On Wednesday, the Detroit Tigers announced their 2019 Minor League Players of the Year. Infielders Willi Castro and Isaac Paredes split the honors on the position side, while righthander Matt Manning took home the Pitcher of the Year Award.
Here at Bless You Boys, we have announced our own winners in the past (our 2018 honorees will look familiar). This year, we want to expand our list a bit. Our friends at Lookout Landing created several different awards for the minor leaguers in the Seattle Mariners’ system, and we’re going to
blatantly copy them adapt a few of their categories for our own use.
That’s where you come in! Simply announcing the awards didn’t seem quite as fun, so we’re going to turn it into a site vote. The BYB staff came together to nominate a few players for each category, and we will have you, the reader, place your votes in the comments.
Let’s get to the nominees!
Player of the Year
Nominees: SS Willi Castro, IF Isaac Paredes, IF Adinso Reyes
The local writers seem to have gotten this one right. Castro and Paredes nearly split our staff vote, with just one lone vote coming in for Reyes. The teenager certainly made his case, hitting .331/.379/.508 with 28 extra-base hits in 62 games in the Dominican Summer League. Closer to home, Castro produced an .833 OPS in 119 games for Triple-A Toledo, while Paredes quietly put together a 133 wRC+ in a surprisingly pitcher-friendly Eastern League.
Pitcher of the Year
Nominees: RHP Matt Manning, LHP Tarik Skubal, RHP Casey Mize
It says something that the 2018 No. 1 overall pick and organization’s top prospect came in a distant third in our vote. Manning was more consistently dominant, throwing 133 2⁄3 innings to Mize’s 109 1⁄3 frames. He also managed a better strikeout rate, though Mize came through with the superior strikeout-to-walk ratio. Speaking of strikeouts, Skubal made his own case for the award with a whopping 82 strikeouts in just 42 1⁄3 innings at Double-A Erie.
Reliever of the Year
Nominees: RHP John Schreiber, RHP Ethan DeCaster, RHP Angel De Jesus
Relievers are people too! Rather than try to wedge some of the more unheralded performances of the year into another category, we figured that we would just put the organization’s bullpen arms into their own section. Schreiber is the best-known of these three pitchers, earning a call-up to the big leagues behind a 2.28 ERA and 29.4 percent strikeout rate at Triple-A Toledo. DeCaster managed a 2.70 ERA and 1.08 WHIP across three minor league levels, while De Jesus put together the best raw numbers — a 1.61 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 61 1⁄3 innings — for West Michigan and Lakeland.
Most Improved Hitter
Nominees: SS Willi Castro, OF Derek Hill, IF Isaac Paredes
Castro looked good in a short stint for Double-A Erie following the trade that brought him to Detroit in 2018, but had a rather poor season overall. His numbers at Triple-A might be somewhat thanks to the juiced ball, but still look like a serious breakout that the Tigers will desperately need at the major league level. Derek Hill raised his OPS by 80 points while playing at a higher level, and hit 14 home runs to boot. His .705 OPS may not look that impressive at first glance, but it was actually eight percent better than league average (per wRC+).
Most Improved Pitcher
Nominees: LHP Tarik Skubal, RHP Alex Faedo, RHP Anthony Castro
This may seem like Skubal’s category to lose, but hear me out. Skubal was still very good after being drafted in 2018, posting 33 strikeouts in 22 1⁄3 innings while limiting opponents to a 0.40 ERA. His 2019 season is certainly impressive either way, but one might argue that Faedo or Castro better qualify for the “most improved” category. Faedo lowered his Double-A ERA by over a full run while striking out 28.3 percent of hitters, while Castro’s overall numbers belie how dominant he was at time for the SeaWolves.
Most Impressive 2019 Draftee
Nominees: OF Bryant Packard, OF Riley Greene, C Cooper Johnson
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder here. Packard has the best raw numbers of this group, but Greene looked like a player beyond his years while dominating competition at the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues. He didn’t meet any real resistance until reaching the Midwest League, where he faced players three to four years older than him, on average. Johnson’s offensive numbers were nothing special, but he lit Tigers Twitter on fire with some impressive defensive plays.
Cooper Johnson a 6th rd pick for the Tigers this year catches the very fast Korey Howell stealing. Johnson is 1/2 on SB todayhe profiles as a backup C pic.twitter.com/OIoiJpm0jg— Robert James (@confusion_reign) July 21, 2019
Most Concerning Hitter
Nominees: OF Daz Cameron, IF Wenceel Perez, IF Kody Clemens
Unfortunately, not all of our awards are happy ones. The above players all struggled for large stretches of the 2019 season to varying degrees. Clemens had the best overall numbers, but as a high college draft pick playing against age-appropriate competition, one might expect him to hit much better than he did. Cameron and Perez looked more overmatched than Clemens, but were also playing against competition much older than them. Perez hit .233/.299/.314 in 124 games for Single-A West Michigan, while Cameron produced a .707 OPS in 120 games.
Most Concerning Pitcher
Nominees: RHP Franklin Perez
You are welcome to write in another player, but this category was a clean sweep for Perez in our vote. The 22-year-old made just two starts for High-A Lakeland, and spent the vast majority of the season on the injured list for the second year in a row. Since joining the Tigers organization in late August 2017, he has thrown just 27 innings in regular season game action.
Best Breakout Player
Nominees: LHP Tarik Skubal
Best Breakout Player Not Named Tarik Skubal
Nominees: RHP Alex Faedo, OF Jose Azocar, SS Willi Castro
As mentioned above, Faedo took a huge step forward relative to his meager 2018 performance. There are still some concerns about his overall potential as a starting pitcher, but it’s hard to argue with his raw results from 2019. Azocar also enjoyed the water in Erie, putting together a solid .715 OPS (108 wRC+) after two consecutive years of floundering in Lakeland. Castro also deserves a mention for the big improvements he made on his overall numbers from last year.
Best Organizational Player
Nominees: UTIL Brady Policelli, C Chace Numata, IF Kody Eaves
If you look at the raw numbers, Policelli had the best season of these three. He produced a .738 OPS (121 wRC+) and 11 home runs in 123 games for High-A Lakeland, all while playing four different positions (six if you include single games at shortstop and center field). Eaves also had a nice year, with a .743 OPS across two levels. Then there is Numata, who put in solid work at Erie and Toledo before his untimely passing earlier this month.
2020 Breakout Pick
Nominees: whoever you want!
No player received more than one vote from our staff, so we won’t limit this category to just a few names. We will almost certainly discuss this category more in the future, but feel free to make your picks on this year’s ballot!
Here’s the full ballot!
Copy and paste this into the comments below to make your picks. Write-ins are welcome, and we will tally the votes after a few days to come up with our winners.
Player of the Year:
Pitcher of the Year:
Reliever of the Year:
Most Improved Hitter:
Most Improved Pitcher:
Most Impressive 2019 Draftee:
Most Concerning Hitter:
Most Concerning Pitcher:
Best Breakout Player Not Named Tarik Skubal:
Best Organizational Player:
2020 Breakout Pick: