Level: The Midwest League is the first full season league and one of the more challenging, mainly for the cold weather early in the year. At this level batters are still adjusting to wood bats and learning how to cover the plate. Pitchers with so-so "stuff" can succeed as long as they command their fastball and put it on both sides of the plate.
Player of the Year:
The switch-hitting catcher destroyed Midwest League competition in the second half of the season, hitting .351/.479/.586. Hagerty, 23, posted an excellent 88-to-104 BB-to-K ratio and tied for the team lead in home runs with 14. He showed improvement defensively with a .987 fielding percentage and threw out .341 percent of runners attempting to steal, which was good enough for third in the league. Most impressive statistic; he hit .378 with runners on and two outs.
Big Nate Frieman, 23, at 6-foot-8, 240 lbs. we mean "big". He was the mainstay of the TinCaps throughout most of the year leading the team in total bases, hits (154), extra-base hits (57) and RBI. Frieman crushed left-handed pitching at a .347/.403/.581 He also was the league leader for first basemen in fielding percentage at .993.
Player of the Year:
To hit as well as he did as a switch-hitter is impressive. To do so while improving tremendously as a catcher takes it up another notch. Hagerty can be hard on himself but took a more patient approach in the second half and was rewarded with monster numbers, collecting 27 extra-base hits in a 54-game span. Hagerty also hit better off left-handed pitching, a tough task considering he saw more than three times the number of at-bats off right-handers.
The man with light tower power used an opposite field approach to handle the Midwest League. Once he learns when to pull the ball, he will post some mammoth power numbers in tune with his stature. Few men as big as he can handle the breaking ball so well. The intellectual prodigy can over think situations but 43 doubles, 14 homers and 84 RBI are tough to ignore in a league where pitchers generally have the upper hand.
Others of Note: Jedd Gyorko, 22, slowed down a little after posting a .911 OPS in Eugene, but still hit .284/.366/.389. Even though he played shortstop in college and was drafted as a second baseman, his position as a professional will be at third; where he has shown good footwork and a strong arm. Dominican shortstop Jonathan Galvez, 19, showed some potential with 32 extra-base hits and a .360 on-base percentage but also made 43 errors. Edinson Rincon, 19, put up strong numbers last year in Eugene but was up and down for most of the season. He did provide a glimpse of what could be hitting .326/.382/.500 in June. Additionally he made 36 errors at the hot corner, and where he will end up defensively is very much an open question. Daniel Meeley, 21, was drafted in the 18th-round of this year's draft and was the everyday right fielder for the TinCaps at the end of June, hitting .304/.397/.353.
Manager's Comments: "Obviously, he's got the power and he's only going to get better with more games under his belt and understanding how they're trying to pitch him." – former Fort Wayne manager Jose Flores on Nate Freiman.
Top Prospect (John): Jason Hagerty.
If he can stay at catcher, which may be the most difficult position defensively on the field, he is a prospect. In the second half, he had a 54-to-55 BB-to-K ratio to go along with 32 extra-base hits in a league that favors pitchers. He could put up some spectacular offensive numbers next year in the Cal League where the thin desert air pumps up offensive numbers.
Top Prospect (Denis): Edinson Rincon.
Very few prospects have the pure swing of Rincon. He struggled early playing in the cold weather of the Midwest League and got stronger as the warmer months hit. Rincon was more aggressive this season and that didn't bare fruit. Since he is his own worst critic, he took it hard and found only frustration. There is no doubting his ability to hit, however, at a high clip. He has natural power and high on-base potential. As mentioned earlier, it might be wise to move him to the outfield now but immediate plans are to work him at third base in 2011.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards
Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars