Eugene Emeralds Hitter of the Year

Summary: Revamped swings and adjustment periods are common to hitters in the Northwest League. Several San Diego Padres prospects were immune to the migration to wood bats, however, and proved they could use the lumber quite effectively this season for the Eugene Emeralds.

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 of not what the players did this year, but their age and ability to improve.

Level: A league that hat existed in various forms since 1901, it features a mix of college talent acquired in the subsequent draft and high school and Latin American prospects that worked their way up from rookie ball. The Eugene Emeralds were no exception in this mix. Pitchers are generally ahead of hitters in this circuit since the batters must transition from aluminum bats to wood.

Savage Sub-Rosa

Player of the Year:
Nate Freiman
.294/.364/.484
First baseman

With two on-base streaks of at least 19 games, Freiman was a constant threat in the middle of the Emeralds lineup. The tall first baseman led the league with 68 RBI and 33 extra base hits while placing second with 11 homers. He hit .336 with runners in scoring position and was the man everyone wanted up with the game on the line. Freiman improved his approach through the season, bringing his hands lower to give him a more compact approach. He has easy power and brings an intelligence to the game that enhances his overall status.

Runner-up:
Vince Belnome
.297/.431/.500
Second baseman

A 24-game on-base streak opened the year, as Belnome wasn't prone to slumps. A great batting eye, which led to a 52-to-55 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and oveall approach led to him being moved up to Fort Wayne for the playoffs – where he also thrived. Belnome was second in the league in on-base percentage and runs scored, and tied for third in the league in homers. His bat was a constant catalyst for Eugene's offense, as he often touched home with Freiman sitting behind him.

Conniff Confidential

Player of the Year:
Vince Belnome
.297/.431/.500
Second baseman

Belnome, 21, was second in the Northwest League in on-base percentage at .461 and fourth in OPS at .931. He split time between second and third base this year and flashed some power with 27 extra base hits in 65 games. He finished second in the league in runs scored with 53 and total bases with 118, despite missing the last couple weeks of the season after being called up to Fort Wayne. A 28th-round pick out of West Virginia, he had a 52-to-55 walk-to-strikeout ratio and hit .320/.461/.563 with runners on. With a solid performance in Fort Wayne, he may have played his way onto the Lake Elsinore team in 2010.

Runner-up:
Edinson Rincon
.300/.415/.468
Third baseman

Usually a hitter this young does not show the type of selectivity that Rincon did during this year, finishing up with a .415 on-base percentage, which was good enough for fifth in the league. Twenty-eight of his 80 hits were for extra bases, and he had a 46-to-60 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He started to run out of gas towards the end of the year and 22 errors in 70 games makes staying at third base a big question mark; but still, at 18, you have to like what you see.

Others of Note: Bo Davis was on his way to having a banner season. While the center fielder will have to change some things in his stance, he has great hand-eye coordination and terrific speed. Jason Hagerty, a switch-hitting catcher, has power from both sides and could be a threat offensively while providing capable defense. Emmanuel Quiles remains a stalwart defender but his offense is beginning to take steps forward. No longer swinging at the first pitch he sees, Quiles is seeing better pitches to hit and benefitting. Jason Cordiroli had a nice season, hitting .290/.404/.384, but is going to need to improveupon his power nunbers and do better than 15-for-23 in stolen bases.

Manager's Comments: "Almost like a Dan Robertson the year before. A late round guy and he ended up hitting well in Fort Wayne. He can flat hit, as long as he stays in his zone." - Greg Riddoch on Vince Belnome.

Top Prospect: Edinson Rincon

Playing most of the season at 18, Rincon was a force that will only improve with age. He has terrific bat control and doesn't try to do too much with a pitch. Playing in a league dominated by prospects that are five to six years his senior, Rincon placed fourth in extra base hits, runs scored and RBI, and fifth in on-base percentage. There was little Rincon didn't do; he even stole five bases without being caught. He is an incredibly strong young man that should blossom into a perennial power threat. One thing that needs improvement is his defense. He had a .818 fielding percentage with 22 errors in 44 games at the hot corner.


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