Palm Beach Cardinals 2011 Player of the Year

Outfielder Rainel Rosario was the Florida State League Cardinals' best position player this season.

With top organizational pitching prospects having passed through Palm Beach this season including Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly and John Gast, the club's hitters had a much lower profile. That was especially the case after 2010 first-rounder Zack Cox was promoted to Double-A.

That doesn't mean the Florida State League did not have some solid offensive performances this past season, despite the circuit's well-earned reputation as being tough on hitters.

Our selection as the top position player in the Cardinals system in 2011 is outfielder Rainel Rosario, also The Cardinal Nation/'s 30th ranked prospect coming into the season. The native of the Dominican Republic turned 22 years of age as spring training ended.

Rosario's .270 average was best on the Palm Beach team as were his 70 RBI. The latter count ranked 11th in the FSL. The right-handed batter hit in 15 straight games from May 9 through 26, tying him for the Palm Beach lead.

Helping to put that into perspective, Rosario put up stats similar those of our 2010 Palm Beach Player of the Year Alex Castellanos. Of note was the fact Rosario is 2 1/2 years younger. Castellanos hit for more power, but Rosario has the same kind of bat speed and raw power, with the potential to show more as he advances.

Palm Beach hitting coach Jeff Albert was delighted to have Rosario this past season.

"Rosario has a major league tools, and was one of the better, more complete athletes in the Florida State League," Albert said. "Given his age (slightly under league average) and lack of at-bats at a full season affiliate coming into 2011, he made some positive strides offensively and had stretches, like during the last week of the season, where he demonstrated how his potential can translate onto the field."

Note: Rosario went 9-for-22 (.409) during his last six games.

Rosario also led the club with 32 multi-hit games, including a team-best two four-hit contests. Rosario was a big-game player. He was the only Palm Beach player with multiple four-RBI games - and he logged three of them.

Rosario showed good wheels as his total of 15 stolen bases was tops on the team, though he was also caught eight times.

"As he learns to trust his ability and maintain his approach on a daily basis, his consistency will improve, which makes him a interesting prospect moving forward," Albert concluded.

Rosario receives the nod as The Cardinal Nation/ Palm Beach Cardinals Player of the Year for 2011.

Honorable mentions

Xavier Scruggs was a very close competitor with Rosario as the club's leading power bat. His 21 home runs tied the Palm Beach team record. The big first baseman matched the mark on the final day of the season. Scruggs also led Palm Beach with 27 doubles, a .494 slugging percentage and an .834 OPS. His RBI count of 63 was second on the team after Rosario. Scruggs compiled a most-impressive 30-game on-base streak that began on May 26 and ran until the first of July.

Catcher Audry Perez (.291 average in 22 games) and third baseman Cox were expected to be offensive leaders, but were moved up to Springfield in May. Cox, who hit .335 in 42 FSL games, tied Rosario for the team's longest hitting streak at 15 games, achieved from May 2 through 20.

Second baseman Starlin Rodriguez joined the club mid-season from Quad Cities and the switch-hitter posted a cool line of .315/.354/.455 in 45 games. Greg Garcia, also a second baseman, only played in 59 contests after his move up from Quad Cities due to injury. When he did play, he contributed, with a .290/.400/.419 line as strong as Rodriguez'. Garcia had jumped over Batavia entering this season.

Kyle Conley was another player expected to help lead the offense, but his contributions were limited because he was out a significant period due to injury - from June 10 until July 28. Though the outfielder batted just .249, Conley was second on the team with 13 home runs and 50 RBI in just 72 games.

Outfielder Edgar Lara started fast, being named to the mid-season FSL all-star team, but dropped off afterward. Infielder Alan Ahmady placed eighth in the FSL with 62 walks and his .388 on-base percentage was 11th.

Note: Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming announcements as well as 2011 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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