After hitting .300 for the short-season Eugene Emeralds while playing most of the year at 18, Rincon was sent to instructs to work on his defense. His hitting has never been a question, as the Dominican native has a potent bat that can play anywhere on the diamond. Finding his niche has been essential, as he struggled at third base in 2009.
"Terrific," minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa said. "He is a poster boy for our whole Latin program. He understands the importance of knowing the strike zone. At such a young age, he is way more advanced than the other kids, specifically when you look at a guy we are disappointed in in (Yefri) Carvajal and the lack of pitch recognition. Here Rincon, who was supposed to play in Ariona this year but did so well in spring we gave him a chance and he hits .300 in finishes in the top three in the league in RBI."
Most Improved Player: Jonathan Galvez
A patient hitter that has surprising power in a lithe frame, Galvez was prone to bouts of inconsistency. The Dominican native also struggled defensively, often showing too much flash making the routine plays and getting in trouble as a result. He is a doubles hitter that waits for his pitch and can drive it.
"He had a terrific year with the bat and 40 percent of his hits went for extra bases," Gamboa said. "But he would be the first to tell you that he had a horrible, horrible summer with the glove.
"That Most Improved was strictly based on the noticeable difference in his defensive play because he has always hit."
Most Improved Pitcher: Miles Mikolas
The right-hander out of Nova Southeastern struggled in his first taste of professional baseball with the Emeralds. His pitches hit too much of the zone and were often in the upper quadrants, allowing hitters to send the ball into the gaps for extra bases. He has a plus curveball but was not able to get to the pitch regularly because of a lack of fastball command.
"Miles would tell you he was disappointed in his pro debut, as were we," Gamboa said. "From my trips up there – he couldn't have pitched worse.
"In the Instructional League, it was like a different guy showed up. In his 10 or 12 innings, he did not give up a run. Not that the results are the end all – but what we saw in Eugene as opposed to what we saw in instructs, I just saw a whole different guy on the positive side."
Leadership Award: Luis Martinez
The backstop has always been a defensive force but made strides with his offensive game in 2009. A right-handed hitter, Martinez learned to hit the ball where it was pitched with consistency. He has also become a vocal leader and a mentor for both American and Latin players alike because of his strong work ethic.
"From the locker room to the stretch to the whole work day – somebody that just exudes passion and is never up or down based upon performance," Gamboa said. "Whether they are personally doing well or the team is winning or losing, he brings the same mentality – what David Eckstein brought to the Padres this year. People can feed off when they are down – Luis is that kind of a guy."
"A guy that can use the whole field and has some power," Gamboa said of Belnome.
"Jorge Reyes was impressive," Gamboa said. "He performed very, very well at instructs. Very good breaking ball while the changeup is a work in progress."
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