few players who fall short of expectations. The toughest thing to balance is considering who truly had a poor season since a lot of these players had their season’s affected by significant injuries, and in an evaluation process that is something that teams very much consider. Either way, the great thing is most of these players will get a chance next year to make the necessary corrections and could very well be next year’s Comeback Player of the Year.
It is important to note that this award is not handed out to be critical in any way of any of the players listed, but to objectively take a look at who underwhelmed this season and did not meet expectations. This is always the toughest award for me to hand out because it is negative by nature, but then again, like in baseball it is a game of frustration and failure, and the same is the case with some prospects who disappoint.
This award is centered around the top prospects going into the season and how they did. To be a disappointment you have to be a high level guy, so the struggles of any Top 25 prospect were really put under the microscope here. With high standing as a prospect comes high expectations, and when those expectations are not met - be it for performance or health reasons – it is a disappointment. While I agree it is not fair to hold an injury against a player, it can still affect their prospect stock and bring to light questions about their future so they have to be considered.
Again, these awards are simply for fun to hand out at the end of the year, though this is one award that is not really “fun” to hand out. The award also has no bearing on their prospect status. Also, the Cleveland Indians in no way whatsoever have had any input in these awards.
Onto the nominees...
Biggest Disappointment Nominees
Cody Anderson (RHP)
25 GS, 4-11, 5.44 ERA, 125.2 IP, 141 H, 78 R (76 ER), 17 HR, 45 BB, 81 K, .285 BAA
Anderson came into the season as the IBI’s 4th ranked prospect. After a sensational 2013 campaign that saw him breeze through High-A Carolina, win the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year award and finish at Double-A Akron, a lot was expected of him this season. Unfortunately, he had various issues throughout the season which affected his consistency and resulted in a very inconsistent showing for him overall. Most alarming was a drop in strikeout rate from 8.1 K/9 last season to just 5.8 K/9 this season, and thus a drop in K/BB ratio from 3.05 in 2013 to 1.80 this season.
Dorssys Paulino (SS/LF)
113 G, .251 AVG, 51 R, 25 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 33 BB, 101 K, 5 SB, .665 OPS
Paulino came into the season as the IBI’s 11th ranked prospect. He had a great 2012 campaign at rookie level Arizona when he hit .355 with 6 HR, 30 RBI and 1.015 OPS in 41 games as a 17-year old. The organization was very excited about his potential with the bat, aggressively pushed him to Low-A Lake County in 2013 and now almost two years later he is coming off two subpar showings at Lake County. Most concerning is not only did he repeat at the Low-A level and not get any better (or worse), but he moved from a high value middle infield position to left field which lowers his value considerably.
Ronny Rodriguez (INF)
118 G, .228 AVG, 52 R, 25 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 25 BB, 92 K, 4 SB, .594 OPS
Rodriguez came into the season as the IBI’s 21st ranked prospect. After a big 2012 season at High-A Carolina when he hit .264 with 19 HR, 66 RBI and .752 OPS at 20 years of age, he has really regressed over the past two seasons where he has spent the entire time at Double-A Akron. Of great concern is his poor plate discipline really has not improved as he has matured, but more concerning is the big drop in his power as he has totaled just 10 homers the last two seasons over 945 plate appearances after hitting 19 homers in 454 plate appearances in 2012 at Carolina. His .105 ISO over the last two season’s pales in comparison to the .188 ISO he had in 2012.
Anthony Santander (OF)
43 G, .184 AVG, 16 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 17 BB, 49 K, 2 SB, .530 OPS
Santander came into the season as the IBI’s 18th ranked prospect. After a big showing in 2012 when he hit .305 with 4 HR, 32 RBI and .874 OPS in 43 games as a 17 year old at rookie level Arizona, he has struggled through two injury plagued seasons the last two years and played in 104 combined games at Low-A Lake County where he has hit .217 with a .611 OPS. His chronic elbow and shoulder issues bring about a big concern with him going forward and whether he can ever be what many thought he could be.
Jordan Smith (OF)
126 G, .248 AVG, 52 R, 24 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 50 RBI, 33 BB, 82 K, 9 SB, .631 OPS
Smith came into the season as the IBI’s 19th ranked prospect. He had been a model of consistency his first three seasons as a pro from 2011-2013 hitting around .300 with a near 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio and an OPS around .800, but this season he encountered his first real struggles as a pro and he never got on track. He’s always been a slow starter and the two previous seasons followed up a slow April-May with a big finish, but that never happened this season. He has size, can play defense, is versatile, has great makeup and a good approach, but for him to have any chance at the big leagues he has to hit.
