Level: The Triple-A level is fast becoming a combination of development and a taxi squad for major league teams. At this level, there are many players that are good enough to be in the major leagues, just not in the organization they are currently with.
Player of the Year:
The triple crown of achievements, posting double-digit totals in doubles, homers, and triples. His success this season, along with his versatility, led to a callup to San Diego. Showing more power than ever before, Baxter ended the year with a team leading 58 extra-base hits, 72 RBI and 89 runs scored. He also posted a 58-to-76 walk-to-strikeout ratio with 22 steals. Essentially, he did it all for a team that played its best ball in August and September.
One of the better defensive shortstops in the system, Kazmar put together a solid season. One terrible hitting month pushed the numbers lower, as he focused on making solid contact rather than trying to push up the power numbers. He had 34 extra-base hits but the singles where his forte, spraying the ball across the field. Kazmar ended the year with 70 runs scored while hitting .319 with runners in scoring position.
Player of the Year:
Baxter has always been the type of player that no one is really sure where he will play at the beginning of the season, but by the end of the year he is in the line-up everyday. He had a good first half and a great second, hitting .358/.450/.610 with 28 of his 67 hits going for extra-bases. As with most hitters on the team, he was much better on the road, .344/,414/.599, than at home, .250/.345/.418. The versatile Baxter saw significant time at three different positions this year and stole 22 bases in 32 attempts, a career high.
Kazmar has always been one of the system's best defensive players; the only question has been his bat. This year, he had one of his better seasons at the plate since being drafted by the organization in 2004. Kazmar hit lefties at a .318/.359/.447 clip and was particularly tough with the bases loaded, hitting.467 in 15 plate appearances with two grand slams.
Others of Note: Craig Cooper was a disappointment after tearing up the Texas League. Many thought the power would surface but it never came to fruition. Aaron Cunningham was a coveted part of the Kevin Kouzmanoff deal and is showing off in San Diego. Chris Denorfia also made good on a solid spring by becoming a key contributor to the Padres. Luis Durango reached base 154 times but scored just 42 runs. Lance Zawadzki never really got on track in the PCL, hitting .231 with one homer over 61 games.
Manager's Comments: "He's just been getting stronger every year and he's one of the best guys that we have for preparing himself for every game and really working to get better. With Mike right now it's more of just a question of polishing. The diamond has been cut." – Portland Beavers manager Terry Kennedy on Mike Baxter.
Top Prospect (Denis): Luis Durango.
Durango remains an exciting prospect that reaches base at a healthy clip and continues to improve. His defensive range and arm have advanced to capable levels and his base stealing has also seen growth, although there is room to progress in all facets. Durango has great hand-eye coordination and will get himself out by making weak contact on bad pitches. He needs to improve his pitch selection, despite the 45-to-59 walk-to-strikeout ratio. With his slap game, his strike zone should be small, taking advantage of his comfort zone to smack the ball around the field.
Top Prospect (John): Mike Baxter.
There really wasn't any sure fire prospect with the Beavers this year that would be in line for a starting spot with next year's club in San Diego, but Baxter is someone that could find his way into a lineup simply because he offers so many options. He can play both outfield corners, first base and has even seen time at center, catcher and third with the organization. At the plate, he has shown patience and power in the past two years and is a good enough athlete to be a threat on the bases.
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