2014 Tony Awards: Offensive Player of the Year
Today we continue the IBI’s year-end awards with the announcement of the Offensive Player of the Year in the minors.
This award goes to the position player in the Indians organization that had the best year statistically. Like with all the awards so far, this is 100% based on performance and not on prospect standing.
Also, the players eligible for the award had to play in at least two-thirds of their season. For a player who played from the start of the season on a full season team this would be 96 games, for a player that started their season once short season leagues got started this would be 50 games (rookie level would be 37 games). So because of this players such as Roberto Perez, Eric Haase, Bradley Zimmer and others fell just sort of consideration..
To view the Tony Awards history from previous years, go here. Here are the 2014 Tony Awards so far:
Rookie of the Year: Bobby Bradley
Defensive Player of the Year: Tony Wolters
Biggest Disappointment: Cody Anderson
Biggest Breakthrough: Erik Gonzalez
Comeback Player of the Year: Anthony Gallas
Reliever of the Year: Trevor Frank
Pitcher of the Year: Ryan Merritt
This is the final “Tony Award” to be handed out, but this weekend I will provide the final award piece which will be my All-Tony team where I list the best players this season position-by-position in a “1st team” and “2nd team” format.
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…
Offensive Player of the Year Nominees
(in alphabetical order)
Jesus Aguilar, 1B
118 G, .304 AVG (130-for-427), 69 R, 31 2B, 0 3B, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 64 BB, 96 K, 0 SB, .905 OPS
Aguilar had another big offensive showing for the Indians this past season in the minors. He finished 5th in the organization in average (3rd among full season players), 3rd in home runs and 4th in RBI. He also ranked 6th in the International League in average (.304), 6th in runs (69), 5th in home runs (19), 4th in RBI (77), 8th in total bases (218), 5th in walks (64), 2nd in on-base percentage (.395), 4th in slugging percentage (.511) and 2nd in OPS (.905).
Bobby Bradley, 1B
39 G, .361 AVG (56-for-155), 39 R, 13 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 50 RBI, 16 BB, 36 K, 3 SB, 1.078 OPS
Bradley had an amazing pro debut at rookie level Arizona and is already the recipient of the Rookie of the year award. He finished 1st in the Arizona League in hitting (.361), 2nd in on-base percentage (.426), 1st in slugging percentage (.652), 1st in OPS (1.078), tied for 1st in runs (39), 3rd in hits (56), 3rd in doubles, tied for 8th in triples (4), 1st in home runs (8), 1st in RBI (50) and 1st in total bases (101). He was also named MVP of the league and finished 1st in the organization in batting average.
Yu-Cheng Chang, INF
42 G, .346 AVG (55-for-159), 39 R, 9 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 18 BB, 28 K, 6 SB, .986 OPS
Cheng is another player who had an exceptional pro debut out at rookie level Arizona, an accomplishment that is even more impressive when you consider he is straight out of Taiwan. He finished 3rd in the Arizona League in hitting (.346), 4th in on-base percentage (.420), 2nd in slugging percentage (.566), 2nd in OPS (.986), tied for 1st in runs (39), 4th in hits (55), tied for 8th in triples (4), tied for 2nd in home runs (6) and 3rd in total bases (90). He also finished 2nd in the organization in batting average.
Anthony Gallas, OF
131 G, .285 AVG (143-for-501), 64 R, 37 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 38 BB, 123 K, 4 SB, .845 OPS
Gallas already won Comeback Player of the Year. He did not qualify for any league leaderboard because he had close to an even split of his season between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron. But to give an idea how impressive he was at Akron, from his arrival date on June 11th through the end of the season he ranked 3rd in the Eastern League in home runs (16), 4th in RBI (49), 7th in hits (82), 5th in extra base hits (34), 4th in total bases (150), 9th in strikeouts (71), 6th in slugging percentage (.536) and 8th in OPS (.872). He also finished 8th in the organization in hitting (6th among full season players) and was 1st in home runs (24) and 3rd in RBI (80).
