D-backs Position Players of the Year

Last week, the Arizona Diamondbacks named Paul Goldschmidt as their Minor League Position Player of the Year. It's pretty hard to argue with that selection. FutureBacks.com names a Position Player of the Year and Runner Up for each level of the minor leagues.

Before the 2011 season, FutureBacks.com predicted that Collin Cowgill would be the Diamondbacks' Position Player of the Year. It wound up being very close.  Paul Goldschmidt's 1.061 on-base plus slugging in 103 games was significantly higher than Cowgill's .984 mark in 98 games, but Cowgill contributed in other ways.  The outfielder primarily manned the all-important centerfield position and manned it well.  Cowgill also swiped 30 bags in 33 attempts, though it should be noted that Goldie also played solid defense and contributed nine steals of his own.

In the end, the context of their offensive numbers gave Goldschmidt the nod.  Cowgill played in an extreme hitter's park in a league that averaged 5.6 runs per game and an .807 OPS.  The Southern League only averaged 4.7 runs per game and a .739 OPS.  So while Cowgill was better than almost all of his peers, Goldschmidt was truly in a league of his own.  He is the FutureBacks.com Position Player of the Year for 2011.

For each level, the winner is listed, followed by the runner up.

Overall: Paul Goldschmidt, Collin Cowgill

Reno Aces: Collin Cowgill, Cody Ransom

Cody Ransom arguably had an even better year in Triple-A than Cowgill did, posting a 1.034 OPS in 101 games split between shortstop and third base.  The reason Cowgill gets the nod is because he is a full 10 years younger than Ransom.  35-year old veterans are expected to perform well in the Pacific Coast League, so Ransom's .317 batting average, 27 homers, and 92 RBI don't necessarily impress as much as Cowgill's .354/13/70 line does.

Mobile BayBears: Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock

Runner up to Goldie's .306 batting average, 30 homers, and 94 RBI was between Ryan Wheeler and A.J. Pollock.  Wheeler's .294 batting average, 16 homers, and 89 RBI ranked among the best marks in the Southern League, and his defense at the hot corner continues to improve.  But Pollock's 103 runs scored were 13 more than the next best table-setter in the Southern League, plus his 36 stolen bases ranked third and his .307 batting average ranked fourth.  Perhaps most impressively of all, Pollock committed just one error all year across 280 chances in 132 games.  That kind of season typically gets you Player of the Year honors, just not when Paul Goldschmidt is your teammate.

Visalia Rawhide: Matt Davidson, Bobby Borchering

There's not much to separate Davidson and Borchering offensively,  Borchering hit more homers, stole more bases, and had a slightly higher slugging average,  Matt Davidson had the edge in hits, doubles, runs, RBI, walks, batting average, and on-base percentage.  Both 20-year olds performed very well at an advanced level for their age.

Davidson wins this Player of the Year Award because of his defense.  Both players split nearly equal time at the corner infield positions, but while Borchering committed 27 total errors, Davidson only had 16.  Davidson's fielding percentage advantage was .992 to .983 at first base and .908 to .882 at the hot corner.  Neither of these players who were drafted as third basemen look like they will be able to man that position at the major league level, but Davidson has a better chance than Borchering does.

South Bend Silver Hawks: Yazy Arbelo, Zach Walters

Arbelo's victory margin here is so large that his runner up did not even spend the entire season in the Diamondbacks organization.  He led the team in home runs by 22, RBI by 35, and walks by 24, with his season totals of 31 homers and 62 extra-base hits both setting Silver Hawks records.  No one else in the league had as many as 25 dingers.

Walters was nevertheless an extremely valuable member of the Hawks prior to getting traded to the Washington Nationals as part of the .  Despite the missed time, he led the team with six triples, was runner up in runs, doubles, and slugging, plus led the club with a .302 BA and .377 OBP.  He split time at second base, third base, and shortstop, and the 11 games he played at second were errorless ones. 

Yakima Bears: Jimmy Comerota, Garrett Weber

Jimmy Comerota's .322 batting average was 20 points off the Northwest League lead and his .391 OBP was just 10 points behind the league leader.  At 24-years old, Comerota was the elder statesman of the Yakima Bears, but the first baseman's performance reflected that.  It isn't a lack of talent that's kept him in the lower levels, but rather a wealth of talented first-sackers ahead of him in the organization.

Second to Comerota on the team with a .292 average, Garrett Weber also tied for fourth in the league with 17 doubles.  He may not have had the flashy 11 home runs that teammate Justin Hilt boasted, but considering his solid offensive output and defensive contributions at second, third, and shortstop, Weber edges out Hilt as Comerota's runner up.

Missoula Osprey: Eric Groff, Tom Belza

Repeating the Pioneer League level, Eric Groff certainly seemed to progress from last season.  His slugging average increased from .462 in 201 to .595 this year, a mark that led all Pioneer League players who appeared in at least 50 games. 

Utilityman Tom Belza matched Groff's .316 batting average, though he "only" slugged .516.  A perfect 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts, Belza played every position on the field for the Osprey save pitcher, catcher, and centerfield.

It would be remiss not to give an honorable mention to Jonathan Griffin, who slugged .604 in the second half of the season and finished third in the league with 59 RBI.  Belza's well-roundedness on both sides of the ball propels him just past the slugging Griffin.

AZL D-backs: Socrates Brito, Pat Donahue

Socrates Brito led the AZL D-backs in hits, runs, RBI, triples, total bases, and stolen bases.  He also threw out eight baserunners in 55 outfield games.  This exciting talent turned 19 in September and figures to develop into one of the system's best power/speed threats quickly.

Pat Donahue, an undrafted free agent out of Tampa, actually led the team in batting average (.303), on-base percentage (.411), and OPS (.798), but had 70 fewer plate appearances than Brito, so trailed him in almost every counting stat.  He walked twice as frequently as he struck out and played both third base and catcher quite well.  He gunned down five of the eight baserunners who tried to steal against him and made 52 outs in his 17 games at the hot corner.

DSL D-backs: Alan Santiago, Jesse Liriano

It is difficult to find offensive standouts on a team that slugged .284 for the season.  The Position Player of the Year here is Alan Santiago, who offers the rare combination of being able to both reach base at a high rate and drive in runs proficiently.  His .385 OBP was very solid while his 36 RBI nearly doubled the output of his runner-up teammate Liriano, who drove in 20.

Sadly, Liriano led the DSL D-backs with a .378 SLG.  It's nevertheless impressive when your second baseman leads the team in slugging, especially when he is also tied for sixth in the league in triples despite missing a large chunk of the season.  The 19-year old Liriano had a respectable .959 fielding percentage, but also spent time as the club's designated hitter.


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