2015 MadFriars' MWL Player of the Year

Summary: The TinCaps were again one of the youngest teams in the league. After a rough April and May, they found their groove and turned into one of the better stories in the Padres’ system as they qualified for their seventh straight playoff appearance before falling in the first round.

The team saw the emergence of Nick Torres as a corner outfield prospect and two middle infielders, Ruddy Giron and Luis Urias who didn’t break camp with the TinCaps ended up being some of the better players in the league.

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.

John Conniff

Player of the Year: OF Nick Torres .326/.378/.462

After a so-so season with short-season Eugene, Torres came back and established himself as a professional hitter with the TinCaps before being promoted to Lake Elsinore in mid-July. He ended up finishing second overall in the minor leagues with 44 doubles, and if he can get a few more over the fence in 2016, he’s going to have a chance at a major league corner outfield spot.

Runner-up: SS Ruddy Giron .285/.335/.407

As with Jake Bauers last season, Giron, started off red-hot hitting .383/.442/.602 in the first half in 146 plate appearances, but slumped to .233/.277/.304 in the second in 269 plate appearances. So why is he the runner-up? Because the TinCaps team began to turn around their season once he was inserted everyday into the line-up bringing much needed defensive stability to the infield after Franchy Cordero proved for the second straight year he can’t play shortstop.

He finished with 110 hits in 96 games and showed some pop with nine home runs, which was good enough for second on the team.

Ben Davey

Player of the Year: OF Nick Torres

The TinCaps were an awful team at the start of the season, with the lone bright spot being Nick Torres. While the rest of the team struggled to hit over .200 in April, Torres hit a blistering .324/.387/.500. What was more impressive still, is that he remained consistent the entire season, posting at least a .300 batting average and .785 OPS in every month until his promotion. Even with only playing half a season in Fort Wayne, Torres still finished second on the team in doubles, and combined with his numbers in Lake Elsinore finished second in all of baseball. Torres is a quality corner outfielder who reminds me a lot of Yonder Alonso. He should begin next season in San Antonio, and will have a chance to really prove himself at a higher level as a legitimate prospect.

Runner-up: SS Rudy Giron

As John already pointed out, the season turned around when Giron joined the team. Giron finished second on the team in home runs and third in stolen bases. He has both speed and power that can translate at a higher level to really make him a top prospect. Some scouts wonder about his ability to stay at short, but if he can continue to develop and grow, as he is just 18, Giron should shoot up the prospect leaderboard and end up being a top 100 overall prospect by the time he gets the call to San Diego.

Kevin Charity

Player of the Year: OF Nick Torres

It’s hard to put anyone here but Torres. Torres, 22, only played in 77 games, but was easily the best player to grace Fort Wayne all season. Torres hit a robust .326 – which would have led the league, if he had enough at-bats. While Torres has gap power, in order to further establish himself as a big-time prospect, he will need to get some of the doubles over the wall. Torres could be what Billy Butler was supposed to be: a .280 hitter who hits 20 home runs and 40 doubles each year. Playing in San Antonio probably won’t help his homer totals, but he could end up reaching Triple-A next season, similar to the path that Hunter Renfroe has taken.

Runner-up: 1B Trae Santos .264/.359/.455

Like my peers, I almost went with Ruddy Giron because he is the ‘sexier’ prospect, but one cannot deny the progress of first baseman Trae Santos. Santos, 22, had two uninspiring seasons in the Northwest League, and didn’t figure to be much of anything in Fort Wayne. Instead, Santos was one of the best players on the squad. Santos finished in the Top Ten in the Midwest League in home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Heck, he even contributed a pair of scoreless outings on the mound. Santos’ power should further develop in the California League next season.

David Jay

Player of the Year: OF Nick Torres

Torres is a true right fielder whose sum is greater than the already-impressive parts. While it would be nice to give this nod to someone who had more exposure to the league, Torres clearly earned the promotion to Elsinore. The 22-year-old out of Cal Poly will need to draw a few more walks and has to find a way to add some loft to his swing without sacrificing his quick-to-the-ball approach, but those are challenges for the future. In his first full season, Torres did more than enough to assert himself as a prospect to watch.

Runner-up: SS Ruddy Giron

While there were certainly some kinks to work out on both sides of the ball, there just aren’t that many 18-year-olds who perform the way Giron did in the Midwest League. The Dominican showed a very good approach at the plate and flashed his developing power. He still has some work to do to turn natural abilities into on-field skills, particularly in the defensive and baserunning elements of the game, but Giron put himself on the map with an impressive full-season campaign.

Others of Note: Fellow mid-season promotee Luis Urias was the only player younger than Giron in the league. The Mexican national is much less physically developed and will likely move over to second base full-time in 2016, but acquitted himself quite well after arriving in the Midwest League a month after his 18th birthday. He showed remarkable ability to make solid contact, striking out only 18 times in 210 trips to the plate. His physical development will be the key going forward. … When the Padres took Michael Gettys with their second-round pick in 2014, the scouting report was that he had all the tools and physicality, but he’d struggle to make consistent contact. That’s exactly what the 19-year-old showed in his full-season debut. Gettys had 39 extra-base hits, swiped 20 bags and showed plus defense in both center and right field. He also struck out 162 times in 529 plate appearances. The club’s new development regime will be measured in large part on whether they can help the talented Georgian develop into a big-league regular. …Officially signed the day after he turned 17 in 2010, Edwin Moreno has taken some time to put things together. But the left-handed outfielder really performed in his first extended look at regular playing time. Moreno hit .333/.368/.475 after the break and has put himself in position to start in Elsinore next spring. … The Franchy Cordero experiment at shortstop was finally put to a merciful end in May. The final record will show he committed 82 errors in 966 innings since arriving in the U.S. After moving to the outfield, the athletic 21-year-old’s performance at the plate stabilized somewhat as well. Next year will be an important one for Cordero to demonstrate he can take his latent ability into games with him more consistently. … Luis Tejada spent the first half of the year in Peoria, learning to play third base. When he rejoined the TinCaps in June, he acquitted himself well on both sides of the ball. He’ll get a chance to add some power to his game with the Storm next year. … It was a disappointing year for Franmil Reyes, but the massive right fielder finished with a flourish, claiming Midwest League hitter of the week honors for the last week of the season, raising his OPS for the season 52 points in the process. … Though he got some ink above, it’s worth pointing out just how far Trae Santos has come over the last 12 months. The Alabama-raised Guamanian first baseman dropped 60 pounds before the season, put in all the work the organization asked of him, and was the anchor in the middle of the TinCaps’ lineup this season. He still has plenty of questions to answer going forward, but deserves all the credit in the world for what he did this year.

MadFriars’ 2015 Fort Wayne TinCaps Players of the Year: Nick Torres

Top Prospect: Ruddy Giron

Already a physically mature player at 18 years old, Giron is also a natural leader on the field. Obviously, the second-half struggles are troubling, but to some extent that’s nitpicking after a stellar start. Giron may ultimately grow out of the position at shortstop, but he showed enough blossoming power to make him a viable prospect at third base too. He’ll be one of the organization’s top storylines in 2016.

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