2014 Tony Awards: Comeback Player of the Year
Today we continue the IBI’s year-end awards with the announcement of the Comeback Player of the Year.
This award goes to the player who came back from a rough 2013 season – be it due to injury or performance – and any other obstacles to put up a very good 2014 season and reestablished and/or solidified himself as a prospect for the Indians.
Here are the 2014 Tony Awards so far:
In the coming days the Reliever 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…
Comeback Player of the Year Nominees
Shawn Armstrong, RHP
2013: 33 G, 2-3, 4.14 ERA, 37.0 IP, 35 H, 20 R (17 ER), 3 HR, 21 BB, 48 K, .246 BAA, 1.51 WHIP
2014: 49 G, 6-2, 2.41 ERA, 56.0 IP, 43 H, 15 R (15 ER), 4 HR, 22 BB, 72 K, .213 BAA, 1.16 WHIP
Armstrong finished 3rd in the organization in saves. He spent almost the entire season at Double-A Akron and was dominant in the pen there ranking 5th in the Eastern League in saves and 3rd in games finished (34). He bounced back from a disappointing 2013 season that mostly came about because of a self-inflicted hand injury early in the season that sidelined him a few months and he was never quite the same when he came back. He’s back on track and could help the Indians sometime in 2015.
Robbie Aviles, RHP
2013: 16 G, 4-5, 5.09 ERA, 69.0 IP, 72 H, 42 R (39 ER), 7 HR, 26 BB, 30 K, .273 BAA, 1.42 WHIP
2014: 25 G, 2-1, 2.55 ERA, 84.2 IP, 73 H, 33 R (23 ER), 2 HR, 11 BB, 49 K, .233 BAA, 0.99 WHIP
Aviles did not finish on any organizational or Midwest League leaderboards, but he had a nice bounce back season from a tough 2013 campaign. He really got off to a great start the first two months this season before an arm injury sidelined him and limited him to bullpen duty upon his return. Overall, it was a nice step forward for him from a stuff, mechanics and performance standpoint. He is an arm to keep an eye on going forward.
Mitch Brown, RHP
2013: 17 G, 3-5, 6.78 ERA, 67.2 IP, 78 H, 53 R (51 ER), 6 HR, 40 BB, 66 K, .294 BAA, 1.74 WHIP
2014: 27 G, 8-8, 3.31 ERA, 138.2 IP, 113 H, 60 R (51 ER), 6 HR, 55 BB, 127 K, .226 BAA, 1.21 WHIP
Brown finished 12th in the 16-team Midwest League in ERA (3.31), 3rd in games started (27), 5th in innings pitched (138.2), 7th in strikeouts (127) and 10th in WHIP (1.21). He also finished 4th in the organization in both ERA and strikeouts. It was a big year for the 20-year old Minnesotan and one that was a welcomed sign after so much promise going into last season. He’s a prime example of how injuries and some shaky confidence that results when coming back from injury can affect an entire season.
Anthony Gallas, OF
2013: 14 G, .212 AVG, 6 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 9 K, 0 SB, .537 OPS
2014: 131 G, .285 AVG, 64 R, 37 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 38 BB, 123 K, 4 SB, .845 OPS
Gallas split the season between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron so he did not qualify for any league leaderboards, but he finished 8th in the organization in hitting (.285) - 6th among full season players – and was 1st in home runs (24) and 3rd in RBI (80). The numbers were eye-popping considering where he has come from having barely played and performed over the last three seasons, but a reminder that any prospect at any time can have a big year in the minors.
Jacob Lee, RHP
2013: 11 G, 0-5, 6.11 ERA, 51.2 IP, 56 H, 41 R (35 ER), 8 HR, 26 BB, 39 K, .272 BAA, 1.59 WHIP
2014: 41 G, 4-0, 2.99 ERA, 72.1 IP, 67 H, 28 R (24 ER), 5 HR, 18 BB, 53 K, .241 BAA, 1.18 WHIP
Lee had a very nice comeback season and really shined in the bullpen. As a starter in 2013 he lacked consistency and an injury ultimately ruined most of the rest of his season, so the Indians put him in the bullpen this season to monitor his workload but also to give him a chance to have success and that is what happened. His stuff plays up a little more in the bullpen and it looks like a role that he should continue to pitch in, hopefully next year at some point at Double-A Akron.
Roberto Perez, C
2013: 99 G, .200 AVG, 26 R, 18 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 54 BB, 84 K, 1 SB, .623 OPS
2014: 53 G, .305 AVG, 29 R, 11 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 43 RBI, 29 BB, 51 K, 1 SB, .922 OPS
Perez had a magical 2014 season after such a frustrating 2013 season. Everyone by now knows that he dealt with Bell’s palsy in 2013 and played through it, but it had a negative impact on his performance. Finally healthy this season he put together the most consistent three months at the plate as he ever has in the minors and it earned him a first time promotion to Cleveland in July. It can’t get much better than that.