Erik Gonzalez, SS
105 G, .309 AVG (135-for-437), 65 R, 20 2B, 10 3B, 4 HR, 62 RBI, 30 BB, 88 K, 21 SB, .780 OPS
Gonzalez won the Biggest Breakthrough award and it is hard to argue with that after he finished the season ranked 3rd in the organization in batting average (1st among full season players) and 5th in stolen bases. He broke out last season when he racked up an impressive 53 extra base hits and 76 RBI, and this season even though he only had 34 extra base hits he still had 62 RBI and brought batting average to the table. If he finds a way to put it all together consistently, he’s going to be a good Major League player for a long time.
Paul Hendrix, INF
115 G, .287 AVG (119-for-415), 63 R, 21 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 49 BB, 138 K, 2 SB, .813 OPS
Hendrix had a surprising showing this season as he had an amazing month of May (.386 AVG, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 1.095 OPS) which propelled him to his big year. That big month helped him to a strong .318 average, 6 HR, 22 RBI and .907 OPS in the first half, though he did cool off some in the second half hitting .259 with 6 HR, 24 RBI and .727 OPS. For his efforts he finished 7th in the organization in batting average (5th among full season players).
Tyler Holt, OF
98 G, .305 AVG (107-for-351), 74 R, 19 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 30 HR, 66 BB, 71 K, 31 SB, .798 OPS
Holt may be a surprise in this listing as he did not pack some of the firepower that a lot of these other players did with the extra base hits and RBI totals; however, he hit very well, was a tablesetter and stole a lot of bases. He finished 4th in the organization in batting average (2nd among full season players), 1st in stolen bases and led full season players in on-base percentage (.416). His good showing earned him a first time call to the big leagues (36 G, .268 AVG, .602 OPS) and he has a shot to help out in Cleveland again at some point in 2015.
Jeremy Lucas, C
101 G, .267 AVG (101-for-378), 62 R, 24 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 52 BB, 69 K, 1 SB, .805 OPS
High-A Carolina was a team that struggled with injuries and subpar performances from some of their key players going into the season, and Lucas ended up emerging as the leader of the team and most consistent offensive force all season. While the numbers are not eye-popping, remember, this is the Carolina League where offensive numbers are typically a lot lower than other leagues. As an example, his .267 average ranked 15th in the league, and he also ranked 9th in home runs (12), 12th in RBI (58), 7th in walks (52), 7th in on-base percentage (.363), 6th in slugging percentage (.442) and 4th in OPS (.805).
Nellie Rodriguez, 1B
130 G, .268 AVG (130-for-485), 67 R, 32 2B, 3 3B, 22 HR, 88 RBI, 60 BB, 142 K, 0 SB, .832 OPS
Rodriguez had another very strong showing offensively this season; however, he did not get off to a good start and needed a strong second half to recover. He hit just .221 with 8 HR, 25 RBI and .694 OPS in 65 games before the All Star break, but after it he hit .312 with 14 HR, 63 RBI and .962 OPS in 65 games. His turnaround ranked him 2nd in the organization in home runs and 1st in RBI. He finished 9th in the Midwest League in games played (130), 7th in doubles (32), tied for 1st in home runs (22), 3rd in RBI (88), 1st in total bases (234), 11th in walks (60), 7th in strikeouts (142), 3rd in slugging percentage (.482) and 6th in OPS (.832).
Giovanny Urshela, 3B
128 G, .280 AVG (136-for-485), 78 R, 36 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 84 RBI, 36 BB, 67 K, 1 SB, .825 OPS
Urshela had always been a player who was a few years younger than the league he played in, but the Indians aggressively pushed him through the system because of his advanced bat-to-ball ability and upside both offensively and defensively. He finished 4th in the organization in home runs and 2nd in RBI. He also used a strong showing at Double-A Akron (24 G, .300 AVG, 5 HR, 19 RBI, .914 OPS) as a launching off point to his big year and did not experience a step back at Triple-A Columbus (104 G, .276 AVG, 13 HR, 65 RBI, .804 OPS). Even though he spent just 104 games in the International League he did finish 12th in RBI (65) and 11th in slugging percentage (.473).
