Trenton Thunder: Hitter Of The Year

Duncan clubbed 34 home runs in 2005.

Like we've established in the past, the Trenton Thunder were driven by their pitching throughout the 2005 season. But, that doesn't mean there wasn't a fair share of offensive contributors to discuss. The question remains though; who was the best of the best?

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Its no mystery that the Trenton Thunder struggled with the bats in 2005. Hitters who were highly touted entering the season struggled mightily during several stretches of the season. The Thunder were third to last in the league in batting average (.252), but they were near the top of the league in home runs. But, unfortunately, they were near the bottom of the league in most other offensive categories. Luckily for manager Bill Masse's squad, some of their big hitters stepped up. One of those hitters will take home hitter of the year award.

Gabe Lopez didn't spend the entire 2005 campaign with Trenton; however, his statistics were still impressive enough to earn him third place in the Trenton hitter of the year award. In 296 at bats, Lopez batted .291 with an impressive .388 on base percentage. The slick fielding second baseman also clubbed 5 home runs, 14 doubles and a triple. Another impressive part of his game was his 48 walks compared to his 30 strikeouts. Even as a second baseman, who is better known for his glove, Lopez was a much needed spark for the Thunder lineup.

"Well, having Lopez at second helped our team out a lot," Trenton manager, Bill Masse told PinstripesPlus.com. "He was more of a talking guy, chatting it up all the time. He was the heart and soul of this team."

From Trenton, to Columbus, to New York, back to Columbus and all the way back to Trenton went Melky Cabrera in 2005. But, despite all the movement, he always hit well in Trenton. One of the consistent hitters for them all season, Melky batted .275 with 10 home runs. Not only that, but the center field also smacked 22 doubles and drove in 60 runs in the process. The switch hitting Cabrera also added the speed dimension to his game, as he stole 11 bases in 13 attempts.

"He hit when I first met him, he hit all through his first season down here, he hit in Staten Island, he hit in Battle Creek and I think he is just going to hit his way all the way up through the Majors," Yankee's Latin American coordinator, Carlos Rios told us before the season began. "I keep saying, this kid is going to hit 25 home runs one day. I said that since the day we signed him. You watch, he is going to be a lot more of a power hitter than everyone thinks. He is really starting to blossom now. But, I'm telling you, watch out because he is going to hit for a lot more power. You haven't seen half of how good Melky can be yet."

It is difficult to name a guy who hit .240 on the season the hitter of the year, but when you had as good a season as Shelley Duncan had, it is only fair. The big first baseman led the team with 34 home runs, and also led the club with his 263 total bases and 92 RBI. Shelley also smashed 28 doubles and 2 triples to go along with .490 slugging percentage. For all those reasons and more, he is our Trenton Thunder hitter of the year. But, the 2005 Eastern League Home Run Derby Champ knows he still has work to do.

"I'm always striving to get better, and there are a lot of things I can improve on," Duncan explained. "One is that I want to control the outer half of the plate better. It's more of a zone thing, where teams pitch me in and I need to follow the adjustments when they go outside. I'm trying to recognize and adjust better when they do."

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