Depending on which week you happened to watch, the 2014 Peoria Chiefs offense fell somewhere between borderline anemic and a dumpster fire. There were weeks the Chiefs’ bats would go silent, and weeks where the team would crank out six home runs (a tenth of their season total) and put up some large numbers.
Unfortunately for the team’s failed playoff hopes in both halves of the season, the latter scenario did not happen all that often. Despite this, there were at least three players whose offensive prowess should be noted.
Chiefly (get it?) among them is shortstop Juan Herrera. When he was healthy, Herrera was one of the Chiefs’ top offensive threats. After an ankle injury, the right-handed hitter cooled off greatly in August, but prior to that, his average was .309 with an on-base percentage of .353. The 21-year-old came back to earth and finished his 101 games for Peoria with a respectable .274/.320/.364 slash line.
On August 22, Herrera was promoted to A-Advanced Palm Beach to conclude the regular season. Even so, he still led the Chiefs for the year with 56 RBI and was second in doubles, runs scored and stolen bases.
Another player up for consideration is first baseman Justin Ringo. Ringo, unlike Herrera, had a fantastic final month, hitting .375 in his final ten games with a home run, six runs batted in and seven runs scored. Like Herrera, Ringo battled injury issues but was still able to produce, finishing 10 RBI behind Herrera, fourth on the Chiefs.
The biggest mark against Ringo is his lack of consistency. He was excellent in June (.308 average, nine RBI) and August, but in 28 games in July, he was awful, hitting just .223 while striking out 21 times. For reference, Ringo struck out 47 times the entire season.
The third player about whom to take note won the team’s MVP award. C.J. McElroy swiped 41 bases, putting him on the Chiefs’ all-time top-ten list for a single season. His average was not all that good, sitting at .267, but in his second season with the club, he was durable enough to play in 130 games and post a .342 on-base percentage. The 21-year-old played his best baseball in April, posting a .325 average with six steals and 17 runs scored in 83 at-bats.
However, as the team battled for a playoff spot down the stretch, McElroy’s impact diminished. He managed just 48 hits over his final 198 at-bats, but still managed to swipe 23 bases and score 27 runs in that span.
With all that said, my choice for offensive player of the year is Juan Herrera. His stats may not jump off the page, but he was by far the most consistent player on an offense that was not all that good most of the season. As noted, the Dominican Republic native led the team in RBI and was second in both hits and runs to McElroy, who played 29 more games with Peoria. Both were recognized as mid-season Midwest League all-stars.
Congratulations to Juan Herrera, The Cardinal Nation’s 2014 Peoria Chiefs offensive player of the year!
Link to master article with all 2014 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the top rookies and players system-wide.
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