Welcome to the Arpy Awards, our look back at the season through this fun little awards gimmick. If you're wondering about the name, shorten RaysProspects to RP and then pronounce it. We're not creative people. Anyway, we'll be handing out seven awards:
*Best 2009 Draftee Debut
*Best Under-The-Radar Season
We'll kick the ceremonies off with our Best Affiliate award, given to the, uh, best affiliate. It's pretty clearly a two-horse race in the Rays organization between the two playoff-bound teams, the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Durham edged out Gwinnett at the end of the season to take the South division title and qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season. Bulls pitchers have struck out the most in the IL and are 4th in the league in ERA. The hitters pace the league in scoring, and are 2nd in the league in OPS. They also lead the league in homeruns, edging out Toledo on the final day of the season. The Bulls have lost Wade Davis and Reid Brignac to the major-league team after enjoying their services for the majority of the year, but have also added Jeremy Hellickson and Desmond Jennings.
The Charlotte Stone Crabs, in their inaugural season, qualified for the playoffs because they finished in 2nd place behind Fort Myers in both the first- and second-half seasons. Their offense ranks toward the bottom of the league in many categories, and their pitching ranks in the middle of the pack, but they've scratched out enough wins to advance to the playoffs. The Crabs pitching staff was anchored by Darin Downs, who posted an incredible 2.00 ERA before being promoted to Montgomery. They also lost star closer Matt Gorgen to promotion, but with Alex Cobb, David Newmann, and Jeremy Hall, their pitching staff remains strong.
And the Arpy goes to.... the Charlotte Stone Crabs! They weren't as statistically successful as Durham, but the Bulls also faced much higher expectations entering the season. The Stone Crabs get extra credit for leading the Florida State League in attendance.
For the second award we'll take a look at the newest additions to the system, and hand out the Best 2009 Draftee Debut award. This award is heavily performanced-based, but it also takes into account prospect status, so a late-round college senior performing well at Princeton isn't going to get much consideration. The nominees are...
Shortstop Tyler Bortnick, the Rays 16th-round pick out of Coastal Carolina University. Bortnick was rated one of the nation's top defensive shortstops in the 2008 season, but was moved to 2nd base for 2009. He returned to SS as a professional, playing in 65 games with Hudson Valley. Bortnick's hit for average(.300 BA), shown some power(25 extra-base hits), showed promising plate coverage/discipline(27 walks/38 strikeouts), and even flashed some speed(24 steals). He plated the season as a 21/22 year old, obviously old for the level, but not out of the ordinary for a college draftee.
Right-handed relief pitcher Zach Quate. Another college draftee, Quate was taken in the 14th round out of Appalachian State. Quate was also assigned to Hudson Valley, where he went nearly the entire season without allowing an earned run. In 26 innings spanning 18 games, he struck out 34 batters and walked just 4, allowing just a single earned run. He induced a good number of groundballs(1.21 GO/AO) while opponents hit just .170 off him.
Outfielder Cody Rogers. Drafted in the 7th round out of a Texas junior college, Rogers was assigned to Princeton where he showed off an impressive set of tools. In just under 200 at-bats, Rogers hit .303 while launching 6 homeruns and triples. He drew 20 walks, although he did strike out more than once per game. He stole 14 bases and was only caught once. Rogers, a lefty, actually hit left-handed pitching better(a .344 batting average against them, in fact) and was named an Appy League post-season All-Star.
Left-handed pitcher Jacob Partridge. It's tough to get a really good read on his season since the GCL was very much a pitcher's league. The 18th-round pick out of a Washington state high school signed in time to log 36 innings for the GCL Rays. He struck out over a batter per inning(39), kept the walks under control(13), and held opponents to a .202 batting average. He was also able to generate a decent number of groundballs. The 6'3" lefty didn't allow a homerun on the year.
And the Arpy goes to... Tyler Bortnick! This one was extremely close, but Bortnick showed everything: Hitting, power, speed, defense. He may not be the best prospect of the four, but his debut was certainly impressive.
For the next award, we'll look at those who kind of came from off the radar to have a really strong season. The nominees for Most Surprising Season are...
Left-handed pitcher David Newmann. Drafted in the 4th round back in 2007, Newmann had to wait until 2009 to throw his first professional pitch. As a 23/24 year old with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Newmann was good for most of the season and occasionally dominant; he had an ERA under 1.00 in two separate months. Lefties hit just .194 off him as he was able to get a ton of groundballs from them(3.47 GO/AO vs. lefties). Overall, he finished with a 3.44 ERA and just under a strikeout per inning. He allowed just 6 homeruns over 131 innings of work.
Right-hander Matt Gorgen. He was an honorable mention on our top 15 pitching prospect list entering the season, but I don't think anyone saw the Bugs Bunny stats he posted coming. In 47.2 innings for Charlotte, he allowed just 3 earned runs while striking out 59 and walking 16. He struggled a bit upon being promoted to Montgomery(18-13 strikeout-walk) but still finished the year with a 1.15 combined ERA.
Right-hander Alex Colome. Like Gorgen and Newmann both, he was listed as an honorable mention before the season. After a 5.68 ERA with Princeton in 2008, the Rays trusted his stuff enough to promote him to Hudson Valley, where he flat dominated. His ERA was a scant 1.66 in 76 innings, backed up by 94 strikeouts and 32 walks. He didn't allow a single homerun all season and held opponents to a .174 batting average.
