With a combination of tough offensive opponents and a pitching staff that relied heavily on ground and fly ball production, the State College Spikes needed a solid defense to keep them in tight games.
They also relied on their top three batters to produce a lot of hits, which was often followed by big, powerful shots from the hitters in the four through six spots. The bottom the lineup also did its job this season to get on base and turn over the order.
Like any team, Spikes players had high and low points, but more of the former on their way to the New York-Penn League title. Middle infielder Tommy Edman was the most consistent throughout the season and is our choice as The Cardinal Nation’s State College Player of the Year for 2016.
Edman led the team, and the league, offensively in multiple categories. The shortstop came in clutch with key hits to give the Spikes the edge over several opponents and his range in the field allowed him to make plays others could not. Above all, Edman’s leadership role became clear very early on in the season and stayed that way until the final game.
How He Got Here
Edman was drafted in the sixth round by St. Louis on June 15, 2016, hailing from Stanford University. In his junior year at Stanford, he started every game at shortstop (140 consecutive) and anchored the position with a .955 fielding percentage. The 21-year-old led team in runs (35), hits (61), triples (4) and stolen bases (8). He ranked second on team in average (.286), total bases (79) and walks (25). The San Diego, California native was awarded First-team All-Pac-12, Academic All-Pac-12 and All-Pac-12 Defensive team.
Edman by the Numbers
The shortstop kept his college success going once he reached State College this summer. Edman appeared in 66 games this season, starting 59 of them in the field and 7 as the designated hitter. Edman had a majority of his starts at shortstop (42) but did receive some opportunity to play second base (17), combining to play 518 total innings this season.
In the Field
As a middle infielder, Edman was quick with his feet and made 29 double plays this season. At shortstop, Edman had a .967 fielding percentage with just seven errors overall. At second, he made no miscues. Regardless of where he was at on the diamond for the Spikes, Edman played and he played well.
At the Plate
Edman became the obvious lead off choice for the Spikes after just a few games. His pitch selection was so good, that he ended up leading the league in walks (48) because he made pitchers throw to him and had a good eye for the strikeout. However when Edman would take a swing, he consistently made contact and only struck out 29 times. Even when he was in a hitting slump, his numbers still remained higher than a majority of his teammates.
The switch hitter had speed and ball placement that gave him a base running advantage, as he ranked fifth in the league with 19 stolen bases, and a .400 on-base percentage that tied for third in the league. By the end of the regular season, Edman scored 61 runs, more than any other player in the NYPL. The shortstop had 31 RBI and 73 hits, including 14 doubles, five triples and four home runs. He finished with a .286 batting average over 255 at-bats.
Why Edman Stands Out
If there was one word to describe Edman, it would be this: reliable. As a hitter, a fielder and teammate, the shortstop was often described by manager Johnny Rodriguez and his teammates as a “lead by example” kind of player, despite only coming to State College this year. He knew what he needed to do for his team and almost always got something going offensively, got on base to start an inning or made a big play in the field. He had a commanding and in-control presence on the field unlike any other this season. Even if he had a subpar game, he never seemed to falter emotionally.
Rodriguez described him as “quiet, calm and collected” back in July, but added that “on the inside he is full of passion and motivation.”
“Edman knows what his job is and always seems to find a way to get on base,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a grinder and that’s what this team thrives on.”
On September 4, the Spikes announced their 2016 year-end award winners before the regular season home finale at Medlar Field, at which time Edman was named the club's Most Valuable Player. His high level of play was also recognized earlier in the season when he was selected to play in the 2016 NYPL All-Star Game on August 16.
Without Edman, the Spikes likely would have had a much different season. The numbers prove that Edman worked extremely hard from day one. He deserves to further be recognized for his performance across the board this year. Edman was the backbone for State College this season and that alone sets him above his teammates to be selected as the top player.
Jeremy Martinez was the closest competitor for the spot because of his huge influence during the latter half of the season and into the playoffs.
Behind the plate, Martinez had an arm that threatened any runner and caught quite a few (17 for a 46 percent caught stealing rate). He gave up 20 stolen bases, recorded five passed balls and committed eight errors. He was the best option for the Spikes because of his ability to lead and control the game.
The Cardinal Nation Starting Pitcher of the Year, right hander Steven Farinaro, said back in August that throwing to Martinez was easy and that he rarely shook off any pitches that the catcher called. He even credited a portion of his success and NYPL Pitcher of the Week award to Martinez, saying that he “couldn’t have done it without Jeremy.”
Martinez did his job as the starting catcher to both motivate his teammates and lead by example. The Southern California product finished the season with the team’s highest batting average among starters (.325) with 63 hits, including 14 doubles, 32 RBI and 26 runs scored.
Although Martinez’s role began even bigger in the postseason as he became the consistent starter behind the plate, he emerged too late in the season after other catchers were promoted to have a fair shot at challenging Edman for the top spot.
Vince Jackson was a contributor on both offense and defense since the beginning of the season. However Jackson was the most impressive out in center field, garnering several diving catches, long throws and difficult fly balls caught in the gaps.
His contribution to the team is undeniable, starting in 70 of the Spikes 81 games (includes playoff games). His number of starts and at-bats (266) was greater than any other Spikes player this season. The 22-year-old finished with 62 hits, four home runs, 45 RBI (tied for second in league with Ryan McCarvel) but just a .233 average.
His spit in the lineup was typically third, behind Edman and Andy Young for a majority of the second half of the season. He has power but also speed, which made him an asset on the base paths. Although he tied for eighth in the league in stolen bases (16 in 23 attempts), Jackson often seemed to get too comfortable and was picked off several times when the Spikes needed base runners.
Jackson and Edman are similar in hitting mentality and defensive ability, but at the end of the day, Edman did his job more consistently than Jackson.
In close competition with Edman on the offensive side was first baseman-catcher and power hitter Ryan McCarvel. McCarvel made headlines for the Spikes when he hit for the cycle on June 30th, only the second player in Spikes’ history to accomplish the feat. His big bat proved to be helpful for the Spikes, who often had him hitting cleanup whether in the field or as the designated hitter.
The 21-year-old ranked second in the league in home runs (10) and tied with Jackson for second in RBI (45). McCarvel had several hot streaks but struggled to maintain consistency, as evidenced by tying for 10th in the league in strikeouts (62).
Over the course of the season, McCarvel’s bat had a huge impact on the Spikes’ offensive results, but did not contribute enough to the defense to edge out Edman for the top all-around player spot.
Link to master article with all 2016 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. That will include our selections as the cross-organization rookie Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Players of the Year.
Follow Kara Duriez on Twitter @KaraDuriez.
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