Jody Davis on Key Daytona Performers

The Daytona Cubs are the Florida State League's top team for 2008. Chicago's Advanced Class-A affiliate defeated the Fort Myers Miracle (a member of the Minnesota Twins farm system), 7-3, to mark the first time a Cubs minor league affiliate won their respective league's championship in quite some time.

With their victory over Fort Myers, Daytona became the first Cubs minor league affiliate to win an outright league championship since the Boise Hawks won the Northwest League (short-season Class A) championship in 2004. That same year, the Daytona Cubs and Tampa Yankees were named co-champions of the Florida State League when Hurricane Ivan postponed the league's championship series.

Cubs second baseman Tony Thomas was named series MVP for his efforts against Fort Myers. A third-round Cubs draft pick from Florida State in 2007, Thomas finished the post-season 14-for-29 (.483) with eight RBIs.

In four games against Fort Myers, Thomas was 8-for-17 with seven RBIs. He went 2-for-4 atop the lineup on Tuesday and drove in a run in the third inning.

Thomas had an up-and-down regular season, batting .266 with 30 doubles in 113 games. Those weren't bad numbers for a player who skipped a level, and Cubs manager Jody Davis described Thomas as one of his team's better all-around athletes.

"He's real quick, runs well, probably our best base-stealer," Davis said of Thomas, who swiped 22 bases and was thrown out 10 times in the regular season. "He's been consistent enough that he (helped) us win some games down the stretch."

Cubs outfielder Ty Wright was a textbook case of consistency. Wright finished the regular season with a .300 average in 113 games. He hit eight home runs, totaled 21 doubles, drove in 72 runs and finished with a .370 on-base percentage.

Like Thomas, Wright was drafted from a major college program (Oklahoma State) in 2007, and Davis said that the "college factor" on his club was important. Over half of the Cubs' playoff roster consisted of players with college experience.

"All these guys, for the most part, are college guys," Davis noted. "These guys are used to winning and competing."

He said of Wright: "Ty has been the guy that's been the most consistent all year."

Davis is wise not to forget the contributions his lineup received from OF Jim Adduci, shortstop Darwin Barney and do-it-all INF/OF Steve Clevenger.

Adduci, whom the Cubs acquired as little more than an afterthought in a minor league trade with the Florida Marlins two years ago, was red-hot out of the gate for Daytona this season en route to garnering a Florida State League All-Star selection.

Adduci closed the regular season with a .290 average and 19 doubles in 123 games to duplicate his 2007 campaign at Class-A Peoria almost right down to the letter.

For his part, Clevenger provided the Cubs with not only a solid bat but an able body at more than one position. A Cubs seventh-round pick in 2006 from Chipola Junior College in Florida, Clevenger finished the regular season with a .313 average and 20 doubles in 84 games at Daytona. His on-base percentage was .393.

The Cubs originally drafted Clevenger as a middle infielder before auditioning him at first base and, most recently, catcher.

"He can always swing the bat," Davis said of Clevenger. "He's really taken to the catching. I think it's (taken a toll) a little bit on his bat, but that's just something that down here in this heat, catching is going to do to everybody. But he's a solid contact guy and we're really happy with his progress."

Barney, meanwhile, was one of the Cubs' hottest hitters down the stretch. He closed the regular season with a seven-game hitting streak that raised his average 16 points to .262. In the post-season, he finished 11-for-27 (.407), and received one vote for league championship series MVP by accredited media members Tuesday.

Still, Davis said that it's the defense that the Cubs like best about Barney.

"The best thing he does is catch it at shortstop," he said. "He makes the plays. When you see a ball hit to short, you feel good about (him) getting an out. That's the thing that we most like about him. He's (another) one of those guys that's used to winning. He's a leader and a guy that runs the show out there. That's the big thing that he brings to the game, and he just does all the little things that you need to do to win."

A fourth-round Cubs draft pick from Oregon State in 2007, Barney may not be the flashiest of players, but he does several of the little things well.

"He's not going to kill you with being flashy," noted Davis. "He's not going to be the fastest guy; not going to have the greatest arm. He just makes the plays."

From the pitching standpoint, the Cubs' pitching staff maintained various looks throughout the season with players coming and going, and several mid to late-season additions to the staff helped power the Cubs' post-season surge.

First-round Cubs draft pick Andrew Cashner was dominant in the post-season, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out 11 batters. He topped out at 98 mph with his fastball on three different occasions Tuesday, one Cubs source said. He was the winning pitcher with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Ninth-round pick Jay Jackson, who was promoted twice since beginning his season at Boise, only continued his torrid pro debut season with 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the post-season. (Jackson closed the season with 77 strikeouts and a 2.61 ERA in 55 2/3 innings.)

That's not counting the contributions Davis' club received from pitchers Hung-Wen Chen and Jordan Latham, who joined the team from Peoria in July.

Chen finished the regular season with a 3.65 ERA in 56-plus innings in Daytona and tossed six scoreless innings in the post-season. The right-hander was a top signing on the international market by Cubs scout Steve Wilson in the Pacific Rim in 2007.

"He's more of a finesse guy," Davis said of Chen. "He's got a good changeup, a good breaking ball, and a good split. He's got enough fastball to get it by you when you're looking for off-speed stuff. He's one of those guys that can throw off-speed when he's behind in the count, and at this level that can really give guys a lot of trouble."

Latham was solid in relief, finishing with a 2.16 ERA in 11 games. The right-hander, who was involved in a heated verbal exchange with Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita after an exhibition game in Minor League Spring Training in March, finished the season with a sub-2.00 ERA between Peoria and Daytona.

"He's got good sink on his fastball and has a good slider," Davis said of Latham. "His first couple of outings here, he was trying to overthrow, so he got hit a little bit. But he's got good sink and good velocity, and is basically a sinker-slider guy."

Daytona finished with a .326 team batting average in the playoffs – far and away the best mark of the four FSL clubs in the post-season, over 100 points higher than second-place Dunedin. Their pitching staff combined for a 2.71 ERA.

Davis, who concluded his third season managing in the Cubs' system with his first championship as skipper, said he's having a blast coaching. He was one of the most recognizable faces of the Cubs' 1980s squads, spending eight seasons with Chicago behind the plate. He first managed a Cubs farm club in 2006.

"It's a lot more fun this year than last," he said. "Last year, we didn't compete very well. It's just a lot more fun (when you) compete."

And win championships.

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