Hitter of the Year

Denis Savage and John Conniff looked back at the game tape of each of the highly qualified candidates through the year before narrowing the process down to five players. Out of that mix, one was selected as Hitter of the Year.

The original finalists included Kyle Blanks, Jaff Decker, Cedric Hunter, Kellen Kulbacki, and Dan Robertson.

Whittling that down to one was a challenge that took the better part of a day. Words were tossed back and forth, opinions framed, voices of reason – nonexistent. Backing ‘our guy' was the theme before we put aside the differences and looked at the facts as they were presented.

  • Kyle Blanks – awesome year, hitting 11 homers at home with the wind blowing in.
  • Jaff Decker – leads all of minor league baseball with a .513 on-base percentage.
  • Cedric Hunter – leads the entire minor leagues in hits with 186.
  • Kellen Kulbacki – no player had the run he did, hitting 20 homers over a 56-game span.
  • Dan Robertson – had the fourth best average in all of minor league baseball at .377.
  • All five are deserving in their own way but a choice had to be made.

    Denis Savage and John Conniff have selected outfielder…

    "Wait," Conniff exclaims. "They are all outfielders!"

    "I know," Savage muses. "That was part of the fun of announcing it. No one would have a clue until the name was stated."

    "You are just mean, Mr. Savage," Conniff said behind laughter. "Did we really agree?"

    "I thought we did?"

    "Who did we select?"

    "Dan Robertson."

    "Solid choice."

    "Thanks. I nominated him, you know."

    "What? He was my guy."

    "If believing that gets you through the day, you just go ahead. The readers will know the truth, though."

    "Like how you picked Brad Baker in 2004 for pitcher of the year?"

    "Actually, I think I picked Dirk Hayhurst and you picked Baker. Did I just tell everyone that we picked Robertson as our Player of the Year?"

    "You sure did. How about we actually get back on topic?"

    Never before has given the award to a short-season prospect, despite the exploits of Blanks in 2005, Luis Durango and Hunter in 2006, and Durango again in 2007.

    This year, we buck the trend.

    Denis Savage and John Conniff have selected Dan Robertson as Player of the Year.

    "Your Player of the Year award for the entire minor leagues? Wow, thank you very much," Robertson said. "I am truly honored."

    Robertson's numbers stand by themselves. In 73 games, the line reads as such: .377 average, 114 hits, 21 doubles, 45 RBIs, 59 runs scored, 34 walks, 34 strikeouts, 20 stolen bases, .443 on-base percentage, and .497 slugging percentage.

    He hit out of the leadoff spot or the two-hole in the lineup and still managed to sit second in the Northwest League in RBIs. Add in his spectacular batting average, on-base percentage, and new league record in hits – we have the top guy, clearly. He was also among the league leaders in stolen bases, doubles and slugging percentage while pacing the circuit in runs scored.

    Robertson netted 37 multi-hit games and saw a 30-game on-base streak through most of August. Voted the Northwest League MVP, he set a new league record for hits in a season – doing it in fewer games than was accomplished back in 1972 when the Northwest League played 80 games, four more than are played in a season today.

    "It didn't really hit me until they announced what had happened and 5,000 people – many who had been there all year – gave me a standing ovation," Robertson said.

    The outfielder wasn't a one-trick pony either. He played stellar defense, seeing action at all three positions. He took as many runs away from the opposition with his glove as he put on the board with his bat. Robertson was so good that manager Greg Riddoch was confident that the California native could go straight to Lake Elsinore in 2009 and perform admirably.

    A Lenny Dykstra style player, Robertson hit .407 with runners on base while pacing the league with 68 runs created – a stat invented by Bill James.

    Robertson was everything and more to his team and helped the Eugene Emeralds to within a game of a playoff berth.

    Previous winners of the award:

    2007 – Chase Headley
    2006 – Will Venable
    2005 – Ben Johnson

    An exclusive interview with Player of the Year Dan Robertson will follow on Friday.

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