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2014 Tony Awards: Rookie of the Year

2014 Tony Awards: Rookie of the Year
Bobby Bradley (Photo: IBI)
October 15, 2014
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Today we continue on with the year-end IBI Awards and move down to the minor leagues with the annual Tony Awards. We kick things off with the Rookie of the Year.

In the coming days the Defensive Player of the Year, Biggest Disappointment, 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 view the Tony Awards history from previous years, go here.

The Rookie of the Year Award is given to the Indians minor leaguer who had the best professional stateside debut this year. If a player had logged any time in previous seasons in the states, even just a game or one at bat they were not eligible. There were a lot of candidates so the nominees were limited to only 12 players. There easily could have been up to 20 or more players, but players like Emmanuel TapiaErick AlgarinLuke Eubank and others just missed the cut.

As always, prospect standing is not considered with these awards as they are 100% awarded based on performance.  Please keep that in mind as just because a guy is or is not listed does not mean anything from a “prospect” status.  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 naming these awards.

Onto the nominees...

Rookie of the Year Nominees

(in alphabetical order)

Bobby Bradley (1B – AZL Indians)
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 a memorable pro debut at rookie level Arizona. 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.

Justin Brantley (RHP – Lake County)
25 G, 4-1, 1.31 ERA, 41.1 IP, 31 H, 7 R (6 ER), 3 HR, 15 BB, 47 K, .204 BAA, 1.11 WHIP

Brantley did not accrue enough innings to rank in any major pitching categories in the Midwest League, but he was dominant all the same. He was an undrafted free agent signing early this year who came out of nowhere to post impressive numbers and show some legit potential as a bullpen prospect. He is someone who the Indians are very excited about going forward.

Jordan Carter (RHP – Mahoning Valley)
12 G, 1-2, 2.60 ERA, 34.2 IP, 33 H, 13 R (10 ER), 0 HR, 4 BB, 24 K, .246 BAA, 1.07 WHIP

Like Brantley, Carter did not have enough innings and appearances to get himself onto the NY-Penn League leaderboard, but he had a nice pro debut. He limited baserunners, did not yield a homer and was consistent every time out. While he may not be a significant prospect for the Indians, he has created value as a depth arm and the upside to be more.

Yu-Cheng Chang (SS – AZL Indians)
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

If not for the presence of Bradley, then Chang may have been the league MVP in Arizona. 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).

Li-Jen Chu (C – AZL Indians)
29 G, .348 AVG (31-for-89), 22 R, 13 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 11 BB, 18 K, 0 SB, 1.027 OPS

Chu was a free agent signing out of Taiwan who came out of nowhere to have an impressive pro debut at rookie level Arizona. He was not billed as much of a prospect when he was signed and is still more a mid-level prospect, but the Indians were encouraged by his initial showing as he showed an ability to handle the bat and hit with a little pop from behind the plate. He did not have enough at bats to qualify, but his .348 average and 1.027 OPS would have both been 2nd in the Arizona League.

Yandy Diaz (3B – Carolina)
76 G, .286 AVG (81-for-283), 42 R, 7 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 37 RBI, 49 BB, 35 K, 3 SB, .763 OPS

Diaz missed the first two months of the season because of a hand injury suffered on opening night, otherwise he may have had an even more impressive showing in the Carolina League and finished the year at Double-A Akron. Had he qualified, he would have ranked 8th in the league in average (.286), 2nd in on-base percentage (.396) and 10th in OPS (.763). Even though he played in almost half as many games as most of the league leaders, he was 10th in walks (49).

J.P. Feyereisen (RHP – Mahoning Valley)
15 G, 3-0, 0.00 ERA, 17.0 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 24 K, .150 BAA, 0.59 WHIP

Feyereisen missed a little time in the middle of the season, a minor setback that prevented him from ranking on any season ending leaderboards in the NY-Penn League. Even though he only pitched 17.0 innings it does not diminish his outstanding debut when you consider he did not allow a run (earned or not), had an amazing 24:1 strikeout to walk ratio and limited the quality of contact by hitters.

