The Phil Hughes Award is more than just the Pitcher of the Year award, a distinction that normally only requires above average statistics. It's given to the pitching prospect who best combined actual game results with overall pitching talent, not to a pitcher who merely put up numbers.
For the third straight season this year's award goes to right-hander Luis Severino. He not only was the first pitcher to win the award in consecutive seasons since Hughes [first accomplished by Phil Hughes for whom the award is now named after] by posting a combined 2.45 ERA, 1.07 WHIP ratio season between the Gulf Coast League and South Atlantic League in 2013 with a combined 2.46 ERA and 1.06 WHIP ratio over three minor league levels in 2014, but he then became the first one ever to win this award three straight years by posting a combined 9-2 mark with a 2.45 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 99.2 innings between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He finished his minor league career with a combined 2.30 ERA and more strikeouts than innings pitched before debuting with a 2.89 ERA in eleven starts for the Yankees this year.
More than just the phenomenal numbers he has posted, however, it's his combination of plus stuff and way above average control that allows him to stand out. He will sit in the mid-90s with his fastball, he boasts a plus changeup, and his breaking ball has ticked to average or better while showing long-term above average potential. While not technically a rookie any longer after he blew through his eligibility late in the 2015 season, he is clearly the best equipped young pitcher the Yankees have these days.
The David Phelps Award [formerly known as the Zach McAllister award] is given to the pitching prospect who wasn't considered among the top few pitching prospects the year before but broke out in a big way the following season.
This year's award goes to right-hander Rookie Davis. He shook off a rather disastrous 2014 campaign that saw him post an inflated 4.93 ERA with low-A Charleston to bounce back in a big way in 2015, posting a combined 3.86 ERA and strike out essentially a batter per inning pitched over two minor league levels and ascend all the way to Double-A. A back-end Top 50 prospect a year ago merely on the strength of his tremendous upside, he saw his secondary pitches improve greatly this past season and therefore become a more complete pitcher, and he now finds himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the entire farm system, so much so that it isn't inconceivable to imagine a potential late-season big league call-up in 2016 if he keeps progressing. He's peaking at the right time.
The Manny Banuelos Award is given to the pitching prospect in the short-season leagues who, despite showing a great combination of results and stuff, has flown under the national radar and is currently underrated.
This year's recipient is Staten Island Yankees left-hander Jeff Degano. The results, while solid [2.53 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 10.2 innings], were widely overlooked due to the extremely small sample size. It's a huge reason why he has been underrated on the national scene in the early part of his career but few lefties bring his combination of size [6-foot-4], power [he has been clocked as high as 95 mph], and overall pitch-ability. He even has the makings of a potentially plus breaking ball and the whole combination screams enormous upside. If he can prove his rapidly developing changeup can be a consistent pitch for him right out of the gate in his first full season next year he could be a household prospect name in short order. Few realize the potential he possesses at the lower levels right now, just as was the case with Banuelos several years ago.
The George Kontos Award is given to the pitching prospect who was drafted out of college and immediately showed a combination of stuff and results that same season.
A year ago it came as no surprise that Jacob Lindgren took home the award given his amazing numbers and equally as quick trajectory through the minor league system in his debut season, and just like a year ago right-hander Chance Adams, this year's George Kontos Award recipient, did some special things in his debut season after being selected in the fifth round out of Dallas Baptist University. Forget for a moment that he posted a combined 1.78 ERA [Lindgren posted a 2.16 ERA in his debut season by comparison] and struck out 45 batters in 35.1 innings, the fact that he did so while ascending all the way to high-A Tampa in his first year speaks volumes of his special talent. Where there is a glaring difference between Lindgren and Adams, however, is in the projected long-term role. Team insiders believe Adams has the chance to not only move to and stick in the starting rotation long-term but be a difference-maker in that role too.
The Phil Coke Award is given to the perceived organizational pitcher whose stuff got dramatically better to put himself on the prospect map at an older age.
There are no shortage of candidates for this year's award. A strong argument could be made to hand it over to Cale Coshow given his ascension of the prospect rankings in large part to his rapidly developing cutter and ability to sustain his plus velocity deep into games. Another argument could be made for right-hander Joey Maher who nearly pitched himself into winning the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year with his outstanding season. However, this year's award goes to left-handed starter Chaz Hebert. While the stuff didn't exactly get "dramatically" better from the previous year, everything in his arsenal did improve across the board. His fastball now sits in the low-90s, his curveball has gotten harder, and his cutter has become one of the more consistent weapons around. Throw in his already plus changeup and this former 27th round pick in 2011 has gone from having the look of an organizational arm to one of the better pitching prospect in the system now.
The D.J. Mitchell Award is given to the pitcher who was a later-round pick but who also quickly showed some good stuff heading into his first full minor league season.
Just like with the Phil Coke Award, there are a number of quality candidates for the D.J. Mitchell award. A strong argument could be made to hand the award to right-hander Will Carter, this year's 14th round pick out of the University of Alabama given the fact that he already has three above average or better big league pitches at his disposal, including a fastball that tops out at 98 mph. However, this year's award goes to 2015 17th round pick Brody Koerner. The former Clemson University right-hander was just a shade better than Carter this year, pitching a combined 1.23 ERA between short-season Pulaski and low-A Charleston, and while Carter's three main pitches might technically grade out a tick better right now the fact is Koerner has four already big league average or better pitches at his disposal, including the kind of special 93-96 mph sinking fastball that could be quite the weapon as he ascends to the higher minor league levels. Either hurler has the chance to be special, Koerner might just be a little more equipped to have his success sooner.