Fort Wayne Wizards Hitter of the Year

Summary: Fort Wayne is a brutal place to hit, this year only six players in the entire league were able to hit over .300. The Wizards finished the season at 71-69 and injuries to Drew Cumberland and Danny Payne hurt the offense.

The team still featured more offense and speed than Wizards fans were used to seeing and the double play combination of Drew Cumberland and Lance Zawadzki should progress up the system for a few years to come.

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards, whichever team the player appeared at the most determined their eligibility. For the top prospect we took into account not only what the players did this year, but their age and potential to improve.

Conniff Confidential

Player of the Year: Lance Zawadzki
Shortstop - .273/.352/.399

Runner-Up: Luis Durango
Outfielder - .305/.396/.365

When the Padres drafted Zawadzki in the 4th round of the 2007 draft it was considered both a steal and a bit of a reach. Zawadzki, 23, has always been regarded as a five-tool player the problem is a combination of injuries and multiple colleges hadn't really provided him an opportunity to demonstrate it.

This year in the Midwest League he started off slowly but in the second half hit .292/.370/.442. Zawadzki led the team in stolen bases with 28 in 31 attempts, hits (124), total bases (181), and extra base hits (38), second in walks, third in slugging percentage and second in OPS. Defensively he also led the team with 32 errors, due mostly to poor footwork. However the tools, quickness, speed and a cannon arm are there, it's just a question of putting them together.

The saying goes that there are a few things in life that are certain, death and taxes. Another item that should be put on the list is if you put Durango in a league long enough, he is going to hit. Durango won batting titles in the Arizona and Northwest Leagues, and if he stuck around the Midwest League long enough he might have won one here too.

He led the Wizards in batting average, OBP and OPS in his time in the Midwest League. In the first half he hit a rather pedestrian .269/.375/.320 but after the all-star break he picked up, hitting .358/.425/.431, earning a late season promotion to the Cal League. In Lake Elsinore he put up even better numbers, .431/.506/.514, probably solidifying a place in the 2009 San Antonio outfield.

Durango, 22, is a very gifted hitter with an excellent ability to control the zone along with other obvious physical skills and at the same time still a very raw player. He has great speed, but only attempted to steal 21 times, and on 7 he was caught. His routes in the outfield have improved, but he has a long way to go to become a major league outfielder, especially in center which would be the best fit for him. He should begin the year in AA, but he needs a full year there to make the most of his abilities for the future.

Savage Sub-Rosa

Player of the Year: Luis Durango
Outfielder - .305/.396/.365

Runner-Up: Lance Zawadzki
Shortstop - .273/.352/.399

Twenty-eight games into the season, Durango was sputtering to keep his head above water. A cold weather league early on hampered his abilities and sapped his strengths. As the weather warmed so did his bat. He went on to hit .335 from that point on and for the season he batted .388 when leading off an inning – one of the true marks of a ‘leadoff' hitter.

Durango has begun to swing at more pitches rather than going with the slap mentality that has had so much success before. While there is a better balance between the two, he still needs to work on hitting the ball hard on the ground or on a line as the defenses around him improve. He has good plate patience but better bat control, making him swing at offerings outside the zone and still making contact.

Zawadzki also suffered, as did most of the team, from the cold weather early in the year. About 150 at-bats into the season, the shortstop began to use his significant potential. He has the tools but had to fight through the mental side of the game that was holding him back. He went on to hit 24 extra base hits over the second half after netting 14 in the first half.

Zawadzki has a powerful frame and should see his power numbers continue to go up as the confidence in his swing does. He is still chasing pitches outside the zone and needs to get a firmer understanding of his zone. In the field, Zawadzki is much like he is at the dish. He will rush his throws without setting his feet – similar to how he will, at times, be quick to the ball, resulting in him leaking forward and sapping his strength.

Others of Note: Yefri Carvajal, 19, is everyone's favorite long term prospect with a set of tools that one usually only finds at Home Depot. Although he led the team in doubles with 27, he didn't put together the type of year the Padres want to see from a corner outfield prospect with a.268/.305/.357 line. Brad Chalk has tools to work with but has not put all the pieces together, hitting .275 this season. He did swipe 18 straight bases to begin the year before getting thrown out twice in the last game of the season. Injuries limited shortstop Drew Cumberland, 19, to only 53 of Fort Wayne's 140 games, but the ones he did appear in he was able to hold his own hitting .286/.348/.350 and stealing 16 bases in 20 attempts. He was hitting .432 in the month of June before he went down with a fractured rib. Justin Baum, 22, led the team in RBIs with 70 and finished second in extra base hits with 37 on his way to posting a.264/.341/.400 line. First baseman Felix Carrasco, 21, won the Midwest League All-Star game home run hitting contest but only hit .212/.359/.296 after the break and led the Midwest League with 162 strikeouts in 437 plate appearances. Finally, utility man Andy Parrino, 22, played second, short and third while hitting .252/.366/.353 and finished second in the league with 71 walks. Luis Martinez didn't hit as well as he hoped but hit .292 in the final month of the year and showed patience with 51 walks.

Manager Commentary: "I think you can tell he is a baseball player. He comes from a family that has been in professional baseball and isn't in awe of anything. When you couple that with his ability to do a couple of different things, you have a very exciting player there." – manager Doug Dascenzo on Drew Cumberland.

Top Prospect: Drew Cumberland

Although he played in a limited number of games, Cumberland is a rare combination of athleticism and baseball moxie that should put up some serious numbers if he can stay healthy. He was a gifted two-sport star in high school whom turned down a football scholarship to Florida State as a defensive back.

Cumberland has the natural baseball instincts to play the game full speed with a level of awareness that often isn't apparent in players directly out of high school. If he can stay healthy, he will thrive in the hard desert infields of the California League next year.

Both John and Denis agreed on the top prospect

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