Joe Wendle (2B)
93 G, .265 AVG, 54 R, 21 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 30 BB, 60 K, 5 SB, .750 OPS
Wendle came into the season as the IBI’s 13th ranked prospect. Now, this may be a stretch to have him included here since his season was not that bad. But as a guy who was the IBI’s Offensive Player of the Year last season, a lot more was expected of him this season than what he showed. Yes, an injury did have an effect on the quality of his season and ruin some momentum he started in the middle of it, but as noted in the intro, injuries matter and can affect the track of a player’s progress and big league potential.
And the Tony Award goes to….Cody Anderson
First off, the fact that only six players were on this list – with one of them being a stretch – is a great thing as it shows just how well the Indians system as a whole performed and developed this season, especially the top guys.
Secondly, two of these players are guys who had big years in the Arizona League two years ago as 17 year olds. Since then injuries and struggles against better competition have seen both fall way back in their performance. This is a huge caveat for everyone excited about the showing in Arizona this past season for players like Bobby Bradley,Yu-Cheng Chang and others. They are certainly worthy of being excited about, but guys like Paulino and Santander are reminders that injuries are always the greatest equalizer and that sometimes players just hit a wall at a certain level.
In any case, when it comes down to it there were really only two players to really consider for this award, that being Anderson and Paulino. Paulino’s stock took a major hit when he moved off of shortstop to left field as the upside to be a plus offensive player at the shortstop position spiked his value, but now his offensive potential looks to be limited by left field standards. When you factor in that he may only be an average defender at best in the outfield if everything clicks for him out there and that he probably lacks the versatility to ever play center field, well, you can see how he has a large hill to climb now to make it to the big leagues.
But in the end I think the no brainer was Anderson. He was a top five prospect coming into the season and was a guy that had a chance to really solidify himself as a Major League option going into the 2015 season. Now, his 2015 season is one that will be much less about a Major League opportunity, but instead to bounce back and potentially set himself up for that opportunity in 2016.
You name it and it probably bothered Anderson this season. There were some velocity issues at times, there were some health issues and there were mechanical issues. The biggest issue was that he actually came into camp too tight physically. He spent the offseason chopping wood and added too much muscle in his shoulders and upper legs, which led to him being too stiff and upright in his delivery. This in turn affected his ability to repeat his delivery, get power and explode through it and command his pitches. The Indians believe they finally got him to a place physically they are comfortable with and will monitor his offseason workouts to ensure he comes into camp more flexible and ready to impact with the baseball in 2015.
As with anyone nominated for or chosen as the winner of this award, the hope is that Anderson and the rest of these players come back strong next season and are either in consideration for Offensive Player or Pitcher of the Year, or at the very least 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.
As disappointing as Anderson was this season, I expect him to rebound nicely, but the biggest overall disappointment for me is Paulino. Unfortunately I think his star has fizzled. Thankfully middle infield has the most depth in this system.
I'm not sure what happened to Ronny, but he didn't look like the same player I watched a year ago. Wendle I thought did pretty well this season being his first taste of AA ball and working around an unfortunate midseason injury. Not too worried about him. Jordan Smith was lost in the 1st half, but came around a bit after the All-Star Break. Approach and swing mechanics are still the primary concern with him, according to the coaches. You would like to see more power develop sooner or later, though.
In one of your more recent minor happenings, the comments made about Anderson were actually quite optimistic and the coaches and FO still seems to have some confidence in his future going forward. Ronny Rod on the other hand has basically pegged himself as a non-prospect at this point. He did not have a great year last year, but I think most people had considered it positive development. His numbers really fell off the table this year, all while repeating the AA level, and now I'm not sure he even has a place in the organization.
Anderson deserved this award, but watching a player with RRod's upside officially fizzle out is more disappointing to me when I look at the larger picture.
Cody's development is critical, as he's the ONE guy in the system (and further down the line, perhaps Roberts and Plutko, and then maybe Baker/Morimando) who has a chance to really impact the ML club in the next year or two...he's pretty much it...8--(
And nice to hear about the flexibility issues re Cody. But frankly, its kinda hard to believe that the Tribe wasn't already monitoring and guiding his off-season workout...? I would think that any top 15 prospect at AA (let alone arguably our top pitching prospect!) has a VERY detailed and closely monitored off-season workout regimen that includes very specific flexibility drills designed just for that person's body...?
Its not like in the days of Bob Feller when guys would go back to the farm or get a job in the off-season...these guys are year-a-round athletes and should be on year-around programs, so I wonder what the player development team is doing if they don't know exactly what a guy is doing every day in the off-season...in other words, that he would show up in ST and surprise folks because he is stiff/not flexible enough to repeat his delivery is a little bizarre.