Patrick Teale

PinstripesPlus hands out various hitting prospect awards for the 2015 season.

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 somewhat, 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 and New York Yankee outfielder/first baseman Tyler Austin. While clearly not on the same level potential-wise as Cano, Austin was one of the better prospects in the farm system earlier in his career, especially when he hit a combined .336 with 23 home runs in his first 157 games.  He hurt his wrist, however, in 2013 and struggled for the better part of two years as a result.  And when he was finally healthy enough to play near 100 percent he struggled with his approach as he tried to make up for lost time and production by pressing at the plate.

He got back to his natural hitting ways in a big way this year though, hitting a combined .294 with 34 doubles and 17 home runs in just 107 minor league games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton before earning his much deserved big league promotion in August.  While not nearly to the same level, he acquitted himself quite nicely at the big league level too, hitting .241 with five home runs and posting a respectable .758 OPS in his first 31 big league games.  He may not have the same immediate job security that Cano had at a similar point in their careers but it's quite evident that Austin has pulled a Cano and begun showing the one-time, sky-high potential he had at the lower minor league levels.

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

While a strong argument could be made to put Dustin Fowler here, this year's award goes to Scranton outfielder Aaron Judge.  Judge's impact was more forceful as his 19 home runs were leading the farm system when he got called up to the Yankees on August 13th.  While his .270 average wasn't nearly as high as the .300-plus batting averages he had put up in the lower minor league levels, it was better than his .255 showing the year prior and especially better than his .224 average in Triple-A in 2015.  His 47 walks were also among the farm system leaders at the time of his promotion and that's despite missing nearly three weeks in July due to injury too.

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

This year's award goes to Trenton outfielder Dustin Fowler.  His numbers in 2016 were very good, hitting .281 with 30 doubles, 15 triples, and 12 home runs, but it's the way he ended the season that perhaps reveal an even bigger breakout is forthcoming.  Forget for a moment that he hit nearly 40 points higher in the second half [.267 before the All Star break, .305 after the break], he actually clubbed nine home runs in the second half and did so in 141 less at-bats!  Throw in his .920 second half OPS [compared to .682] and Fowler is a hotter and better prospect than his overall numbers suggest.  He could be on his way to something special if he continues this in 2017.

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 Tampa third baseman Miguel Andujar. For years Andujar has earned the reputation as more of a second-half player and that was clearly the case in Tampa in 2015 when he was hitting just .203 through the early part of July before finishing red-hot to bring his average up to .244.  Seemingly pegged for another slow start in 2016, Andujar finally figured out the high-A level in his repeat season there, hitting .283 with 22 extra-base hits [including ten home runs] in just 58 games before getting moved up to Double-A Trenton.  Considering he hit .266 with two home runs there to finish out the year, don't be surprised if he picks up this award again in 2017.

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.

The Yankees have no shortage of qualified candidates for this award; Wilkerman Garcia [last year's award recipient], Kendall Coleman, Nelson Gomez, Diego Castillo, and a host of others.  However, this award will stay with Wilkerman Garcia for yet another year because the lackluster production thus far [.198 with just one home run in Pulaski this year] is actually turning him into one of the bigger 'sleeper' prospects as critics have been a little too quick to jump off of his prospect bandwagon.  The top-shelf talent is still very much there to turn himself into one of the better prospects in what is an extremely deep farm system and it's not beyond the realm of possibly to see him have a Gleyber Torres-like ascension in the rankings someday once the production begins to match the talent.

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.

This year's recipient, Mandy Alvarez, is very different than most previous winners of this award because he didn't last in Staten Island very long, hitting .339 in his first 13 games there before getting called up to low-A Charleston. He wound up finishing his debut season hitting a very solid .288 with 21 extra-base hits in just 66 games between the two levels and his low strikeout total [26] and high contact rate suggests that there could be some long-term hidden potential worth tracking too.

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 decent numbers and has a solid enough game to be considered a sleeper prospect.

This award goes to outfielder Timmy Robinson, this year's 21st round pick out of USC. To be fair, his selection for this award has more to do with his later-round selection in the draft than his tools, which are more average on the big league scale than previous winners.  He hit a solid .265 but clubbed eight home runs and 18 doubles, and stole nine bases, showing the kind of intriguing speed and power combination that not only gives him a chance long-term but some 'sleeper' potential too.  He isn't just quick with some power either, there's a rather patient approach at the plate that suggests some more hitting potential too.  Throw in a solid defensive game and a solid 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame, and like last year's winner of this award [Zack Zehner] he has the look of a Russo-like organizational type who just may find his way on to a big league roster someday, somebody who could chip in with some solid minor league seasons along the way.


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