2008 Awards: Stockton and Kane County

With the 2008 season finally in the books, it is time for us to bestow our awards on the best individual performances for the 2008 season. In the second of our series, we hand out the awards for the top players and pitchers for the Oakland A's Single-A full-season affiliates.

Stockton Ports

The Stockton Ports began the season as one of the most talented squads in the minor leagues and while their roster was significantly changed by the end of the year, the season ended with Stockton hoisting the California League championship trophy. A 76-64 regular season translated into a playoff run that took Stockton past Modesto, San Jose and Lancaster. The Ports finished second in the Cal League in team OPS with a 778 mark and second in homeruns with 149. Stockton's pitching staff finished fourth in the league in team ERA with a 4.26 mark and first in the league in saves with 43 and strike-outs with 1,259.

Top Position Player: Chris Carter

The Ports' roster was certainly filled with worthy candidates for this award, but Carter takes home the prize for his consistent production throughout the regular season and post-season. The slugging infielder/outfielder cruised past the Ports' team regular season record for homeruns by hitting 39 and then went on to tag five more homers in the post-season. He drove home 104 regular season runs and posted a 930 OPS despite the fact that opposing pitchers were often pitching around Carter during the second half of the season. He became the first A's minor leaguer to reach 30 homeruns in a single season in more than five years (Corey Brown would join him later in the season). In title clinching game for the Ports, Carter hit two homers, including a grand slam.

Other Players Considered: Sean Doolittle, Archie Gilbert, Josh Donaldson, Matt Spencer, Corey Brown, Matt Sulentic

As we said, there were many worthy candidates for the Ports' top player in 2008. Doolittle spent only half of the season with Stockton, but he was one of the best hitters in the Cal League while he was with the Ports. In 86 games, Doolittle hit .305 with a 945 OPS and 18 homers. He also played great defense at first and in the outfield. Gilbert was a sparkplug for Stockton all season and was the team's post-season MVP. He hit .278 with 35 stolen bases during the regular season and .352 with 11 RBIs during the post-season. Donaldson joined the Ports in mid-July following a trade with the Chicago Cubs and he filled the void in the line-up left by Doolittle by hitting .330 with nine homers and a 955 OPS in 47 games. He hit .413 during the post-season. Spencer also joined the team in July after being traded from Philadelphia. The first baseman/outfielder hit .333 with a .560 SLG and eight homeruns in 41 games. Brown finished third on the Ports in homeruns with 16 despite appearing in only 49 games after a mid-season promotion from Kane County. He also played well defensively in center. Sulentic's season ended early after being hit in the arm by a pitch, but he was quietly one of the Ports' top hitters before the injury. The right fielder hit .309 with nine homers and an 849 OPS in 95 games and played stand-out defense in the outfield.

Top Pitcher: Trevor Cahill

The Ports had an extremely talented pitching staff, but Cahill was the most dominant during his time with Stockton. Although he was with the team for only a half of a season, Cahill made a big impact, posting a 2.78 ERA in 87.1 innings for the Ports. He struck-out 103, walked only 31 and allowed only three homeruns despite the homer-friendly nature of many of the Cal League's ballparks. He held opposing batters to a .174 BA and averaged more than six innings per outing. After being promoted to Midland after the All-Star break, Cahill would be tabbed to represent the A's in the Futures Game and then he represented the US in the Beijing Olympics. Oh, and he was only 20-year-old throughout the season.

Other Pitchers Considered: Brett Anderson, Jason Fernandez, Sam Demel

Anderson, also 20, was nearly as brilliant for Stockton as Cahill. His ERA was significantly higher (4.14), but most of the difference between his ERA and Cahill's came from two very poor starts he made when he was battling a sprained left thumb. Anderson struck-out 80 and walked only 18 in 74 innings for Stockton and held opposing batters to a .238 average. He also won nine games, tied for most on the team during the regular season, despite being promoted to Midland himself after the All-Star break. Fernandez logged the second-most innings of any Ports' pitcher (109.2) and managed a 3.36 ERA by inducing a lot of groundballs. He averaged nearly six innings a start and helped lead the Ports' rotation after Cahill and Anderson departed before he himself was promoted to Midland in late July. Demel led the Ports with 18 saves and he posted a 3.36 ERA despite being asked to experiment with some different mechanics during the season. The Stockton closer struck-out an incredible 90 batters in only 67 innings and allowed only 61 hits and five homers.

Kane County Cougars

A strong first half earned the Cougars a post-season berth as a wild card team. Overall, the Cougars finished with a 72-66 record. In a pitching-friendly Midwest League, the Cougars were second in the league in team batting average with a .259 mark and fourth in team OPS at 712. The Cougars' pitching staff was stingy throughout the season, posting a 3.45 ERA, good for third in the league. Kane County's stay in the post-season was a short one, however, as the Cougars were swept in their wild card series by the Burlington Bees.

Top Position Player: Corey Brown

Brown was with the Cougars for only the first half of the season, but he was one of the main reasons that Kane County was able to punch its post-season ticket with a first-half wild card berth. The centerfielder hit 14 homers (good for second on the team) and posted a team-high 843 OPS in 85 games. He also stole 12 bases in 12 chances and reached base at a .359 clip while playing out in centerfield for most of the year. Brown was a starter in the Midwest League All-Star game.

Other Players Considered: Toddric Johnson, Larry Cobb, Greg Dowling, Jake Smith

Johnson recovered from a poor 2007 season to put together a fine 2008 campaign for Kane County. The outfielder hit .281 with 13 homers, a team-leading 74 RBIs and he stole 11 bases. He was the only other regular besides Brown to post an OPS above 800 for Kane County (807). Cobb also had a comeback year in 2008 for the Cougars, batting .273 with 13 homers and 70 RBIs. He stole 19 bases and was named to the Midwest League's post-season All-Star team. Dowling became the Cougars' all-time homerun leader when he hit 15 this season for the Cougars after hitting 13 the year before. One of those homers this year came at Wrigley Field. He also drove-in 71 runs and led the team with 33 doubles. Smith only appeared in 81 games as he was recovering from shoulder surgery performed last season. However, he was productive in those games, batting .288 with six homers and a .357 OBP.

Top Pitcher: Craig Italiano

With apologies to Scott Mitchinson, Italiano takes home this award for his outstanding first half with the Cougars. Italiano was the most dominant pitcher in the Midwest League before the All-Star break, posting a 1.16 ERA and going 7-0 in 14 starts. He struck-out 79 in 70 innings and gave up only 43 hits by using his high-90s fastball and sharp curveball. Italiano was the starting pitcher during the Midwest League All-Star game. He earns an extra point for pitching that well this season after being struck in the forehead with a line-drive in 2007 that resulted in a skull fracture.

Other Pitchers Considered: Scott Mitchinson, Chad Kerfoot, Lance Sewell, Scott Hodsdon

Mitchinson was, in many ways, just as dominant as Italiano this season. In 14 outings, he had a 1.74 ERA and he struck-out 78 in 77 inning. He also walked only 11 and allowed only one homerun. The only blight on Mitchinson's season was that he missed about two months with arm soreness. Kerfoot was a workhorse reliever for Kane County, and he went 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 72.2 innings. He saved four games and struck-out 73 while walking only 15. Sewell was also mostly a reliever for the Cougars. He had a 2.88 ERA and two saves in 78 innings. He struck-out 78 batters and held the opposition to a .214 average. Hodsdon overcame a slow start to the season to post a 2.93 ERA in 120 innings, good for third on the team. He only struck-out 86, but he walked only 23 on the year.

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