Eugene Emeralds Hitter of the Year

Summary: It was a series of disappointments on the hitting side from the first draft class under Jed Hoyer. Some returning hitters improved and there is cause for optimism, as new-to-wood draft picks make the assimilation into pro ball.

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards, whichever team the player appeared at the most determined their eligibility. For the top prospect we took into account of not what the players did this year, but their age and ability to improve.

Level: A league that hat existed in various forms since 1901, it features a mix of college talent acquired in the subsequent draft and high school and Latin American prospects that worked their way up from rookie ball. The Eugene Emeralds were no exception in this mix. Pitchers are generally ahead of hitters in this circuit since the batters must transition from aluminum bats to wood.

Savage Sub-Rosa

Player of the Year:
Wes Cunningham

People wondered if Cunningham could translate success in college into the professional ranks. He proved he is more than able. He was the top threat in a lineup that lacked punch. Cunningham also showed a plus eye, drawing 41 walks, as he didn't take the bait as team's pitched around him. That characteristic bodes well for his future. Instead of pushing the pace and hitting into outs on bad pitches, Cunningham takes what he is given. He can also drive the ball, landing second on the team in extra-base hits and first in RBI.

Chris Tremblay

A concussion late in the year slowed his pace but the 2009 draftee was a consistent force near the top of the order. He also showed more punch this year and was a steady force on defense. Tremblay does need to improve his patience, as he fanned 41 times compared to nine walks. His .320 mark with runners on base was indicative of the player he has become – one that plays without pressure and can make solid contact with the wood.

Conniff Confidential

Player of the Year:
Wes Cunningham

Cunningham, a first baseman at Murray State, showed some versatility in bouncing between the corner outfield positions and first base in his first year in professional ball. He is the classic OPS hitter, he walks (41), whiffs (50 in 248 plate appearances) and when he hits the ball many times it's going to be for extra-bases (18). The left-handed hitting Cunningham is a good athlete; he was recruited as a catcher out of high school, and could even end up at second base in the future; which is better suited to his offensive game.

Rico Noel
Center fielder

Noel, 21, was drafted in the fifth-round of the 2010 draft by the Padres and is the classic leadoff prospect. He gets on base, steals bases, scores runs and has very little power. This season, he posted a very good 25-to-24 BB/K ratio, stole 14 bases in 17 attempts and scored 22 runs in 32 games. There has been talk of converting the 5-foot-9, 175 lbs. outfielder into a switch-hitter to take greater advantage of his speed that could be a difference marker. He has a great eye and could challenge for a stolen base crown next year.

Others of Note: Chris Bisson is a small ball player that does the little things well. He may never hit for power but can move runners and steal bases while playing a smart game. Oscar Garcia may have led the team in hard contacts. He squares up the ball well but ran into some bad luck. Rocky Gale doesn't have much power but produced from the middle of the order. Rico Noel has the speed to be a difference marker. With a great eye, he could challenge for a stolen base crown next year. Houston Slemp, a 10th-rounder, was overmatched this year. He has a lot of holes that need to be fixed.

Manager's Comments: "Extremely competitive, an extreme desire to succeed. He made adjustments from beginning to end both defensively and offensively." – Eugene manager Greg Riddoch on Wes Cunningham.

Top Prospect: Rymer Liriano.

He struggled mightily in the cold weather of Fort Wayne but was much more confident early in Eugene before a dreadful final month. Liriano is a five-tool prospect that must mature in his pitch selection before the power numbers come. He did lead the team in extra-base hits and stole 28 bases across two leagues. Liriano's arm is also an asset. The biggest thing is learning what pitch he can drive and not deviating from that plan.

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