Cameron Hill (RHP – Mahoning Valley)
14 G (12 GS), 1-2, 1.76 ERA, 56.1 IP, 39 H, 11 R/ER, 1 HR, 20 BB, 33 K, .202 BAA, 1.05 WHIP

Hill was a lower round pick who had a surprising pro debut. He just barely missed the cut by about four or five innings to qualify for inclusion in the league leaderboard in the NY-Penn League, but had he qualified he would have ranked 1st in ERA (1.76) and tied for 4th in WHIP (1.05). The Indians liked what they saw from him this season and plan to continue to develop him as a starter.

Adam Plutko (RHP – Lake County/Carolina)
28 GS, 7-10, 4.03 ERA, 149.2 IP, 148 H, 73 R (67 ER), 12 HR, 30 BB, 144 K, .257 BAA, 1.19 WHIP

Plutko spent a great majority of the season at High-A Carolina after a nice pro debut at Low-A Lake County to start the year and had a good season overall. He did not have enough time at Carolina to rank in any Carolina League leaderboards, but finished the season ranked 10th in the organization in ERA (4.03) and 2nd in strikeouts (144).

Jared Robinson (RHP – AZL Indians)
9 G, 0-2, 1.23 ERA, 22.0 IP, 14 H, 7 R (3 ER), 0 HR, 7 BB, 19 K, .177 BAA, 0.95 WHIP

Robinson is sort of in the same boat as Feyereisen as a guy who pitched a limited amount of innings, but in the small sample size was simply electric and very impressive in his pro debut. He went out to rookie level Arizona and dominated hitters and might be a nice find for the Indians beyond the bonus pool rounds. He could end up a starter, but many see him as a future backend bullpen arm.

David Speer (LHP – Mahoning Valley)
14 G, 3-1, 2.74 ERA, 42.2 IP, 42 H, 13 R/ER, 2 HR, 8 BB, 47 K, .261 BAA, 1.17 WHIP

Speer is kind of a jack-of-all-trades arm who had a nice pro debut at Short-A Mahoning Valley. He has the potential to start, be a swing guy or even be a matchup lefty in the pen. He came in as a guy renowned for his pitching intellect and command of the baseball, and did not disappoint. He was filthy against lefties holding them to a .179 average and had a ridiculous 30:1 strikeout to walk ratio against them.

Bradley Zimmer (OF – Mahoning Valley/Lake County)
48 G, .302 AVG (54-for-179), 36 R, 12 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 21 BB, 33 K, 12 SB, .892 OPS

Zimmer was the Indians top pick in the 2014 Draft, signed quickly and was able to get 48 games and a good amount of at bats in during his pro debut. He finished six plate appearances shy of qualifying for the NY-Penn League leaderboard, but had he qualified he would have ranked 4th in batting average (.304), 2nd in on-base percentage (.401), 11th in slugging percentage (.464) and 2nd in OPS (.865).

And the Tony Award goes to…Bobby Bradley

This one was closer than you think. While Bradley cancelled out any other bats in Arizona from being considered, Zimmer was almost equally as impressive in his pro debut.

When you look at the numbers side by side, sure, Bradley had the better year, but for those who know all the intricacies of the different leagues and levels, you know that the Arizona League is always severely inflated with the offensive numbers because of the climate and quality of pitching there. For that reason, what Zimmer did in Mahoning Valley was almost on par with what Bradley did in Arizona.


But in the end, it is hard to get past the memorable season and stat line that Bradley put up in his pro debut at 18 years of age. He won’t even turn 19 years old until two months into next season! The expectation for most high school players, even top round picks, is that they will struggle in their initial transition to pro ball. That simply did not happen with Bradley as he hit the ground running and had arguably the best pro debut for a high school hitter in the system in over 20 years.

A guy by the name of Manny Ramirez had a memorable pro debut in 1991 when he hit .326 with 19 HR, 63 RBI and 1.105 OPS in 59 games for rookie level Burlington that year. It is important to note that mentioning Ramirez does in no way compare Bradley to him nor say he will be such a player; it is simply a notation that no player has excited and performed as well since that magical 1991 debut.

