Although the Missoula Osprey received several quality performances on offense, they still finished last in the Pioneer League for hits, batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. They finished second to last in both slugging and runs scored. Pitching posed similar problems, as they trailed all other Pioneer League teams in ERA, WHIP, unearned runs, home runs allowed, strikeouts, and saves, while allowing just two fewer hits than Ogden did.
Fortunately, amidst a bleak 2008 season, the Osprey did find a few silver linings in their individual performances.
Position Player of the Year - 2B Jacob Elmore
Only one member of the Missoula Osprey squad made the Pioneer League All-Star team this year: Jake Elmore. These Osprey were blessed with a lot of solid offensive players, including Kyle Greene, Isaias Asencio, Alberto Diaz, Nelson Gomez, and Ryne White. Elmore could hang with them all bat-wise, leading the team with 26 walks, a .390 OBP, and a .853 OPS while finishing second in batting (.296), slugging (.464), doubles (15), and steals (9).
What really sets Elmore apart, however, is his defensive ability. The slick fielder made just four errors in 41 games at second base (.982 fielding percentage) while turning an impressive 25 double plays in that span. He even played six games at shortstop, his natural position, and two at first base, looking comfortable at both spots.
Elmore's performance for the Osprey in 2008 merits praise even when observed in a vacuum. When you consider that he was but a 34th-round pick this year, it really turns your head. This kid may develop into a prototypical #2 hitter and an elite-level defender at the major league level someday.
Pitcher of the Year - LHP Taylor Sinclair
If you're impressed with Elmore's numbers given his low draft selection, Taylor Sinclair's story will really wow you. Sinclair was a University of Northern Iowa senior earlier this year. Not only did the 22-year old fail to post a sub-4.45 ERA in each of his four years there, but he failed to coax a draft selection from any of the 30 teams in 50 rounds of the selection process this June.
He pitched in the Frontier League after graduating, hoping to get noticed. He did. Shortly after the Diamondbacks signed the southpaw in July, he rattled off two shutout wins. He got hit hard in two subsequent road contests, but rebounded for another three straight victories without surrendering a run. All told, Sinclair led the Osprey with five victories and did not allow an earned run in any of them, totaling 32.1 innings with just one unearned run allowed in those five games. He finished 5-2 with a 3.07 ERA and 48 strikeouts to just five walks as one of the season's biggest surprises.
We cannot close this section without giving an honorable mention to Trevor Harden. The Diamondbacks selected Harden in the 14th round this June and were rewarded with a pitcher who struck out 64 batters in 42.1 innings while posting a magnificent 1.91 ERA that would have led the league had Harden qualified. Harden only went 1-3 for his efforts over six starts and six bullpen appearances, though he did record two saves.
His WHIP was just slightly higher than Sinclair's, but the real reason that Sinclair won FutureBacks Pitcher of the Year Honors lies in expectations. Two pitchers gave comparable performances: one got selected in the first third of June's draft while the other wasn't selected at all. Both pitcher's had phenomenal seasons, but Sinclair's proved a little more noteworthy because he came so far in so short of a span.