Archive for October 7th, 2007

Baseball America Minor League Players of the Year, 1981-2006

As Extra P. noted earlier this week, Cincinnati Reds farmhand Jay Bruce took home Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award following a season in which he hit .319 with 26 homeruns and 89 runs batted in at three minor league levels.

Bruce wasn’t rewarded for his excellent season with a September call-up, so Reds fans have yet to see what the 20-year-old can do to major league pitching.  His victory, however, prompted me to look deeper into the history of the award and see if it tells us what we might one day expect from The Cincinnati Kid.

According to Wikipedia, Baseball America has named a Minor League Player of the Year for every season since 1981.  Those winners and their statistics for the year (when available) are listed in the tables below:

Player Year League BA HR RBI
Mike Marshall 1981 PCL .373 34 137
Ron Kittle 1982 PCL .345 50 144
Jose Canseco 1985 2 levels .333 36 127
Gregg Jefferies 1986 3 levels .353 16 111
Gregg Jefferies 1987 Texas .367 20 101
Sandy Alomar 1989 PCL .306 13 101
Frank Thomas 1990 Southern .323 18 101
Derek Bell 1991 International .346 13 93
Tim Salmon 1992 PCL .347 29 105
Manny Ramirez 1993 2 levels .333 31 115
Derek Jeter 1994 3 levels .344 5 70
Andruw Jones 1995 SAL .277 25 100
Andruw Jones 1996 3 levels .339 34 92
Paul Konerko 1997 PCL .323 37 127
Eric Chavez 1998 2 levels .327 33 126
Rocco Baldelli 2002 3 levels .331 19 71
Joe Mauer 2003 2 levels .338 5 85
Delmon Young 2005 2 levels .315 26 99
Alex Gordon 2006 Texas .325 29 101
Player Year League W-L SO ERA
Dwight Gooden 1983 Carolina 19-4 300 2.50
Mike Bielecki 1984 PCL 19-3 162 2.97
Tom Gordon 1988 3 levels 16-5 263 1.55
Rick Ankiel 1999 2 levels 13-3 194 2.35
Jon Rauch 2000 2 levels 16-4 187 2.66
Josh Beckett 2001 2 levels 14-1 203 1.54
Jeff Francis 2004 2 levels 16-3 196 2.21

By my count, there are three certain Hall of Famers in that group (Thomas, Ramirez, Jeter), some exceptional players and a bunch of serviceable major leaguers.  Based on stats alone, I think my favorites are Kittle (as prevalent as 50 homer seasons were in the majors over the past ten years, they haven’t been so common in the minors), Gooden (300 strikeouts in 191 innings pitched – 14.14 per nine innings) and Beckett (include his major league stats with the Marlins and his combined ERA actually goes down).

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2008 – Bruce will be 21 on April 3 and the Reds are often incompetent, which means he could be kept in the minors for another year of “seasoning”.  If that happens, he could become the third player to win the award twice.  It’s anybody’s guess, in that case, which career path he follows: the Jefferies or the Jones.

Statistics: The Baseball Cube, Minor League Reference