I got my first look at Bradley in Instructional League last week and will provide more insightful comments and such in a Minor Happenings piece later this week. He’s no doubt going to be included in a lot of Top 10 lists this offseason, and he along with Zimmer and a litany of other 2014 draftees have brought in a significant amount of impact talent into the organization. This has the potential to go down as one of the best drafts in organizational history and rival the excellent 1989 draft…..and Bradley could be at the head of it.

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 17, 2014 - 12:07 PM EDT
JP Feyereisen- The Best is yet to be.
October 15, 2014 - 10:46 PM EDT
Why to the Indians draft, sign, and acquire prospects?

Because they are collateral to utilize to build the big league club and supplement needs by acq. outside talent that is not in house. Every team does it.

Why have the Indians intentionally "built in" options?
Example: Lindor, Ramirez, Gonzalez.
Example: Naquin, Ramsay, Zimmer, Frazier, Allen.
Because it gives them alternatives to utilize excess talent to fill other needs dealing from their depth. And because it creates a "fail-safe" outlet. Let's face it - not everyone of these guys are going to make it - no matter how much we like them, and will them to injury and talent will limit their future. The Indians job is to identify the right talent and move others - including some talent - to get talent back in return. Simply put, it is a give and take scenario.

October 15, 2014 - 10:36 PM EDT
I'm not sure how Papi rated out higher than Burdi or Imhoff, if I made that choice it may have been Imhoff- but I'm a pitching first guy anyways. I'm not a Papi hater, I expect a rebound to the numbers many actually expected from him. Honestly, I would not be all to surprised to see Papi surpass Zimmer in reaching the bigs.

As for drafting Grant Hockin (61st) again, a player I would not have chosen there, but I think he will develop and mature physically.
October 15, 2014 - 9:32 PM EDT
Always love this series....can't wait until the rest of the awards are announced. Nice job and with the breakdowns.
October 15, 2014 - 7:39 PM EDT
Can we give a guy an actual chance before taking him out back and shooting him?

I refer to Mike Papi, who evidently is a "wasted pick" because he had a bad debut...well actually it reads as though he was a bad pick because he was taken before someone's other man crushes. So really I have no idea why that makes him a wasted pick.

Guess that means Papi will be a wasted pick if he never eventually produces at the ML level, not after he initially turns pro.

Logic, it's pretty cool.
Canadian Joe
October 15, 2014 - 4:45 PM EDT
The best thing is there was lots to pick from. Long time since that happened. And we want to trade a bunch away ?
October 15, 2014 - 2:35 PM EDT
Papi had a bad debut, but most wanted the Indians to draft him. Will see how he handles his 1st full season in Lynchburg.

It looks like Lake County is going to be very interesting team in 2015 with Bradley, Chang, and F. Mejia.

How did Gabriel Mejia look in Instructionals? Is he advanced enough to make his debut at LC?
October 15, 2014 - 2:33 PM EDT

I'm really intrigued by Yandy Diaz, especially given all this talk about Donaldson and Urshela. I know the Tribe brass view him as an interesting bat, with maybe not quite enough power. Did you get any feeling for how he looked defensively at 3B? I know he came into the season without a position, and they were giving him a shot at 3B.
October 15, 2014 - 2:26 PM EDT
Just some very good debuts this season. The only concern is that there were not very many dominant starting pitching debuts, but some of that is attributed to the limited innings the young pitchers out of the draft had this season.
October 15, 2014 - 1:16 PM EDT
Perhaps Mike Papi deserves a pass on this year. He had a longer college season than most. Let see how he does next year before we write him off.
October 15, 2014 - 12:11 PM EDT
Congrats to BB.. he was a helluva find with the 97th overall pick in the draft.. Beating out by a whisker the 21st overall says the scouting and personnel areas of the Indians are really improving.. and can continue to get better..

I refer to the 61st overall pick.. Mike Papi.. who the Indians wasted their CBA pick on as the 38th overall selection. The Indians could have had Nick Burdi.. Matt Imhoff, Spencer Adams... among others that would have been pretty solid competition for the Tony Award.. ahh.. but the pattern, position player, pitcher, position player.. pitcher.. would have been broken.. can't have that.. smh....

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