And the Arpy goes to... Matt Gorgen! He made a complete mockery of the Florida State before finally being promoted. Gorgen is heading to the Arizona Fall League in October for some more work. He'll try to avoid hitting the wall that Ryan Reid(who posted similar FSL numbers in 2007) did in AA.
Now to slow things down a bit, we'll hand out the Arpy that no one wants: Most Disappointing Season. These are the guys who didn't exactly live up to expectations this season. Players whose seasons were affected majorly by injuries(Fernando Perez and Mitch Talbot for example) are ineligible. Our nominees are...
Left-hander James Houser. He went from potential sleeper(he ranked #11 on our top 15 pitcher list, just ahead of Kyle Lobstein) to released from the organization in four months. He was walking way too many guys(50 in 82 innings), not striking out nearly enough(44) and just got hit around in general(finished with a 5.16 ERA). To make matters worse for Houser, he'll have to serve out the rest of a 50-game suspension when/if he signs with another team, because his suspension was put on hold when he was added to the 40-man roster.
Outfielder Reid Fronk. He ranked as our #7 hitting prospect entering the year. Oops. He barely finished the season batting over .200, while his power never bothered to show up this season. His final line, .201/.321/.286, tells the story. The isolated discipline is nice, but when so much else is that bad it's little consolation. After hitting 17 homeruns with Columbus a season ago, he managed just 4 in 2009. Fronk hit just .176 in the second half.
First baseman Mike Sheridan. He was drafted as a high-contact 1st baseman who needed to develop some power to become a real prospect. Well, he did have 14 homeruns, but he really had trouble buying a hit this year. Despite only 38 strikeouts, Sheridan hit .238 thanks to a .233 BABIP. Combine that with an inability to draw walks(just 26) and you get an OBP that doesn't even scrape .300. He hit .182 off left-handed pitching.
And the Arpy goes to... James Houser! Fronk and Sheridan disappointing, Ryan Reid took a step back, and John Jaso failed to emerge, but the Rays released Houser to clear a 40-man spot and didn't even bring him back on a minor-league deal, indicating they truly believe him to be a lost cause.
Now we'll switch to those who DID have good season, it's just that, well, nobody seemed to notice. The nominees for Best Under-The-Radar Season are...
Right-hander Marquis Fleming. Drafted out of small Cal State-Stanislaus in 2008, Fleming was one of the rocks of Bowling Green's bullpen along with Josh Satow. In 63 innings, Fleming struck out 68, walked 30, and pitched to the tune of a 2.86 ERA. He earned a very late-season promotion to Charlotte, where in three games(including playoffs) he's struck out 11 over 4.4 innings.
Right-hander Alex Koronis. Zach Quate was the collge reliever who people noticed, and considering he did it at a higher level, I think it's fair. But Koronis, a University of Tampa product, was really good with Princeton: a 1.95 ERA and 34 strikeouts/8 walks in 27.2 innings. Koronis gets the nod here over Kirby Yates although Yates struck out 49 batters in 26.1 innings.
Shortstop Shawn O'Malley. He suffered an injury toward the end of the season and is inactive for the playoffs, but the Rays are sending him to the Arizona Fall League, so it doesn't seem like his injury is too bad. O'Malley actually led the FSL in on-base percentage. That seriously blew my mind when I saw it. Now, he hit for absolutely no power, so despite his .388 OBP, he finished with an OPS just under .700. I can't find his BABIP data, but I'm sure he was at least a little bit lucky in that department. But he's 21, a shortstop, and he led the league in on-base percentage.
And the Arpy goes to... Shawn O'Malley! Seriously, his OBP was .070 points lower last season in Columbus. He got promoted and started getting on base more. The lack of power is clearly a problem, but still: did anyone have O'Malley on their radar entering the season?
We're going to do the last two really quick, no nominees, just a winner, since there's not really any debate on these...
First, Desmond Jennings wins the Arpy for Best Season(Hitter). There's not a lot to say here, particularly since the hitting depth in the system is lacking. Between Montgomery and Durham, Jennings posted a line of .318/.401/.487. Oh, and he stole 52 bases while only being caught 7 times. He walked exactly as many times as he struck out. And he did all while playing a reportedly-very-good premium defensive position, centerfield. He's a supreme athlete with a feel for the game, a lethal combination.
The winner of the Best Season(Pitcher) Arpy also split the season between Montgomery and Durham: Jeremy Hellickson. Not only did he prove he could continue getting batters out at higher levels, he showed he could dominate. All told, he struck out 132 batters in 114 inning while only issuing 29 walks. Opponents hit .178 off him. He struck out 10 or more three times in the regular season and then did it again in his first playoff start. The only two problems you could possibly find are that he's a flyball pitcher(which in and of itself is not a problem. Hellickson allowed 15 homeruns in AA last season. He allowed 8 all of this season.) and that he missed a few starts with an injury. Other than that, it was practically a picture-perfect season.
That wraps up this year's ceremonies. Congrats to all the winners/nominees and apologies to anyone obvious that was overlooked.