Players of the Year: D-backs Organization

The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Josh Whitesell and Cesar Valdez for their 2008 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. Those two players both enjoyed fantastic seasons, but we settled on different choices.

Position Player of the Year - OF Evan Frey

Joshua Whitesell went from streaky in the first half of the season to dominant in the second after an adjustment in his swing.  His post-All-Star break percentages of .399/.497/.696 were truly remarkable, and he may be the most powerful left-handed bat in the entire system. 

Of course, Whitesell's success isn't entirely shocking.  He posted a .937 OPS in the Eastern League last season.  The move to the hitter-friendly PCL figured to bolster his numbers a tad.  Also, at age 26, he should have be able to handle any minor league pitching that came his way.  The Diamondbacks did not give him a chance to prove himself at the major league level (his one homer came against fellow September callup Steven Register), but he should certainly receive that opportunity next year.

Evan Frey, likewise, enjoyed a strong 2007 season, his first as a professional.  The 10th-round pick had ranked third the Northwest League in triples (6) and fifth in batting average (.309) while leading D-backs' Short-Season players with 13 steals (albeit out of 23 attempts).  Frey's 2008 season was then split between Lo-A South Bend and Hi-A Visalia.  He reached base 40% of the time, led the organization with 98 runs scored, and finished runner up to Oaks teammate Pedro Ciriaco with 37 steals, this time with a 77% success rate.

So basically, Whitesell was the best power hitter in the organization, while Frey was the best table-setter.  Frey gets our nod mainly due the fact that he plays a more difficult and important defensive position and plays it at a Gold Glove level.  He positions himself exceptionally well in the outfield, reacts quickly to the ball off the bat, and can then flag down almost anything with his motoring speed.  His three homers after joining Visalia showed that he can even put a charge into the ball on occasion. 

Even Frey is the complete package as a centerfielder and leadoff hitter, and deserves the FutureBacks Position Player of the Year Award for the entire organization.


Pitcher of the Year - RHP Bryan Augenstein      

We really like Cesar Valdez here at FutureBacks.  When no one else would rank him at all on their top prospect lists due to his low velocity, we pegged him as the 24th best prospect in the system when the season began.  Even that ranking may have been conservative, as his big curveball, fantastic changeup, and impeccable command have played even better at higher levels than we had expected.  He went a combined 13-8, 3.15 between Hi-A and Double-A, walking 39 batters while fanning 140 and allowing just seven homers in 160.1 innings.

It's hard to believe, but Bryan Augenstein's season was even better. Like Frey, Augenstein began the season as a Silver Hawk before joining the Oaks in the summer.  He totaled 131.1 innings, going 7-5, 2.75 with 99 strikeouts, seven home runs, and just 14 walks allowed.  That's fewer than one walk allowed per nine innings pitched and a lower season ERA even than Max Scherzer attained.  Seven wins certainly isn't a feat, but there isn't much more Augenstein could have done to keep his team in ballgames.

If it seems like Valdez was more of a workhorse than Augenstein was, that's partly true.  But Valdez threw 29 more innings than Augenstein primarily because he is 16 months older; both pitchers averages just under six innings per start.  The Diamondbacks were merely protecting their 7th-round pick from two years ago, who only had 21.1 professional innings under his belt coming into the season.  Augenstein's terrific two-seamer, pinpoint control, and large build all point to a very durable starter down the road.

Unsurprisingly, Valdez and Augenstein both fared better prior to their promotion to a higher level.  But while Valdez held his own after being promoted from a hitter's league to a pitcher's league, Augenstein remained solid after a promotion from a pitcher's league to a hitter's league.  That is another slight point in the junior pitcher's favor.

All in all, the Diamondbacks are thrilled to have these two pitchers move up so far in the organizational ranks this season.  We choose Bryan Augenstein for the overall FutureBacks Position Player of the Year Award, but we certainly don't think that Valdez was a poor choice by the organization.

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