Approach: We use a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible with whichever team he appeared for the most. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: The Midwest League is the first full season league and one of the more challenging to hitters because of the early cold weather. 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 have decent fastball command and the ability to throw a second pitch.
Player of the Year: SS Trea Turner .369/.447/.529
After hitting .228/.324/.283 in Eugene, Turner, 21, exploded in Fort Wayne hitting .478 in his first month with the TinCaps. In 46 games he had 20 extra-base hits to go along with 14 stolen bases in 17 attempts and most importantly, for an infield that saw Franchy Cordero make 18 errors in his first 20 games at shortstop, he stabilized the group defensively with only three errors while showing plus range. Turner, as much as anyone on the team, was responsible for the TinCaps’ late season push into the playoffs.
Runner-up: INF Fernando Perez .284/.322/.454
Perez, 20, saw time this year at first, second and third base while leading the organization with 95 RBI, a franchise record for Fort Wayne, and 18 home runs. The Chula Vista native had a lost season last year where he endured multiple surgeries to his wrist to bounce back this year in the Summit City. He obviously put up good numbers but he’s going to have to become more selective at the plate than 29 walks in 499 plate appearances.
Player of the Year: 1B Jake Bauers .296/.376/.414
Although I liked Turner too, I preferred, as opposed to John, to vote for the player of the year not the player of the month. Despite missing the first month, Bauers still played in over 110 games for the TinCaps and though most of the season was among the leaders in the Midwest League in hitting. He slumped in late July/early August, but considering he was one of the youngest players in the entire league at 18, he has a very bright future.
Runner-up: INF Fernando Perez
Usually when a hitter is not given a specific position, it means that they are barely hanging on to their career. However, the opposite was true for Perez. His bat was so good that the TinCaps did everything they could to get him in everyday. It didn’t matter where he played, he gave solid defense, and until his injury was Top 10 in the MWL in many offensive categories. He came back slow hitting only .240 in July, but still managed to lead the organization in RBI with 95.
Others of Note: 3B Dustin Peterson, 19, finished among the league leaders in RBI with 79 but really struggled in the second half hitting .199/.212/.291 with 38 errors at third base. Hometown hero 2B/SS Josh VanMeter, 19, was much better in the second half (.281) than in the first (.229) and is a sleeper pick for a breakout season next year in Lake Elsinore. CF Ronnie Richardson, 24, is built like a tailback but has quite an eye at the plate with a .401 on-base percentage which was good enough for second in the league. He had 12 stolen bases this year in 17 attempts but is capable of more. He also wasn’t a bad emergency pitcher in his five appearances. OF Nick Schulz, 23, was signed as an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State and just had a great year hitting .341/.386/.545. He hit .444 with runners in scoring position and was a contender for player of the year. C Ryan Miller, 21, may have been going for a little too much at the plate at times but still finished second on the team in home runs with 12 and made some big strides defensively behind the plate. Finally man-child RF Franmil Reyes, 18 (who has to be the biggest teenager in history at six-foot-five and a very solid 250 lbs., showed some promise this year with 38 extra-base hits but also had 118 strikeouts in in 548 plate appearances.
MadFriars’ 2014 Fort Wayne TinCaps Players of the Year: Trea Turner and Jake Bauers
Top Prospect: Trea Turner put himself on the fast track with a big summer in Indiana. While most of us will notice his gaudy offensive numbers first most of the people in the Padres’ organization rave about his defensive ability. Turner doesn’t have a huge arm, but it is there when he needs it and has the ability to get to a lot of balls.
If he gets off to a fast start in Lake Elsinore next year, look for him to spend the second half in San Antonio as the Padres may have found their shortstop of the future.