Ryan DeWitt Minor League Player of the Year : 1B Ryan Strieby
Strieby was well on his way to putting together a solid season in a league known for diminishing power numbers, having ripped ten home runs and driven in 47 through the season's first 73 contests. Then, in July, Ryan exploded to turn a solid season into one that put him squarely on the prospect map. From the beginning of July through the end of the season, Strieby mashed seven doubles, five triples, and nineteen more home runs, in just 39 games. During that torrid stretch, Ryan ripped at a .325/.366/.796 pace, ranking him among the Florida State League's elite power hitters. At seasons end, Strieby soundly broke the Lakeland record for home runs, with 29, while also pacing the FSL in that department. His 94 runs driven in were also good enough for first in the league, while he finished second in slugging, third in OPS, fifteenth in on-base percentage, and fifth in total bases. Strieby's breakout campaign prompted Lakeland Manager Andy Barkett to comment that ‘I think he has made himself into a legitimate big league prospect.' Seasons like this are rare in the Florida State League, particularly for players who are age-appropriate for the level; meaning a special eye should be paid to Ryan as we head to 2009 and he receives his first taste of truly advanced professional pitching.
Brian Bluhm Minor League Pitcher of the Year: RHP Rick Porcello
You don't normally see very many teenage pitchers taking the hill in the Florida State League, and Rick Porcello was one of only two to start the season there; the other being the Twins Deolis Guerra. The Tigers number one pick in 2007 was unfazed by the daunting assignment, coming out in the first month and tossing up a sparkling 2.37 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in the first six starts of his career. Porcello's success continued throughout the season, though he did not begin to notch a winning record until late in the year; finishing with just an 8-6 mark in 24 starts. The 24 starts were enough to tie him for sixth in the FSL in that category, while his 2.66 season ERA vaulted him to the top spot among starting pitchers in the circuit. By finishing the season with a 1.19 WHIP, he also finished in the League's top five in that category as well. All this success becomes even more impressive when considering not only was the average age of his opponents around 22-years old, but he was also working under strict pitch counts and an edict to try and improve his change-up at the expense of utilizing his curve and slider; two of his better pitches. The strict 85-pitch limit forced him to become more efficient in his dealings, rather than routinely go for the strikeout. So while his strikeout rate of 5.18 per nine innings is far from ideal, the raw stuff (his curve and slider) are still there to be further utilized in his second season, when we can likely expect more swings and misses from opposing hitters.