San Antonio Missions Hitter of the Year

Summary: Usually when talking about the Missions its about pitching but this year San Antonio had more hitting, than, pitching, prospects. The Missions featured as good a double play combination as anywhere in the organization in Eric Sogard and Lance Zawadzki, the premier speedster, Luis Durango and two very good "professional" hitters in Craig Cooper and Logan Forsythe.

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: Double-A represents the biggest jump in the minor leagues, and this is especially true of the Texas League where there are only eight teams and after 140 games everyone knows what everyone can do. This is the last stop for many top pitching prospects and San Antonio, with a big wind blowing in from left field, is by far the toughest spot to hit in the organization and conversely, its also a really good place to pitch.

Conniff Confidential

Player of the Year:
Craig Cooper
.312/.405/.451
First Baseman/Outfielder

Cooper, 24, returned after a so-so season in 2008 to put up his best numbers since his short-season debut in Eugene in 2006. The Notre Dame grad led the team in hits, doubles, home runs and RBI and was also the season long leader in OBP and slugging percentage. He made a few more errors at first this year than he would have liked but is considered the best defensive first baseman in the system in addition to being a solid corner outfielder. He is one of the few lefties that bats from the right side, and his offensive numbers should jump up next year in the much more hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.

Runner Up:
Luis Durango
.281/390/.309
Outfielder

Shortstop Lance Zawadzki, second baseman Eric Sogard and Durango can all make good cases for the runner up, but as in Highlander; "there can be only one." Durango, 23, won because he did what he was supposed to do – get on base. He finished second on the team in hits, runs and OBP and led the team in walks [70] and steals [44 out of 61]. He walked more than he struck out 81-to-70 and his defense took a major step forward in regards to his arm strength and routes to the ball. The big negative on Durango is practically no power with only 11 extra base hits in 537 plate appearances.

Savage Sub-Rosa

Player of the Year:
Craig Cooper
.312/.405/.451
First Baseman/Outfielder

Playing mostly first base this year, Cooper got off to a blazng start, batting .339 over the first half with a .424 on-base percentage. He has always had a good feel for the strike zone and posted a 73-to-85 walk-to-strikeout ratio for a .405 on-base percentage for the year. What changed this year was his ability to do damage, driving in 92 – the third best in the organization. His previous best was the 78 RBI he put up in the Californis League in 2007. Cooper has been asked repeatedly to work on turning on the inside fastball. He improved in that arena this season while still keeping the same opposite field approach that has made him so successful in the past.

Runner Up:
Eric Sogard
.293/.370/.400
Second baseman

Sogard finished second on the team in doubles and extra base hits while leading the club in runs scored. A disciplined hitter who comes into each at-bat with a plan, he drew 58 walks compared to 47 strikeouts and had an average above .280 in five of the six months during the baseball season. While his power numbers were down from a season ago, Sogard was one of the few hitters who performed better at home with a .320 average versus his .267 road mark. He still has room to improve defensively, especially with his range, but the 23-year-old should be able to hit because of his advanced feel and solid foundation.

Others of Note: Lance Zawadzki, 24, was promoted at the end of May from Lake Elsinore, and with the exception of a bad July, was a solid player throughout his time in San Antonio, hitting .289/.372/.416. Only Cooper had a higher OPS than him, and defensively, he showed improvement from last year. Third baseman Logan Forsythe, 22, really struggled at home, hitting .246/.324/.323 at home compared to .316/.444/.439 on the road. Overall, for his first year in pro ball, he did much more than anyone could hope for. Cedric Hunter had a disappointing season at the plate, hitting .261/.294/.331. While things were turning around for him in September, it was too little, too late. He needs to improve upon his strike zone judgment and get stronger to compete at the highest levels.

Manager's Comments: "I think he hit close to .300 overall, and drove in a lot of runs, a lot of key runs for us, and played better short than he had in the past." – Terry Kennedy on Lance Zawadzki.

Top Prospect: Lance Zawadzki

The switch-hitting Zawadzki is one of the few middle infielders capable of hitting in the middle of the order and is just starting to realize part of his vast potential. Not only does he boast power from both sides of the plate, Zawadzki is a plus runner that can utilize the speed effectively on the base paths. He could be a dominant player if everything aligns itself. Defensively, he has a cannon of an arm and the quickness to stay at short, the whole key with him will be consistency on the routine plays.

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