And the Tony Award goes to….Bobby Bradley
This was a tough one and probably one of the toughest of the Tony Awards to come to a decision on who should be the Offensive Player of the Year. On one hand you have the amazing short season performance from Bradley that blew away anything any other player did from late June through the end of the season, but by the same token what Aguilar, Gallas, Rodriguez and Urshela did over the course of a full season was impressive.
But when it comes down to it, Gallas and Rodriguez were eliminated from consideration because they got hot in the second half of the season and their second half performance still pales in comparison to that of Bradley’s. Only Urshela and Aguilar were consistent pretty much all season. Aguilar really made some strides offensively improving his walk rate and power, and arguably had a better season than his 105 RBI performance in 2013. Urshela solidified himself as a legit Major League option at some point in 2015. He has always been able to play very good defense and make consistent contact, but the approach was always lacking and the power did not consistently show itself - until now.
But in the it was too hard to ignore the record breaking season that Bradley had in Arizona. Sure, it may have only been 39 games, but the sheer dominance he displayed has him pegged as one of the Indians best power and run producing prospects in years. As always, we have to take the stats in the Arizona League with a huge grain of salt, but he did it at 18 years of age and as a player fresh out of high school. If anyone has been following the Indians system for some time you know that no high school level player has had anywhere close to this kind of showing in their pro debut. High school players typically struggle early in their career, even in the offensively inflated Arizona League.
I said it in the Rookie of the Year piece and will mention it again: this was the best pro debut for a high school hitter in the system in over 20 years. You have to go back to the debut Manny Ramirez had in 1991 at rookie level Burlington when he hit .326 with 19 HR, 63 RBI and 1.105 OPS in 59 games to find any comparison remotely close to what Bradley did this season. Again, I will also note that simply mentioning Ramirez in the same breath as Bradley in no way is a comparison to the type of player Bradley may end up being in the big leagues, it is simply noted based on the numbers the two players put up in their pro debuts.
I will have some more insightful comments on Bradley in an upcoming Instructional League article I am putting together. It unfortunately has been delayed for personal reasons. In any case, this is a guy who has shot up the prospect rankings and no doubt will be somewhere in the Indians top 10 listing going into next season. What a season for him, and really, for all of the players listed.
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.
That said, Urshela and Aguilar were really deserving too
However, (though I understand its Tony's site and he gets to do whatever the heck he wants!) I don't agree with giving an award like this "player of the year" (!) to a guy who only plays 39 games, even if those 39 games were the best since Manny. To me, a full season of performance means a great deal, as it's pretty common for players to be hot for 30-40 games, but much more difficult to maintain a high level of production over 100+ games.
So, my top three would be: 1) Jesus Aguilar, who really had a great all-around year and his .395 OBP and .905 OPS at AAA was simply outstanding; 2) Erik Gonzalez, he gets listed as .309 AVG and .780 OPS, but the truly remarkable thing about his season was how he completely dominated once he moved up to AA, hitting 357/.390/.473, for an OPS of .863, at SS!; and 3) Nellie Rodriguez, whose second half of the year (he just turned 20 in June) was extremely impressive: .312/.386/.576/.962.
That will teach Zimmer to sign late. Not sure it applies to Ramsey though.
I think it was unfortunate that Naquin did not have enough games to qualify and cannot figure out why Ramsey was not included. I would not be too surprised to see either or both arrive in Cleveland next year along with Lindor and Urshela but can understand why their arrivals might be delayed another year. It looks to me like help is on the way for the Indians offense if the team is patient.
AZL is a hitters league. I like Bradley, but good lord are we setting ourselves up for disappointment giving so much attention to 39 games.