Hitting Prospect Awards

Zoilo Almonte gets the Austin Jackson award

Rather than merely hand out awards like the Hitter of the Year and the like, we hand out various prospect superlative awards including, but not limited to; the "Robinson Cano Award" to the hitter who finally started tapping his potential at the higher levels, the "Austin Romine Award" to the hitting prospect who is much better than the national media realizes, etc, etc.

The Robinson Cano Award goes to the prospect who showed lower level promise at one time and then struggled, but then finally started showing that offensive potential once again after getting to the higher minor league levels.

This year's award goes to Scranton and Trenton second baseman Corban Joseph. To be fair, it's not as if Joseph ever really struggled at the A-ball levels but he has become a much better hitter at the higher levels even though the batting averages might suggest otherwise. His walk to strikeout ratio in particular was the best it had been in quite some time this year, drawing 68 walks and striking out just 70 times. His 68 walks were a career-high and his 70 walks were the lowest total since striking out just 61 times in Charleston in 2008. Throw in his career-high 15 home runs this year, his offensive game is starting to peak as he gets closer to being big league ready.

The Austin Romine Award is given to the hitting prospect whose full season statistics are seemingly weighed more than how he finished the year and thus rendering him underrated on the national prospect scene.

This year's award goes to Charleston second baseman Angelo Gumbs even though he didn't have a full season. A quick look at his numbers -- .272 and seven home runs --and they seem adequate. However, considering he was on fire before a torn tricep injury ended his season prematurely, hitting .297 with six of his seven home runs and 21 of his 26 games were over his last 47 games, many don't realize just how good he was becoming.

The Austin Jackson Award is given to the hitting prospect who had to repeat a level and finally figured it out in his second go-around.

This year's award goes to Trenton outfielder Zoilo Almonte. He wasn't bad in his first 46-game go around with the Thunder in 2011, hitting .251 with three home runs, but he just wasn't the same impact hitter he was this past season when he hit .277 with 21 home runs. Like he did in Tampa, hitting just .261 with three home runs in 63 games in 2010 before bouncing back with a .293, 12 home run performance a year later, Almonte does a lot better when he repeats a level.

The Eduardo Nunez Award is given to the lower-level hitting prospect whose overall talent belies the pedestrian numbers he has posted and whose game suggests he'll come out of nowhere to have better success down the road at some point.

This year's award goes to Charleston third baseman Dante Bichette Jr., who hit just .248 with three home runs for the RiverDogs in 2012. It was his first full season and he did it as a 19-year old, always a tough task figuring out how to deal with the daily strain of a 142-game season for the first time. Throw in the fact he experimented with some different swing loads and stances, he just never got in a comfort zone. He looked much better towards the end of the year -- always a good sign -- and at Instructs looked more like the impact player he was in his rookie season. He should bounce back in a big way.

The Damon Sublett Award is given to the college pick selected later in the draft [after the third round] and chipped in with a good offensive showing in their debut season in Staten Island.

While either Taylor Dugas [9th round pick who hit .306 with 15 more walks than strikeouts] or Saxon Butler [33rd round pick who hit .271 with a whopping 32 extra-base hits in just 61 games] would be good fits here, we're going to with first baseman Matt Snyder, the tenth round pick out of Ole Miss who hit .299 with three home runs for Staten Island. He hit .362 after getting his feet wet in the first eleven games, walked more than he struck out, and has a bit more power potential than folks realize.

The Kevin Russo Award is given to the hitting prospect who, despite being selected later in the draft and not really showing great tools, puts up numbers and has a solid enough game to be considered a sleeper prospect.

After Trenton utility player Kevin Mahoney, a 23rd round pick, won it two years in row and could still fall into this category after an All Star season in Trenton this season, we're going to go a different route and give this year's award to Trenton first baseman Luke Murton. The 19th round pick in 2009 led the Trenton team with 25 home runs this year and even though he doesn't project to be a starting big league corner guy for the Yankees, his punch off the bench could really be helpful from the right side. He hit eight home runs against left-handed pitching this year which equates to roughly 32 home runs over a 500 at-bat stretch and that kind of power in a reserve role could prove useful.

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