Padres' 2011 Cal League Player of the Year

Summary: Despite losing their three top players to Double-A at mid-season, the Storm found a way to win their third Cal League title since moving to Lake Elsinore from Palm Springs in 1994.

Offensively, third baseman Jedd Gyorko was a huge part of the team's offensive success and dominated the Cal League in about every offensive category before moving to San Antonio. However the Storm were not a one man show as catcher Jason Hagerty, first baseman Nate Freiman, and the double play combination of Jonathan Galvez and Jeudy Valdez also put up solid offensive numbers at the Diamond and on the road.

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible. For the top prospect, we took into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.

Level: The San Diego Padres High-A affiliate in the California League is mainly comprised of second and third year players. While Lake Elsinore is a pitcher's park by Cal League standards, that's more a reflection of how many stadiums on the circuit bear more resemblance to an X-box game than a baseball stadium. It was the best place to hit in the organization for many years before San Diego moved its AAA team to Tucson.

John Conniff

Player of the Year:3b Jedd Gyorko .365/.429/.638

Gyorko had 124 hits in 81 games with fifty-five of them for extra-bases. He had a 42/64 BB/K ratio and hit .404 with runners in scoring position. His most interesting statistic was runs scored, where he finished fifth on the team with 78 despite leaving the team with two months left to play.

Defensively he split time at third base to get Edison Rincon some repetitions at the hot corner. By all accounts the former West Virginia Mountaineer shortstop was solid, showing good hands and a strong arm.

Runner-up:C Jason Hagerty .311/.386/.518

Hagerty,23, plays the toughest position on the field defensively and was still one of the team's offensive leaders. Among players with 50 games for the Storm, he finished behind only Gyorko in on-base and slugging percentage. The switch-hitting catcher out of the University of Miami has a little more pop from the left than the right side and made good strides this season behind the plate defensively.

Ben Davey

Player of the Year: 3b Jedd Gyorko

Gyorko, 22, was the best offensive player in the Cal League, so it only makes sense that he was the hitter of the year. We all knew he could hit and hit well, but what impressed me most were the two triples and eleven stolen bases in fourteen attempts. This was a guy who some scouts had stated "has average speed for a catcher." Defense will always be an issue, as he has struggled with errors and consistency at third. With Chase Headley, James Darnell, and Logan Forsythe ahead of him at third, Gyorko has already expressed that he is willing to move to another position.

As he said to MadFriars in an earlier interview, "I will play any position that lets me come up to bat."

Runner-up: C Jason Hagerty

It was a tough choice between Hagerty and Edison Rincon, but with Rincon's injury and horrendous defense, the edge had to go to Hagerty. Last year Hagerty was the MVP of the Midwest League. This year, he didn't lose a beat in the Cal League and a .903 OPS from a catcher says it all. However he will need to work on his defense if he wants to stay behind the plate as he goes further up the ladder.

David Jay

Player of the Year: 3B Jedd Gyorko

At the time of his promotion to San Antonio, Gyorko led the club in every hitting category. More than six weeks after he had departed, his 35 doubles and 18 homers still topped the Storm leader boards. He quite simply outclassed the rest of the league.

Runner-up: 1B Nate Freiman

There are plenty of guys who rank higher on prospect lists among Nate's teammates, several of whom put up better ratio numbers in their time in Elsinore. But I'm taking the giant Dukie first baseman here because he was a year-long force in the lineup for the Storm. Freiman, a 24-year-old bat-only prospect, led the club with 22 homers and 158 hits, and finished second in the CAL League with 111 RBIs. The clock is ticking for the big guy, but it's hard not to root for him and hope that he keeps on advancing.

Others of note: The up-the-middle tandem of shortstop Jeudy Valdez (.295/.339/.481 with 15 homers and 34 stolen bases) and second baseman Jonathan Galvez (.291/.355/.465, 13 home runs and 37 steals) were excellent all year. Though both continue to struggle defensively, each is just 20 years old and has plenty of athleticism to dream on. Third baseman Edinson Rincon, another 20 year old, hit extremely well (.329/.394/.497) despite missing considerable time with an injury. However, his defense makes Galvez and Valdez look like Gold Glovers, and it is hard to see how the club can put off shifting him to a corner outfield spot any longer. With that move, he will need to translate his immense power into games a bit more effectively. Reymond Fuentes stole 41 bases for the Storm but will need to improve upon a .342 on-base percentage. Tommy Medica provided a much needed addition to the offense mid-season, but another injury to his shoulder this year kept him from fielding a position at all for the Storm.

2011 MadFriars' Lake Elsinore Storm Player of the Year: Jedd Gyorko

Top Prospect: 3b Jedd Gyorko

While he had a hiccup after reaching San Antonio, Gyorko rebounded over the last four weeks of the campaign. Last year, the new scouting and player development regime took a bit of flack for the pick, but he has clearly lived up to having one of the top hit tools in his draft class and could be arguing for a spot on the big league roster by the 2012 All-Star break.

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