The Best and Brightest - 2008

At the end of each Minor League season, LADugout.com presents its "Best and Brightest" awards to the most valuable player and top pitcher on each of the farm clubs. We herewith present the 2008 top performers for each of the seven teams.

LAS VEGAS 51s
In the final season at Las Vegas, the 51s finished 74-69 in the Pacific Coast League and in second place 8.5 games behind the first Place Sacramento club. Manager Lorenzo Bundy improved on the 2007 standings, winning seven more games and jumping from fourth place to second.

There was a number of players who excelled with the bat during the season -- The 51s hit .301 as a team -- with John Lindsey topping the charts with 26 home runs and 100 runs batted in. He sported a .557 slugging average and .964 on-base percentage to give him an on-base plus slugging total of .964. He hit .316 with 36 doubles and had a team-high 63 walks.

Xavier Paul hit .316 with 28 doubles, nine homers and 68 runs batted in over 115 games. He hit .336 with runners in scoring position, .347 after the All-Star break and topped off the season with a .370 mark the final month.

The MVP is third baseman Terry Tiffee, who hit .378 -- tops in the PCL and Los Angeles system. He had a 39 doubles, a .416 on-base percentage, a .561 slugging percentage and an on-base plus slugging mark of .977, leading all franchise hitters in those categories.

In the pitching department, Dwayne Pollok was the jack of all trades, working in 40 games, starting eight times, recording a 10-5 won-lost mark and earning four saves over a team-leading 136 innings.

Veteran Eric Stults was 7-7, 3.82 over 20 starts and led the 51s with 102 strikeouts in 117.2 innings. He also made seven starts for the Dodgers and fashioned a 3.49 ERA.

The top pitcher is Jason Johnson, who was 11-5 with a 3.82 earned run average in 20 games, 16 of them starts. The veteran was selected for the PCL All-Star game but did not appear due to his promotion to the Dodgers where he worked in 14 games and made six starts.

JACKSONVILLE SUNS
Manager John Shoemaker guided his young team to a 68-72 record and fourth place finish overall. The club went 20-10 over the final month of the season, including wins in 11 of the final 12 games.

Adolpho Gonzalez was named the Utility Man on the Post-Season All-Star Team after hitting .298 and playing all four infield positions during the year in addition to left field. To add to his resumé, he pitched seven times in relief.

Russell Mitchell led the Suns with 16 home runs and 75 RBI. James Tomlin topped the team with 31 doubles and was second with a .313 average.

The winner of he MVP Award is shortstop Ivan De Jesus who hit .324 with a league-leading .419 on base percentage. He was second in the league with 76 walks and had a team-high 150 hits. He was selected to the All-Star team but played instead in the All-Stars Futures Game in New York.

Clayton Kershaw was 2-3 in 13 games despite a 1.91 earned run average and limiting the opposition to a .179 batting average. He was called up to the Dodgers and finished 6-9 over 21 starts.

Relief pitcher Scott Elbert had a 4-1 recored and a 2.40 earned run average, the top mark for a reliever in the system, while working in 25 games and struck out 46 in 41.1 innings. Marlon Arias and Jesus Castillo led the club with seven wins, with Castillo posting a 3.24 ERA.

The top pitcher on the staff was James McDonald, who went 5-3, 3.19 in 22 starts and led the team with 113 strikeouts. He was moved up to Las Vegas where he was 2-1, 3.63 an then on to L.A. where he didn't allow a run in either his six appearances in regular season or his 5.1 innings in the playoffs, where he struck out seven more.

INLAND EMPIRE 66ERS
Manager John Valentin, who made his Dodgers minor league managerial debut after 11 years in the Major Leagues, went 68-73 overall but was 38-34 in the second half of the season and won a 13-inning, 7-6 one-game playoff to earn the wild card berth in the California League playoffs.

Andrew Locke led the team with a .311 average, 146 hits and 37 doubles, adding 85 runs batted in. Shortstop Jaime Pedroza had a .290 average, a .342 on base percentage, 31 doubles, 11 home runs and stole 25 bases, while Austin Gallagher hit .293 with 33 doubles in only 90 games.

The winner was catcher Carlos Santana who led the club through most of the season and was then traded to Cleveland in the Casey Blake deal. He left with a .323 average, 36 doubles, 14 hits and 96 runs batted in and finished with a .994 OBP.

Josh Wall led the team with nine wins and 101 strikeouts over 25 starts. Tim Sexton was the workhorse, making 26 starts and working 141.2 innings. Cody White was 6-3, 3.28 in 112 games before being promoted to Jacksonville.

The top pitcher award goes to closer Paul Koss, who saved 14 of 17 opportunities and struck out 66 in 69.1 innings, limiting right handed hitters to a .219 average.

GREAT LAKES LOONS
Juan Bustabad led the young Loons to a .500 mark through May and had a 30-39 record in the first half but finished at 54-85 and last in the Midwest League.

