The Best and Brightest

As the Dodgers Dugout and LADugout.com have done for the past 25 seasons, we select the most valuable player and the top pitcher from each minor league club. Decisions were made only on the 2009 results. Our top-40 minor league players feature will begin later in December.

The Albuquerque Isotopes, led by manager Tim Wallach who was selected as the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year, led the league for 80 consecutive days, setting a new team record. The club finished in first place in the American Southern League Division with and 80-64 record but were swept 3-0 by Memphis in the first round of the post-season.

The club set a single-season franchise record by drawing 602,129 fans and also set a single-game mark of 15,358 in their first season as an affiliate of the Dodgers since 2000.

Infielder Hector Luna led he club with a .351 average, Tony Abreu hit .351 and Chin-lung Hu had 146 hits and finished with a roar, hitting .352 over the 47 games following the All-Star break.

But the Most Valuable Player award goes to Mitch Jones, who was named to the All-Pacific League All-Star team and won the Joe Bauman Home Run Award, given to the player with the most home runs. Jones slugged 35 round trippers and he set a team record with three grand slams. He topped the league with a slugging average of .651 and ranked second in the league with 103 RBI.

In the pitching department, Carlos Alvarado finished with a 13-10 record and struck out a league-leading 139 over 152 innings. Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger won 11 games, for of them complete games. Reliever Hyang-Nam Choi finished with a 9-2 record and a 2.34 earned run average over 33 appearances and fanned 77 in 52 innings.

Josh Lindblom was promoted from Chattanooga and didn't miss a beat as he moved up to a higher league. He finished 3-0 with a 2.54 earned run average in 20 games, three of them starts. He allowed 34 hits and struck out 36 over his 39 innings.

However, the Top Pitcher Award goes to Scott Strickland, who was named to the All-PCL team after recording a league-leading 32 saves -- a new Albuquerque record -- and posting a 2.98 ERA over 50 games

The Chattanooga Lookouts were managed by John Valentin, who moved up from Inland Empire in 2008. They finished 65-74, third overall, recording a 30-39 first half and a 33-35 second half and were in the battle for a playoff slot the second half until the final days of the season.

The Lookouts placed six on the mid-season all-star team, including 3b Josh Bell, SS Justin sellers, OF James Tomlin and Andrew Lambo plus catcher Lucas May.

Tomlin led the club with a .315 average and a .401 on-base percentage, stole a dozen bases. Bell posted a .296 average with 30 doubles and 11 home runs plus a .501 slugging average over 94 games and was the MVP of the all-star game before being traded to Baltimore in the deal that brought George Sherrill to the Dodgers.

Sellers had 27 doubles and 50 runs batted in and May hit .306 and Andrew Lambo, 20, slammed 39 doubles and scored 70 runs.

The Most Valuable Player was 1b Russell Mitchell who struggled over the first half of the season, then came on strong to hit .297 the second half and lead the team with 13 home runs and 63 runs batted in. His performance nearly secured a playoff spot for the Lookouts.

RHP Travis Chick led the team with eight wins and 98 strikeouts over 23 games, 21 of them starts. Brent Leach dominated the league with a 0.69 earned run average before being promoted to Albuquerque and had 38 appearances with the Dodgers. LHP James Adkins and RHP Jesus Castillo each earned Southern Pitcher of the Week honors.

The top pitcher, and the Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Scott Elbert was the Lookouts Top Pitcher, making 11 starts and over 62 innings struck out 87 Southern League batters. He was selected to the mid-season all-star game but didn't not make an appearance because he was promoted to Albuquerque. He had four stints with the Dodgers, going 2-0 over 18 games in relief.

Inland Empire 66ers were managed by Carlos Subero during his first season in the Dodgers organization after managing Double-A Birmingham for the White Sox in 2008. The Sixers struggled during the 2009 season, finishing 59-81 overall and in fourth place in the five-team division.

Outfielder Trayvon Robinson represented Inland Empire in the California League all-star game and ranked second in the league with 43 steals and hit .306 before being promoted to Chattanooga late in the season. 3b Pedro Baez was a member of the XM All-Star Futures Game at St. Louis and was hitting .286 with 20 homers and 61 runs batted in over 79 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Scott Van Slyke captured Most Valuable honors with a break-out season that saw him become he fist player in San Bernardino history to hit 40+ doubles (he hit 42), 20+ homers (he hit 23) and knock in 100 runs. He set a new club record in doubles and tied for second in the league with 18 outfield assists. He played in three games for Albuquerque late in the season.

RHP Albert Bastardo ran up a 6-2, 3.84 record with 71 strikeouts in 75 innings before being promoted to Chattanooga on June 23. Steve Johnson was 8-4, 3.82 before going with Bell in the trade with Baltimore. Joe Torres drew attention later in the season while posting an 0.98 ERA over 13 games and striking out 17 in 18 innings.

RHP Tim Sexton, who represented the team in the mid-season all-star game, suffered through a tough-luck season that saw him tagged with an 8-14 record despite a 3.96 earned run average. He worked in 27 games, 22 of them starts.

Young Chris Withrow earned the Top Pitcher Award after he struck out 105 in 86 innings over 19 games, 16 of them starts, before he was whisked away to Chattanooga where he had a 3.93 ERA and 26 more strikeouts in 27 innings.

Juan Bustabad led the Great Lakes Loons to an 81-59 record during he 2009 season and the first playoff berth in the franchise history. They topped West Michigan the first series before losing to Fort Wayne in the semi-finals. During the season "Busty" won his 600th minor league game and over seven seasons had won 362 games for the Dodgers.

No less than seven Loons were on the mid-season all-star team, including ss Dee Gordon, OF Kyle Russell, 2b Jaime Pedroza and catcher Tony Delmonico.

Delmonico hit .285 with nine homers and 43 RBI while learning the complicated craft of catching after being drafted as an infielder. Pedroza continued to demonstrated remarkable power with 36 doubles 6 triples and 15 home runs while leading the Dodgers minor leaguers with 100 runs scored and knocking in 78 runs.

Gordon and Russell were co-Most Valuable Players in the Mid-West League. Russell led the league with 26 homers and 102 runs batted in, plus 39 doubles, seven triples, a .272 average, .371 on-base percentage and a .545 slugging average. In addition he stole 20 bases in 22 attempts.

Dee Gordon is awarded the Most Valuable Player award by a small margin over Russell. Gordon Hit .301 with 96 runs, 162 hits, 12 triples and 73 stolen bases in 98 attempts. He was a starter on the mid-season all-star game and names shortstop on the league's post-season all-star team. He was the Midwest League Prospect of the Year and the Dodgers made him their Branch Rickey Award winner as the Minor League Player of the Year.

RHPs Javy Guerra and Jon Michael Redding had fine performances during the 2009 season and both represented the Loons at the mid-season all-star game. Guerra posted a 3-1, 1,54 recored over 28 relief appearances and earned 16 saves. Redding crafted a remarkable 16-3 record over 26 starts.

Bobby Blivens won 11 games and Luis Garcia was 5-3 with a 2.92 ERA.

But Josh Walter was 10-4 with a 3.27 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 110 innings and allowed only 92 hits to earned the Top Pitcher award.

Tomorrow-- The Short Season "Best and Brightest" Awards.

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