2008 Player & Pitcher of the Year

The 2008 season was a banner year for a resurgent Oakland A's minor league system. There were many outstanding performances by A's minor leaguers this year, but two performances stood-out. We name our 2008 OaklandClubhouse.com Player and Pitcher of the Year inside...

Player of the Year: Chris Carter

Four of the six players acquired by Oakland from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade this past December reached the big leagues this season. Amazingly, the two that didn't make it to the show this year (Brett Anderson and Chris Carter) could have the brightest futures of any of the players involved in the trade. Anderson won an Olympic medal this year and is one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, while Carter has quickly transformed himself into the top power prospect in the A's system.

On June 1st, one would have been hard pressed to venture that Carter would finish the year with numbers that would equate to "Player of the Year" status. After an 0-2 performance on that date, Carter was left hitting only .208 with a pedestrian 770 OPS. However, on June 2nd, he doubled and walked in two official at-bats and on June 4th and 5th he hit a combined three homers and drove-in six runs. He never looked back the rest of the season.

By the time the year was over, Carter was the all-time single-season record holder for most homeruns by a Stockton Ports' hitter with 39. He also added 104 RBIs, 77 walks, 101 runs scored, 32 doubles and four triples. He even stole four bases in four chances. Carter finished the year first in the California League in homeruns, RBIs, total bases and slugging percentage. His 930 OPS was fourth-best in the league and was tops among players with at least 400 at-bats.

Carter's barrage against California League pitching didn't end at the end of the regular season, however. He hit five homeruns during the post-season, including two in the league-title clinching game against Lancaster. Carter is still searching for a permanent position defensively (he is getting more work at first base this winter in Hawaii, and he could see time this spring in right field), but his bat should carry him far. Those who watched the Ports on a regular basis this season were astounded with how hard and how far Carter could hit the ball. Carter doesn't turn 22 until this December and the future appears bright for the slugger from Las Vegas.

Pitcher of the Year: Vince Mazzaro

The Oakland A's are certainly not short in top-flight pitching talent right now and that talent was reflected in the statistics of a number of young hurlers in the A's system this season. Many pitchers could make a claim for having the most stand-out 2008 season. However, no one pitcher raised his stock both within the organization and around baseball as much as right-hander Vince Mazzaro did this year.

Before the season, OaklandClubhouse.com ranked Mazzaro as the A's 18th best prospect, which was a higher ranking than many other publications gave Mazzaro at the time. We had this to say about Mazzaro in our pre-season top prospects write-up:

"Mazzaro has taken his lumps since turning pro, posting ERAs above 5.00 in each of his first two seasons. However, it seems like it is only a matter of time before he puts it all together. Mazzaro was very up-and-down for Stockton in 2007. At times, he appeared unhittable. In other games, he struggled with his command and was hit hard. Case-in-point, in his final five starts Mazzaro allowed six runs, two runs, one run, six runs and one run, respectively. Every time he seemed to be in a groove, he'd hit a speed bump."

Perhaps sooner than even we expected, Mazzaro put it all together this season, with outstanding results. He began the year as the second-youngest member of the Double-A Midland Rockhounds' starting rotation (he is two days older than rotation-mate James Simmons). Despite being only 21-years-old, Mazzaro shined during his first stint at Double-A. Showing greatly improved command of his fastball, sinker, change-up and breaking ball, Mazzaro dominated Texas League hitters from the get-go. In 22 starts, Mazzaro was 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA. In 137.1 innings, he allowed only 115 hits and 36 walks. He also gave-up only three homeruns in what is normally an offensive-friendly league. Mazzaro was a starter in the Texas League All-Star game and was named both the Texas League's Pitcher of the Year and MiLB.com's Most Spectacular Pitcher for Double-A.

Mazzaro spent the final month of the season at Triple-A and although he hit a bit of a hurdle with the River Cats, Mazzaro had a strong start in his final outing for Sacramento (two runs in six innings with five strike-outs) and pitched well for the River Cats in the playoffs (five runs in 11.1 innings).

After going 15-6 with a 2.74 ERA in 171 regular season innings as a 21-year-old in Double-A and Triple-A in 2008, Mazzaro won't be able to sneak up on anyone next season. The righty's name has already come up in Internet trade rumors involving big name players. If Mazzaro continues to shine next season, he could be knocking on the door of the major leagues by mid-season. Not bad for a guy one year removed from an inconsistent 2007 season at High-A.

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