Giovanni Soto, LHP
2013: 9 G, 0-1, 5.19 ERA, 8.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R (5 ER), 0 HR, 9 BB, 8 K, .267 BAA, 1.96 WHIP
2014: 37 G, 0-2, 3.23 ERA, 53.0 IP, 45 H, 24 R (19 ER), 2 HR, 12 BB, 49 K, .230 BAA, .108 WHIP
Soto went into the 2013 season as the Indians best left-handed relief option in the minors and someone the Indians would call upon when a need arose, but an early season injury changed those plans and forced him to miss the last four months of the season. He came back this season and pitched well, and though he had a few minor injury setbacks and had to pitch in Double-A all year, he made progress and looks to be back on track as a lefty pen option for the Indians in 2015 if needed.
Tyler Sturdevant, RHP
2013: Did not pitch
2014: 46 G, 2-2, 2.65 ERA, 57.2 IP, 45 H, 18 R (17 ER), 4 HR, 17 BB, 54 K, .217 BAA, 1.08 ERA
Sturdevant has quite the story in his baseball career. He had Tommy John surgery in 2007, was almost 24 years old when he was drafted in 2009 and had a shoulder issue that affected him in 2012 and ended up in surgery that wiped out his 2013 season. He will turn 29 years old in December, so he may not be much of a “prospect” but his perseverance is amazing. He came back from missing all of 2013 to have a very nice season this year and establish himself as at least an upper level depth pen arm – though is a sleeper for a bullpen role in Cleveland at some point in 2015.
And the Tony Award goes to….Anthony Gallas
All of these players were certainly deserving of consideration for this award. All of them had great bounce back campaigns from subpar seasons in 2013 whether due to injury, mechanical issues, personal reasons or whatever. In the end the four who I felt had the best comeback were Gallas, Brown, Perez and Armstrong, and in that order.
Perez went from an upper organizational depth catching option to a legit Major League backup catching option. At this time last year no one thought he would be ready to help the Indians at some point in 2014, but that is exactly what he did. Armstrong re-established himself as a legit back of the bullpen prospect for the Indians and should get an opportunity with Cleveland at some point in 2015 if he continues to move forward with his progress. Brown came back from a nightmare season in 2013 to have a very strong season and solidify himself once again as one of the Indians best starting pitching prospects.
But when it came down to it, it is hard to ignore the numbers that Gallas put up, and most importantly, where he came from. Consider for a moment that from 2011-2013 at High-A he only managed to play in 160 total games and hit just .233 with 10 HR, 74 RBI and .672 OPS. He never really performed, but some of that had to do with infrequent playing time and injuries which limited him.
Gallas was not much of a prospect coming into the season, so his comeback was not so much of one from a stock perspective as it was from an injury and performance perspective. He really did not do anything that memorable at High-A Carolina this year as he hit .276 with 8 HR, 31 RBI and .810 OPS in 58 games. As a 26-year old in High-A, he did what older, advanced players should do which is put up take advantage of inferior pitching and put up solid numbers. But his amazing comeback was fueled by his impressive showing once he was promoted to Double-A Akron in mid-June as he hit .293 with 16 HR, 49 RBI and .872 OPS in 73 games there.
While there were some adjustments made at the plate, the biggest change for Gallas this season was that he was healthy and got regular playing time. He’s always been a guy who was the fourth or fifth outfielder on the roster and played more when injuries to others came up. That same thing sort of happened in Akron as an injury to Tyler Naquin allowed for him to get an opportunity – and he more than took advantage of it.
Gallas has now established himself as a solid power-hitting outfield prospect for the Indians, though is still not a high end prospect despite the big numbers this season. He was old for the levels he has played at this season, is limited defensively, lacks versatility, and has an approach that scouts are not sure will translate well to the big leagues. Without much of a history to go on, he is going to have to prove himself once again next season with another very good year before people in the industry start to take him more seriously as a prospect and option in the big leagues.
Gallas is from Cleveland and a huge Cleveland sports fan, so if there was every anyone to root for to reach the big leagues he is it. The hope here is that Gallas ends up as a diamond in the rough and is just a late bloomer, but for now he looks more along the lines of a Jared Goedert or Chad Huffman type of player. A bat with lots of pop from the right side, but the lack of a position and some concerns with the approach might limit his chances of getting to the big leagues. In order to get such a chance, he’s going to need to perform in 2015 much like he did in 2014 and seize any opportunity he gets.
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 far as some of the other guys on the list, it was great to see Shawn Armstrong reestablish himself and finally put his injury behind him. Giovanni Soto surprised the heck out of me in the 2nd half since he had an incredibly rough stretch when he first came back off the DL and I began to doubt whether he would ever return to his effective form. Tyler Sturdevant is just an amazing story of perseverance. While he's a sleeper for the Tribe bullpen, if he were to make it to Cleveland, he would fit right in that clubhouse with that attitude.