[Via email from the Durham Bulls Director of Media Relations Matt DeMargel.]
The Tampa Bay Rays today named Bulls outfielder Desmond Jennings their Minor League Player of the Year and Bulls RHP Jeremy Hellickson Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The Rays also announced that Jon Weber was named MVP for the Durham Bulls.
This year’s winners will be honored during an awards ceremony prior to tonight’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. A pregame autograph session will be held on the right field line from 6:30–7:00 p.m. on Friday featuring many of the organization’s award winners.
The following players were named Most Valuable Player for their respective minor league team: Durham Bulls (AAA) – OF Jon Weber; Montgomery Biscuits (AA) – OF Desmond Jennings; Charlotte Stone Crabs (A) – LHP Darin Downs; Bowling Green Hot Rods (A) – LHP Matt Moore; Hudson Valley Renegades (SS-A) – RHP Alexander Colome; Princeton Rays (R) – OF Cody Rogers; Gulf Coast League Rays – RHP Wilmer Almonte; Dominican Summer League Rays – OF Edward Dorville; and Venezuelan Summer League Rays – INF Hector Guevara.
Jennings, 22, was promoted from Montgomery to Durham in late July. Overall, he hit .318 (158-for-497) with 11 home runs, 52 stolen bases (in 59 attempts), 62 RBI, 92 runs scored, 31 doubles, 10 triples, 67 walks, 67 strikeouts, a .401 on-base percentage and .487 slugging percentage. Jennings was also named MVP of the Southern League (AA) despite the promotion to Durham, and finished the season ranking second in the SL with a .316 batting avg., third with 37 steals (a club record), fourth with a .395 on-base pct., fifth with a .486 slugging pct. and tied for fourth with eight triples. Upon joining Durham he raised his batting avg., on-base pct. and slugging pct. After missing most of the 2008 season due to injury, Jennings entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 80 prospect in baseball and moved up to No. 18 in the publication’s midseason update.
Hellickson, 22, earned a late-July promotion from Montgomery to Durham, going a combined 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA (114.0-IP, 72-H, 35-R, 31-ER, 29-BB, 132-SO). His .178 opponents’ batting avg. would have led all full-season minor leaguers if he had enough innings to qualify – and his 10.42 strikeouts per nine innings would have ranked fifth – but a right shoulder strain sidelined him for most of May and June. Hellickson led the SL in strikeouts in April (33) and the International League in strikeouts in August (51), and his 132 strikeouts overall ranked third among Rays minor leaguers. After joining the Bulls, he went 6-1 in nine starts, held opponents to a .157 batting avg., and had more than twice as many strikeouts (70) as hits allowed (31). He was named a SL midseason All-Star.
Weber, 31, spent the entire season with Durham and was named an IL postseason All-Star, his first All-Star honor since 2005. He tied for the overall minor league lead with 46 doubles and hit .302 (136-for-451) with 14 homers, 69 RBI, 63 runs, 56 walks, a .387 on-base pct. and .497 slugging pct. He ranked 10th in the IL in batting and tied for second in extra-base hits (60), one shy of the IL lead. Weber ranked fifth in the Rays organization in batting and RBI, despite missing the final week of the season to play for Team USA in the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) World Cup held in Europe.