Yankees Hitting Prospect Awards

Rather than merely hand out awards like the Hitter of the Year and the like, we hand out various prospect superlative awards including, but not limited to; the "Robinson Cano Award" to the hitter who finally started tapping his potential at the higher levels, the "Austin Romine Award" to the lower level hitting prospect who is much better than the national media realizes, etc, etc.

The Robinson Cano Award goes to the prospect who showed lower level promise at one time and then struggled, but then finally started showing that offensive potential once again after getting to the higher minor league levels.

This year's award goes to Scranton second baseman/utility man Jose Pirela. To be fair, Pirela had been a somewhat consistent hitter during his minor league career but was always plagued by slower starts to his seasons so his overall full season numbers at the lower levels were a little skewed. He hit just .252 overall in high-A Tampa in 2010 for example but hit .276 after the All Star break with an OPS 171 points higher than his first half, and in 2011 he hit just .239 for Double-A Trenton but that was also taking into consideration that he began that season hitting just .182 in his first 45 games .

He righted the ship at the higher minor league levels, however, hitting .293 in his second tour of duty with Trenton the following season, hit a combined .274 with a solid .771 OPS in 2013 between Double-A and Triple-A, and culminated it all with a career-high .305 average with Triple-A Scranton this past season and an even better .792 OPS. That's not to say he's going to turn into what Robinson Cano became at the big league level but, like Cano, his game has really begun to blossom the closer he got to the big league level.

The Jesus Montero Award is given to the hitting prospect who proved to be an impact hitter from start to finish the entire season.

This year's award goes to Trenton and Scranton second baseman Rob Refsnyder. All he did was hit a farm system leading .311 between Double-A and Triple-A with 58 extra-base hits. He set career highs in doubles, triples, home runs, runs scored, and RBIs, and he was an offensive star all season long. He, along with Pirela, has put himself at the forefront of potential in-house second base candidates for the big league team in 2015 and his consistent bat is a big reason why.

The Austin Romine Award is given to the hitting prospect whose full season statistics are seemingly weighed more than how he finished the year and thus rendering him underrated on the national prospect scene.

This year's award goes to Charleston third baseman Miguel Andujar, although a case could be made for Trenton first baseman Greg Bird. A quick look at Andujar's numbers -- .267 and ten home runs --and they seem adequate. However, considering he hit just .212 in the first 63 games and wound up hitting 107 points higher in his final 64 games [.319], many on the national scene don't really realize just how good he was becoming.

The Austin Jackson Award is given to the hitting prospect who had to repeat a level and finally figured it out in his second go-around.

This year's award goes to Trenton and Scranton first baseman Kyle Roller. He wasn't bad in his first go around with the Thunder in 2013, hitting .253 with a team-high 17 home runs, but he just wasn't the same impact hitter he was this past season when he hit a combined career-high .300 and 26 home runs between the two highest minor league levels [with 30 doubles too], including a ridiculous .385 with nine home runs in just 21 games for Trenton before his eventual Triple-A call-up back in April. Like Pirela, Roller's blossoming at the highest minor league levels could, and really should, give him his big league shot.

The Eduardo Nunez Award is given to the lower-level hitting prospect whose overall talent belies the pedestrian numbers he has posted and whose game suggests he'll come out of nowhere to have better success down the road at some point.

This year's award goes to Charleston shortstop Abiatal Avelino who hit just .232 with two home runs for the RiverDogs in 2014. It was his first full season and he did it as a 19-year old, always a tough task figuring out how to deal with the daily strain of a 142-game season for the first time and particularly in his case playing under the lights for the first time. Throw in the fact he dealt with a nagging quad injury most of the season that limited him to just 53 games, he just never got in a comfort zone after attempting to come back from the injury. He looked much better towards the beginning of the year when he was completely healthy, hitting .294 with all eleven of his stolen bases in his first 29 games and just .158 in his final 24 games after returning from the disabled list. He should bounce back in a big way in 2015.

The Damon Sublett Award is given to the college pick selected later in the draft [after the third round] and chipped in with a good offensive showing in their debut season in Staten Island.

While first baseman and 8th round pick Connor Spencer could fit here with his league-leading .364 batting average, tenth round pick Ty McFarland was the better impact offensive player, hitting a solid .278 with 17 doubles, five home runs, and a team-leading 40 RBIs. His 20 walks were also 14 more than Spencer. He still has some fine-tuning to do defensively while transitioning from third base in college to second base in the pros, but he already has a very good chance to be an impact hitter at his position and he's begun proving it with a solid debut season.

The Kevin Russo Award is given to the hitting prospect who, despite being selected later in the draft and not really showing great tools, puts up numbers and has a solid enough game to be considered a sleeper prospect.

This award has changed over the years as the drafting restrictions in regards to the draft pool allotment has changed drafting philosophies [a 20th round pick several years ago now goes in the first ten rounds most times]. Keeping that in mind this year's award goes to seventh round pick Mark Payton. The former University of Texas outfielder doesn't really have a plus physical tool in his bag -- his speed is probably a tick above average, the power potential is average at best but below average overall, and his arm is average -- but he wound up hitting a combined .320 in his debut season over two A-ball levels. His plate discipline is plus and that, combined with his solid overall game, makes him a solid long-term 'sleeper' prospect for the Yankees.

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