The Jaxx won their division in the first half of the season, carried by a group of players who mostly moved on to AAA Tacoma in the second half. The Jaxx fell all the way back to fourth place in the second half and then were swept in three games by Carolina in the Southern League playoffs.
West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (70-68, 3rd in Southern League North)
Wilson and Moore brought different things to the table, but both were key to the success of the team in 2008. Wilson set a club record with 27 home runs and led the team in runs scored (76) and RBI (84). He even stole nine bases. Wilson also led the team with a .938 OPS, which included a .388 on-base percentage. Moore, meanwhile, continued a trend of Mariner catchers putting up big offensive numbers. Playing in 119 of 138 games, Moore racked up a team-high 137 hits, 34 doubles, and .319 batting average. He was second on the team in home runs (14) and RBI (71). Unfortunately, Moore is stuck behind a slew of other catchers in the organization, meaning that his true value may come as a bargaining chip as the M's attempt to rebuild.
Pitching MVP: Justin Thomas
The Youngstown State alum was somewhat inconsistent all year, thanks to tendency for poor command to rear its ugly head, but overall showed the most promise of the Jaxx's starting staff, with 106 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings and a 59% GB rate. However, it looks as if Thomas may be headed to a career as a reliever. The 6'3" left-hander stymied lefty hitters all season, and it led to the decision to begin grooming him as a lefty specialist. He moved up to Tacoma in mid-August and struck out 17 hitters in 12 innings, while holding left-handers to a .136 average. All this led to a promotion to the Mariners, where Thomas is currently being used in late-inning situations against tough left-handed hitters.
Most Pleasant Surprise, Offensive: Johan Limonta, 1B-OF
The sweet-swinging Cuba native started the season down in High Desert, but made it clear early that he had outgrown the A level. Although many hitters have a tough time making the adjustment, especially since offensive numbers are easier to come by in the California League, Limonta put up very similar numbers at the AA level. His 32 doubles and 10 home runs in 98 games helped him to a .501 slugging percentage, and he got on base at a .366 clip. Limonta also did his part to help the team any way possible, moving to the outfield when the team needed help at the position.
Most Pleasant Surprise, Pitching: Shawn Kelley
Kelley cruised his way through the M's system this year, moving from Wisconsin to High Desert, and finally to the Diamond Jaxx. The 24-year-old righty out of Austin Peay was the M's 13th-round pick in 2007 and has been successful at each level as climbs the ladder. In 12 innings in the thin air of High Desert, Kelly didn't allow an earned run. He moved into the closer role right away in West Tenn and went all of June (10 1/3 innings) without allowing a run. He hit a bit of a swoon, comparatively speaking, in August when he posted a 4.11 ERA, but Kelley has likely earned himself another promotion going into next season. In 42 2/3 innings with the Jaxx, Kelley had a 2.11 ERA, nine saves, and 44 strikeouts. He gave up just 31 hits and only two home runs.
Biggest Disappointment, Offensive: Matt Mangini, 3B
Expectations were high for Mangini, who was the 52nd overall pick in the 2007 draft after a fine season at Oklahoma State. He never really got off the ground last year, but put up decent numbers in a 52-game stint with High Desert to start this season. The M's figured that Mangini had enough of the A level and promoted him to West Tenn. But Mangini had what can only be described as a disastrous stint with the Jaxx. He hit just .202 with a .247 OBP and hideious .248 SLG in 238 at-bats. Of his 48 hits, just seven (five doubles and two homers) were extra-base hits. The Mariners had hoped Mangini might be ready for AAA ball next season, but he's now a big question mark going into 2009.
Biggest Disappointment, Pitching: Doug Fister
If the season were only two months long, Fister would've been one of the top pitchers in the organization. But in the final three months, everything went horribly wrong. Once the most reliable starter on the team, Fister found himself in the bullpen in August to try and get the ship righted. In 62 2/3 innings over the last three months of the season, Fister allowed 64 earned runs and opposing batters hit .350 against him. He went 0-9 in his last 11 starts, and wound up with a 6-14 record on the season with a 5.43 ERA.