Oakland Clubhouse's 2005 Minor League Awards

OaklandClubhouse is excited to announce its 2005 awards for Oakland A's Minor League Position Player and Pitcher of the Year. Last year, it was hard to narrow down the choices in the pitching category; this year, the position players generally had better seasons. In any case, we congratulate the two players who won the awards and the other players who were given strong consideration.

Minor League Position Player of the Year: 2B Kevin Melillo

We have been talking almost non-stop about Kevin Melillo since July 4 and why not? The guy only hit .330 with 16 HR and 57 RBI after July 4. And he wasn't too shabby before that date, either. There were a number of A's position players who had big minor league campaigns this season, but Melillo gets our nod for Minor League Position Player of the Year because he came out of nowhere to push himself near the top of the A's prospect chart.

Melillo began the 2005 season as a question mark. He was a fifth round draft pick in 2004 after an injury-marred final collegiate campaign at South Carolina. Melillo began his professional career in Vancouver last season and, after a strong start, was once again bit by the injury bug. So going into the 2005 season, Melillo was an unknown commodity. In a late June interview with OaklandClubhouse.com, Melillo stated that his biggest goal for 2005 was to prove that he could stay healthy for an entire season. Prove that he did, and a whole lot more.

Melillo began the year at low-A Kane County, where he quickly established himself as a tough out. In 78 games for the Cougars, Melillo reached base at a .399 clip. He also provided some speed and power to the top of the Cougars' line-up, clubbing eight HR and stealing 10 bases. Melillo was promoted to high-A Stockton on July 4. Most players would be satisfied with one in-season promotion, but Melillo didn't stop at Stockton. He homered in his Ports debut and never looked back.

In 22 games with Stockton, Melillo hit an even .400 with nine HR, 23 RBI and a mind-boggling 1272 OPS. Melillo's outstanding performance with the Ports allowed the A's to make Midland middle infielder Omar Quintanilla expendable (Quintanilla came into the 2005 season as the A's top middle infield prospect). The A's dealt Quintanilla in mid-July to the Colorado Rockies in the Joe Kennedy-Jay Witasick trade. Melillo was promoted to Midland to take Quintanilla's roster spot, and Melillo continued his fine work at the plate with the Rockhounds.

At Midland, Melillo's versatility within the batting order was a valuable asset. He hit everywhere from first to sixth and provided production wherever he hit. Melillo hit seven HR and drove in 34 runs in 35 games for the Rockhounds. He also swiped nine bases, making him the team-leader in stolen bases despite playing with the club for only six weeks.

For the season, Melillo hit .305 with a .400 OBP, 24 HR (the most for any A's minor leaguer), 93 RBI and 21 SB. We congratulate Melillo on his outstanding efforts in 2005.

Other Players Considered:

Daric Barton: Barton posted a .901 OPS at both high-A Stockton and AA-Midland despite having to play with the pressure of being "the one traded for Mark Mulder." He has cemented his position as the top prospect in the A's organization.

Danny Putnam: Putnam was the only A's minor leaguer to drive in 100 runs this season (he drove in exactly 100), as he hit .307 with 15 HR for the Stockton Ports. Scouts called Putnam a "professional hitter" when he was drafted, and he lived up to that mantra in 2005.

Andre Ethier: Ethier won almost every award imaginable in 2005, as he came home with the Texas League MVP award and the Texas League All-Star MVP and Home Run Derby trophies. The athletic outfielder is finally healthy after years of back problems and is looking to prove that he is the real deal this fall in Arizona.

Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Dallas Braden

Like Kevin Melillo, Dallas Braden was flying under the radar for most scouts at the start of this season. Braden was a 24th round draft choice in 2004 and didn't possess an overwhelming fastball. However, Braden proved once again that you don't have to have an overwhelming fastball to strike out hitters, especially if you are left-handed.

Braden began the 2005 season with his hometown Stockton Ports, but it didn't take him long to pitch his way out of Stockton. He used his screwball and a fastball that had increased in velocity to the high-80s to keep California League hitters off-balance. Braden made seven starts for the Ports and won six of them. He threw a complete game and struck out 64 batters in only 43.1 innings of work. Braden also showed great command, as he walked only 11 hitters and posted a 2.68 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League.

He was promoted to Midland and continued to rack up the wins. Although he struggled at the end of his season and was eventually shelved with a sore arm, Braden was the Rockhounds' best pitcher for much of the season. He finished his Midland campaign in early August with a 9-5 record and a 3.90 ERA. Braden struck out 71 batters in 97 innings. For the season, Braden had 135 Ks in 140.2 innings and an organization-high 15 wins.

Arm fatigue caught up with Braden at the end of the season, but he still opened a lot of eyes and is arguably the A's second-best left-handed pitching prospect behind Dan Meyer. Not bad for a guy who wasn't even picked on the first day of the draft one year earlier. We congratulate Braden on his fantastic campaign.

Other Players Considered:

Mike Madsen: Madsen is making an early bid to be next year's Dallas Braden. A low-round 2005 pick, Madsen was outstanding in his first professional season. He went 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 15 games (12 starts) for the Canadians.

Shawn Kohn: Kohn was ‘Mr. Everything' in the Rockhounds' bullpen this season, as he threw 84 innings over 55 appearances for Midland. The right-hander used his deceptive delivery to strike out 92 hitters and earn a trip to the Arizona Fall League.

Jairo Garcia: Garcia didn't have as good as season in 2005 as he did in 2004, but he still posted an solid campaign as the closer for the Rockhounds and River Cats. Garcia recovered from the disappointment of starting the season in AA instead of AAA and saved six games in the first month of the season for the Rockhounds. He was promoted to Sacramento in early May and went on to set a River Cats' record for saves in a season with 20. His 26 combined saves left him tied with Alex Santos for the organizational lead. He also struck out 103 and walked only 29 in 67 innings of work.

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