We Honor The Best and Brightest
LAS VEGAS- Just as it has become the case for several seasons now, the 51's started strong, then drifted as players came and went, to wind up trailing the field with a 67-77 record.
In all, 58 players wore the uniform but no one stood out more than Delwyn Young. The outfielder was a force throughout with a .337 average, a modern Pacific Coast League record 54 doubles, 17 home runs and 97 runs batted in. Quite a performance which easily gains him the Most Valuable Player award.
As for pitching, righthander Eric Hull did get the call to Los Angeles a couple of times and no wonder, for he has a standout on a mound staff that frankly didn't have a lot of success. He did, though, with 11 saves, a 4-3 record and a 2.74 ERA for a club where most pitchers were fortunate to keep the opposition down to around four runs per game. He more than earned the Most Valuable Pitcher award.
JACKSONVILLE- John Shoemaker's team was a winning one with an 80-60 record although that didn't get them into the playoffs as they just missed visional titles in both halves.
There was a lot of coming and going on this club, to, and one of those was shortstop Chin-lung Hu but the native of Taiwan did so well in the 82 games he played for the Suns, he gets the nod over outfielder Xavier Paul and catcher A. J. Ellis.
Hu, who more than incidentally was also the MVP in the Futures Game, was the only member of the team to gain post-season All-Star honors, doing that by hitting .329, leading his team with 20 doubles and stealing 12 bases. He also played superbly in the field.
The pitcher was another who like Hu, gained promotions, first to Las Vegas and then eventually to Los Angeles but who was so strong before leaving that his performance should be recognized.
Righthander Jon Meloan, in his first full season as a closer, saved 19 games, held opposing hitters to a measly .155 average, compiled a 5-2 record with a 2.18 ERA and struck out 70 batters in 45 innings.
Quite a showing so he's the Most Valuable Pitcher although recognition should be paid to Justin Orenduff and James McDonald, the latter coming up from below for some strong showings.
INLAND EMPIRE- Another winning team which, under first-year manager Dave Collins made the post-season as a wild card team after tying for the divisional title in the first half. In all the 66ers went 70-67.
The MVP award goes to outfielder Jamie Hoffmann, who hit a team-leading .309 with nine home runs and a .455 slugging percentage. He also stole 19 bases and was a catalyst in rallies all season long. He just edged shortstop Ivan De Jesus, Jr. and infielder Russell Mitchell, who played both first and third, for the honor.
The pitching award was a toughie. Kyle Wilson was noteworthy in relief but was hurt a lot. McDonald came on strong but was promoted. In the end it goes to the staff's workhorse, righthander Marlon Arias who won 12 games while losing only four. Among his triumphs was a no-hitter. True, he had some bad games as his 5.32 ERA reflects, but he was on a lot more than he was off and he worked more and did more than any other.
GREAT LAKES- The best thing about the Great Lakes season was the attendance where the brand-new franchise in Michigan drew more than five times as many fans as came to see Columbus, the one it replaced in the system. They got to see a team that had troubles getting going, finishing 57-82 with manager Lance Parrish ultimately being dismissed.
The steadiest of the Loons hitters was first baseman Eddie Perez who hit .311 with 14 home runs . He thus become the MVP -- finishing just ahead of third baseman Josh Bell and outfielder Matt Berezay, both of whom made strong statements.
The pitcher was the organization's wonderboy, righthander Clayton Kershaw who achieved much before being promoted to Jacksonville. His 7-5 record really doesn't tell the story for he posted a 2.77 ERA, held batters to a lowly .203 mark and struck out 134 in 97.1 innings. All this without getting the greatest run or fielding support.
OGDEN- A late surge brought Jeff Carter's team closer to respectability but they never truly contended and in the end compiled an overall record of 34-41.
There were some individual standout performances on offense, though, with shortstop Jaime Pedroza and outfielder Erik Kanaby getting lots of consideration.
Nosing them out for the Most Valuable Player distinction in the end was outfielder Jovanny Rosario, the lazer-quick Dominican leadoff man who hit .331, stole 22 bases and led the team with 93 hits. He 's a member of the Pioneer League All-Star team.
The pitching wasn't nearly as reliable with some very uneven performances. The steadiest overall was righthander Michael Gardner, who compiled a 6-5 record and a 3.93 ERA while leading the team in innings pitched (84.2) He just missed a no-hitter on one occasion and gets the nod over closer Johnny Caraballo, who saved 10 games.
GULF COAST DODGERS- The winningest team in the organization, manager Juan Bustabad's club was 40-15 for the regular season and went to the last game of the championship series before losing the league title to the Yankees.
With a team like that there were several standouts but none more so than left fielder Alfredo Silverio , who led the league in batting with a .373 average and in runs batted in with 46. Silverio also played very well in the field.
Tribute also should be paid to right fielder Andrew Lambo, catcher Keyter Collado, shortstop Joe Becker and third baseman Pedro Baez, all with big years.
When Kyle Smit was promoted to Great Lakes, righthander Daigaro Rondon took over as the No. one pitcher on the staff and more than earned Most Valuable Pitcher. He led them with a 7-2 record, posted a 2.77 ERA and most remarkably struck out 59 batters in 65 innings while walking only four.
DOMINICAN DODGERS- This team, which was 12 games under .500 in 2006, turned matters completely around by finishing 19 games above that mark with a 43-24 record. That wasn't quite good enough for the division title which would have gained them the playoffs but it was a most satisfying comeback all the same.
They did this without a lot of offense with only one star in that department, really, shortstop Pedro Guerrero who hit .288 while tying for the team lead in doubles (11) and runs batted in with 28.
The pitching was exceptional with any number of strong showings. Compiling almost identical records were righthander Gari Tavarez and lefthander Geison Aguasviva. Tavarez was 9-3, 1.49 with 71 strikeouts in 66.2 innings and Aguasviva went 8-2, 1.50 with 69 K's in 66 innings. How do you separate the two? We won't so give them equal billing as co-Most Valuable Pitchers.
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