Which player and pitcher helped lead the Whitecaps to the Midwest League playoffs and earn player and pitcher of the year honors?
West Michigan Whitecaps Player of the Year: 1B/OF/DH Billy Nowlin
.311/.390/.483, 29 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 77 RBI
On the surface, it may seem like a stretch, but one AL scout told me this summer he though Nowlin could be Travis Snider-light; meaning he has the chance to be somewhat similar to Blue Jays top prospect Travis Snider who hit .315/.376/.540 for Lansing in 2007, and is widely considered one of the top young hitters in the game. Nowlin may not have put up quite those numbers in 2009, but his .311/.390/.483 line in 112 games is impressive enough in its own right. Nowlin finished the year with 29 doubles, and 13 home runs, while also picking up 77 RBI, which combined with his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, were all good enough to rank in the top seven in the Midwest League. Nowlin's bat is his meal ticket through the minor leagues, and that ticket was just punched for a likely promotion in 2010.
West Michigan Whitecaps Pitcher of the Year: RHP Brayan Villarreal
5-5, 2.87 ERA, 118 K, 34 BB, .231 BAA
In his second season back after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Villarreal put on a show for Whitecaps fans this summer. Moving between the rotation and the bullpen depending on team needs and injuries, Villarreal appeared in 26 games (16 starts) for the ‘Caps, collecting a 5-5 record and two saves in his 103 1/3 innings of work. He allowed only 85 hits and 34 walks while on the hill, and struck out an impressive 118 while allowing only five home runs. Had he logged enough innings to qualify for the ERA crown, Brayan's 2.87 mark would have ranked him third in the Midwest League, while his 1.15 WHIP would have slotted him fifth in the circuit. Villarreal has the hard fastball the organization loves, and with his versatility as both an effective starter and reliever, he could move quickly through the system in 2010.