The Loons put four men on the mid-season All-Star team, catcher Kenley Jansen, OF Andrew Lambo and right-handed pitchers Steven Johnson and Miguel Ramirez.

Outfielder Jovanny Rosario was fifth in the league with 39 stolen bases and finished the season with a .270 mark and seven triples. Alfredo Silverio hit .263 with 29 extra-base hits.

The winner was 19-year-old outfielder Andrew Lambo who led the team with a .280 average, a .462 slugging average and an OPS of .808. He also topped the club with 33 doubles, 15 home runs and 79 runs batted in. Promoted to Jacksonville, hit hit .389 in eight games.

The pitching department is a little difficult. A number of pitchers did well, then moved up to Inland Empire.

Rookie Josh Lindblom allowed only a 1.86 ERA over eight starts and struck out 33 in 29 innings. Justin Mille worked 140 innings and had a 3.99 ERA. Miguel Sanfler was tough in relief, posting a 3.95 ERA over 38 games and fanned over one per inning. Miguel Ramirez saved 20 games, most in the system, but was 2-9 with a 4.29 earned run average.

The decision came down to 20-year-old Steve Johnson who was 9-2 with a 2.34 earned run average and Victor Garate, who was 6-3 with a 1.85 earned run average and 103 strikeouts in 77.2 innings before moving up the chain.

Victor Garate, who led the system in earned run average (2.79), strikeouts (150) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.64) won the MVP crown by a nose over Johnson.

OGDEN RAPTORS
Mike Brumley, in his first season as manager in the Dodgers system, led the Raptors to a 42-33 mark, including a 23-14 second half, and the Wild Card berth in the Pioneer League. Ogden had started the season 0-8 and then went 19-11 to finish the first half at .500.

The club was stuffed with 2008 draft selections, including #3 Kyle Russell. #4 Devaris Gordon and #6 Tony Delmonico. Russell posted a .534 slugging average and a team-leading 13 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs. Gordon led the team with 83 hits, and 18 stolen bases while being caught just five times. Pedro Baez slugged a dozen home runs and knocked in 50 runs while Travis Vetters hit an astounding .404 while playing in just 37 games.

But the top player was Tony Delmonico who hit .340 with 31 extra base hits and 39 RBI in 35 games and added 20 doubles and 11 home runs, including six in the final 10 games of the season. He hit .372 with runners in scoring position.

Rookie reliever Cole St. Claire (#7) saved five games and had a 3.18 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 17 innings. Jonathan Dutton won nine games to tie for the League Lead with teammate Michael Watt, and Luis Garcia saved nine games and was 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA.

The top pitcher award went to Geison Aguasviva, in his third season with the franchise and his first in the United States, who was 3-4 in 13 starts and a 2.90 ERA. He struck out 60 in 71.1 innings.

GULF COAST DODGERS
Jeff Carter was also in his first season as a manager in the Dodgers system and he took the Coasties to a 30-26 record and third place in the league. His team roared out to a big lead in the standings, winning 13 of the first 15, then when the rains came and cost his young team the continuity of a game every day, they slid into third place.

Rafael Ynoa hit .306 with 21 runs batted in, Ramon Jean hit .279 with 31 hits and a team-leading 10 steals, and Chris Jacobs hit .271 with a team-leading 39 hits but the MVP of the team was Jerry Sands, the #25 pick in the 2008 draft, who finished second in the league with 10 home runs and third with 33 runs batted in despite a .205 batting average.

The top pitcher award goes to Edwin Conteras who was fourth in the league with a 2.30 ERA and fifth in the league with a 5-0 record. RHP Elisaul Pimentel was fifth with a 2.41 earned run average. 17-year-old Luis Ferreras allowed one run in 12 innings and was promoted to Great Lakes later in the season. Nate Eovaldi, #11 pick in the draft, allowed one run and fanned nine in eight innings. He finished the season pitching for Ogden.

SANTO DOMINGO DODGERS
Veteran manager Pedro Mega, in his ninth year as manager in the Dominican League, was working with an extremely young squad -- including the five youngest players in the system -- and they struggled most of the season before finishing 11th in the 12-team league with a 27-44 record.

Jerry Castillo hit .285 and led the team with 16 stolen bases, second only to Devaris Gordon of Ogden; 17-year-old Bladimir Franco led the team with five home runs and 18-year-old Marlin Sucre hit .286 and tied for the team lead in triples with four.

The MVP is Enlly Morales, in his first professional season, posted a .292 average, fourth in the Dodgers system, to lead the team. He also collected 73 hits and 23 doubles, both leading figures, and knocked in 27 runs to tie Pedro Tavarez for the top honor.

Antonio Castillo was 3-1, 1.18 with 74 strikeouts in 68.2 innings; Rubby De La Rose did him one better, posting a 1.12 ERA over 14 starts and Daniel Tamares was 3-4, 2.37 in 10 starts.

The top pitching award goes to Charlie Mirabal, who led the team with a 5-2 record and 20 games pitched. He had a 1.99 ERA to go with 39 strikeouts in 31.2 innings, all in relief.

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