Portland Beavers Hitter of the Year

Summary: While Portland Beavers had the league leader in on-base percentage, they ended the year sitting 14th in the 16-team Pacific Coast League in hitting. It was an improvement over their last place finish in hitting from a season ago.

The club may have led the league in walks drawn for the second straight season, topping 600 walks in both, but sat seventh in homers, 11th in runs, 12th in hits, and dead last in stolen bases - 19 less than the closest competition.

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 get better.

Savage Sub-Rosa

Hitter of the Year: Peter Ciofrone
Outfielder/Third Base - .314/.389/.519

Runner-Up: Brian Myrow
First Base - .314/.451/.500

Ciofrone tied for the league lead with a 27-game hitting streak from June 29 through July 30, hitting .376 with a .453 on-base percentage over that span. He also collected 13 extra base hits, 22 RBIs and 20 runs scored during the impressive run. Ciofrone also had a 39-game on-base streak on the road that began on June 6 and never ended. Ciofrone had a career-high 18 homers, and, as usual, was a clutch performer with a .301 average with runners in scoring position.

Ciofrone rolls out of bed with a bat in his hand and he added power to his arsenal this year. The Padres have always believed if a player has a good base, power will eventually come. Ciofrone is the staple of such thinking. His bat has never been a question, as he squares up balls regularly and uses the whole field to ply his trade. Finding him a regular spot defensively has been more of a challenge, but he is a decent outfielder and played well at third, lacking in the lateral movement department.

Only one hitter from this squad sat among the league leaderboard – Myrow and his league leading .451 on-base percentage. He had a 30-game on-base streak on the road, hitting .411 with a .500 on-base percentage – a streak that began last season and went through April of this season. He hit .333 with runners on base and feasted on right-handed pitching, collecting a .470 on-base percentage off them. He reached base 1.94 times a game over the course of the season.

Myrow is the Padres vision of another type of player – one with uncanny plate awareness, makes contact, and great makeup. Given his ability to work the count and get on base, it is alarming that he hasn't had more opportunities – somewhere. Without a lot of moving parts, Myrow uses his keen eye to drive pitches in his zone and rarely goes chasing outside that area.

Conniff Confidential

Hitter of the Year: Brian Myrow
First Base - .314/.451/.500

Runner-Up: Peter Ciofrone
Outfielder/Third Base - .314/.389/.519

Although both of these guys put up good numbers, each will also be minor league free agents in the off-season, and it's unlikely either will be back; although there is an outside chance that Ciofrone could be return at third, if he doesn't find a better place to land. For Myrow, there is just no room with the arrival of Kyle Blanks from San Antonio.

Although a fan of Ciofrone, who put together his best year, especially in the power department, it's hard to not give it to Myrow and his .451 OBP. Myrow will be 33 next year and is really the type of player that needs to play every day instead of coming off of the bench. The problem is that he is limited to first and many teams tend to want someone there who has the potential to put the ball over the fence more.

Others of Note: Chip Ambres, Edgar Gonzalez, Chase Headley, Nick Hundley and Paul McAnulty no longer qualify as prospects but each made contributions to the Beavers. Ambres led the team with 22 jacks, 56 extra base hits and 77 RBIs. Gonzalez had a .392 on-base percentage. Headley hit .305 with 38 extra base hits in 65 games. Hundley was terrific on the defensive front while hitting 12 homers but struggling overall offensively. McAnulty went on a tear on his return to Portland hitting 13 homers with 28 extra base hits and 50 RBIs in 53 games to go with a .440 on-base percentage. Matt Antonelli struggled until August, hitting .215 overall while drawing 76 walks. Luke Carlin hit well in a reserve role and was subsequently called up to San Diego three times, adding his usual stellar defensive play. Brett Dowdy became a sparkplug for the offense, scoring 52 runs and hitting well down the stretch. Vince Sinisi was injured again and while his average was solid he did not hit for any power. Will Venable did it all again, hitting .292 with a .361 on-base percentage while also adding some power with 44 extra base hits.

Manager Commentary: "Everyone is looking for the answer to that question and I think for Matt it was just concentration. His focus was a little better. He had struggled with his mechanics all year. The concentration was improved." - Portland manager Randy Ready on Matt Antonelli.

Top Prospect: (Denis) Matt Antonelli

A .215 average with 39 RBIs in 125 games and still a top prospect? You bet. Antonelli has been pushed since joining the system and this year it caught up with him and spiraled until August when he rebounded with a .290 average that included more homers in one month than he had in the previous four combined. He posted a .391 on-base percentage during August, and the stats he posted are more on par with what the expectations were.

While he got into bad habits that included leaning out on his front foot and committing early to pitches, Antonelli has a terrific eye and generally shows good balance with his approach, using his load to spring through the baseball with authority. He can hit the ball to all fields and has improved defensively, playing a solid second base. Antonelli also has terrific makeup, making the Padres believe he will get over the hump and return to the player he has been in the past.

Top Prospect: (John) Will Venable

Antonelli will eventually be the Padres regular second baseman, but the problem is that is a hunch and it is hard to determine when that will to be. It hardly seems possible that it will be in 2009, especially when the record shows one good month and five bad ones. It may take time to get on board this wagon again.

The questions around Venable have been the same for quite some time. Does he have enough of an arm to play center or bat to play left?

It's unfathomable to believe that someone with less than 400 college at-bats, who sat out his senior year of high school and freshman year of college, split time between baseball and basketball at Princeton, could come so far, so fast. He made a nearly unheard of jump from Fort Wayne to San Antonio, and although he didn't hit for power, he still posted a .710 OPS.

This year in Portland, he played a solid center field, looked much better at the plate, especially in the power department, posting a .825 OPS and looked very good in San Diego in his September call-up.

It may be enough to earn him a starting job in 2009.

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