Portland Beavers Hitter of the Year

Summary: It started off as a good team, but trades and injuries led the San Diego Padres to accelerate the development time of players such as Kyle Blanks and Will Venable. Players that Portland counted on to fill the void did not, as the Beavers finished with the worst record in the Pacific Coast League.

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: The Triple-A level is fast becoming a combination of development and a taxi squad for major league teams. At this level there are many players that are good enough to be in the major leagues, just not in the organization they are currently with.

Conniff Confidential:

Player of the Year:
Chad Huffman
.269/.361/.469
Outfielder

Huffman, 24, put up good overall numbers, leading the team with 20 home runs, 52 extra base hits, 57 walks, and 68 RBI. However, he really was two different players for much of the year. In May/August and the first week of September, he hit .324/.433/.546 while in April/June and July it was .221/.294/.403. His last five weeks were the type of numbers that the organization had always believed he was capable of, as Huffman hit .357/.458/.589 to push his overall numbers over the top.

Runner Up:
Mike Baxter
.277/.362/.409
Outfielder/First baseman

Baxter, 24, hit .317/.394/.469 between San Antonio and Portland with 40 doubles and 61 walks in 566 plate appearances. The left-handed hitting Baxter played all three outfield positions, first base, is a solid fielder and even caught a little in last year's Arizona Fall League. It goes without saying that the former Columbia/Vanderbilt University product is one of the more intelligent players in the system and has slowly moved himself up for an opportunity at the big league level.

Savage Sub-Rosa:

Player of the Year:
Chad Huffman
.269/.361/.469
Outfielder

It wasn't a great year overall amongst the Portland hitters. Without a strong August and September, Huffman would be on the outside looking in. Credit the outfielder, however, for figuring it out, as he hit .372 over his final 36 games with 18 extra base hits. Huffman made a mental adjustment through the season to consciously lay off the tough off-speed pitches that he was offering at earlier in the year. Once he was able to take balls off the plate, he was seeing better pitches to hit and cashing in.

Runner Up:
Mike Baxter
.277/.362/.409
Outfielder/First baseman

Baxter was on fire in San Antonio before his promotion and continued to excel in Portland with a consistent season. He has a 38-to-53 walk-to-strikeout ratio with the Beavers and showed some speed with nine stolen bases. One of the hardest working players in all of baseball, Baxter made an adjustment last year in the Arizona Fall League to allow pitches to get deeper and has benefitted from the constant battle. He is now recognizing pitches better and doing damage on those he can handle while laying off the tough pitcher's pitch. He has doubles power and offers versatility with his ability to play multiple positions.

Others of Note: Kyle Blanks, 22, was going to be a big part of anything the Beavers were going to do this year and hit .283/.393/.485. Will Venable, 26, was another valuable member promoted to the big league club in June. Drew Macias, 26, bounced back and forth between San Diego and Portland this year, battling injuries in Portland, but showing some ability in limited opportunities in San Diego more than in the PCL, hitting only .232/329/.343. Former San Francisco Giants product, catcher Eliezer Alfonzo, 30, had a nice year and saw some time in San Diego as well. In the PCL he hit .309/.339/.569.

Top Prospect: Chad Huffman

Huffman may never be a serious home run hitter, but he is someone that has a chance to hit a lot of doubles, smack some bombs, and draw walks, which makes him valuable in the Padres OPS driven system. In order to advance, however, he is going to have to put forth a more consistent performance throughout the whole year to crack an outfield that has quite a few players ahead of him in San Diego. He must realize he is a fastball hitter and stay away from the junk that pitchers will throw his way.

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