Mitch Hilligoss did a little bit of everything
It wasn't a strange year offensively for the Staten Island Yankees in 2006. While they were the best offensive team in the NY-Penn League this past season, it was arguably a down year league-wide. Staten Island hit just .267 as a team but they did have quite a few solid performances.
Catcher Francisco Cervelli definitely garnered some serious consideration with his consistent hitting all season long. He hit .303 in his first 20 games and .314 in his last 22 games, arguably proving to be Staten Island's most consistent force in the lineup and his strong work ethic was a huge reason why.
“He’s been working his tail off,” Staten Island hitting coach Ty Hawkins said of Cervelli. “He’s made some adjustments to his swing, shortening up some stuff. He’s more consistent. His work ethic is tremendous.”
He wasn't as consistent as Cervelli this season, but there was a lot to like by the season put together by second baseman Wilmer Pino. Pino hit a team-high .326 and was challenging for a NY-Penn League batting title until he faded down the stretch.
Pino led the club in hitting, stolen bases (18), doubles (15), and runs scored (43). An extremely hot July - .359 with nine doubles and 16 RBI - skewed his run production a tad, but he was clearly one of the better consistent hitters.
“I thought he could hit,” Staten Island manager Gaylen Pitts said. “When I saw him down in Extended Spring Training, I liked him down there. He’s got a chance to play regularly. He and [Russell] Raley were kind of going back and forth. They were battling it out and Raley was playing good, so he had to sit a lot. He really took off when he got a chance to play everyday, when Raley went down. My hat’s off to him. He’s done a heck of a job."
Outfielder Colin Curtis, drafted in the fourth round this pas June, joined the Staten Island later in the year after signing with the Yankees towards the end of July. It didn't take him long to make an immediate impact, hitting .302 overall and an impressive .375 with runners in scoring position.
The fact he joined the team a month into the season is the only reason he didn't rank among our top three contenders for the 'Hitter of the Year'.
“He’s had a big impact because he gives us a pretty good bat,” Manager Gaylen Pitts said of Curtis. “I was hitting him down in the order, in the fifth spot, but I moved him up to lead-off. He can steal a base, but he’s got a good swing and gets on base".
While there were a few better hitting performances on the team, and it was a disappointing season for him average-wise, nobody had better run production than incumbent first baseman Kyle Larsen. He hit just .235 but his eight home runs doubled the next highest total and his 47 RBI led the team.
"I’ve had a couple good weeks here and there, then at points I can’t buy a hit," said Larsen, who batted .308 last season for the Yankees. "Really, that’s been the story of the year for me. I’ve been too pull-conscious when I should be staying back and just letting the ball come."
Outfielder Seth Fortenberry finished second in our balloting because of his contributions in several offensive categories. A reputed small-ball player, Fortenberry surprisingly finished second on the team in home runs (4), first in triples (5), and third in doubles (2).
He also finished tied for second in stolen bases (12), tied for fourth in runs scored (34), and fourth in RBI. So while he didn't dominate any particular category, he filled out the box scores and came up with big hits on a daily basis.
"He surprised me from the first time we saw him," said Staten Island Hitting Coach Ty Hawkins. "He has shown some surprising power for a guy with a lean body type. You don't expect that out of him."
"He should be, he's got enough speed," Hawkins said of Fortenberry being a leadoff type of hitter. "He could be a guy at the bottom of the lineup that could do a lot of damage. If you get guys at the bottom of your lineup on base, you're going to score a lot of runs."
But while it was difficult to come up with a clear-cut winner with so many deserving candidates, in the end, Mitch Hilligoss is the PinstripesPlus.com "2006 Staten Island Hitter of the Year".
“He’s a winner,” manager Gaylen Pitts said. “He knows how to win. A blue-collar player. Comes to play. Knows how to play the game. Grinds out his at-bats. He’s just a guy that a manager likes to have on the team because he can play a few positions and he knows how to play the game.”
Hilligoss, like Fortenberry, did a little bit of everything offensively for the 2006 NY-Penn League Champion Yankees. He hit .292, tied for second in stolen bases (12), finished second on the team in RBI (36), second in runs scored (40), and hit .343 with runners on base and batted third most of the season.
“On the field, great player,” teammate Kevin Smith said of Hilligoss. “He comes to play everyday, straps it on, ready to go. [. . .] Good bat. Good batting average. Makes contact a lot."
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