Today we will vote for this season's Twinkie Town Player of the Year. To not limit the candidates to my personal preferences, I will include multiple players from several of the six teams in the system.
With the New Britain Rock Cats losing their last game, they lost all hope of joining the Eastern League playoffs. That meant the only team from the organization in the playoffs this year was the Elizabethton Twins, who were eliminated in their opening best of three series.
I will summarize each player's season after the jump. Then turn it over for you to decide this year's Player of the Year. [Edit: Voting is for the player who had the best season, not the best prospect...that will come this winter]
Just because the Rochester Red Wings finished with their worst two year record since 1903-1904 doesn't mean there weren't a few players with outstanding seasons. As we watch games this fall we have seen Trevor Plouffe struggling defensively in his first extended playing time with the Twins. Looking back at his season in Rochester, however, we see a young man who was playing as well as anyone in the league. Plouffe played in only 51 games for the Wings, finishing with a .313 batting average and 1.019 OPS. His fifteen home runs tied with Jeff Bailey and Dustin Martin for the most on the Wings team. Yet Plouffe had only 192 at bats while Bailey and Martin had 428 and 490, respectively. Had he had enough at bats to qualify, his .313 average would have been fifth best and his 1.019 OPS would have led the league by a wide margin.
Another Red Wing who deserves consideration is Aaron Bates. Bates signed with the Twins and joined the Wings in early May. In 358 at bats, Bates had the leagues third best batting average, .316, with a 0.847 OPS. Bates, who had a cup of coffee in the major leagues in 2009, was the Red Wings's most consistent player hitting over .300 average every month except August when he hit .279. Rochester has several of the organization's top young prospects penciled into their lineup for 2012. Bates, who will turn twenty-eight next March, is one veteran the Twins should consider bringing back for a second season.
After one of New Britain's worst seasons in history in 2010, the Twins signed several veteran minor league players for Rochester so they could return several of their top prospects to New Britain. It made a difference with the Rock Cats coming within two games of the playoffs. Although two Rock Cats are currently up with the Twins, their top hitter throughout the year was Yangervis Solarte. His .329 batting average was second best in the league (Starling Marte led the league at .332). Like Bates, Solarte did not have any extended slumps, hitting .300 or better every month of the season. Solarte led the Rock Cats with 36 doubles, which trailed the league leader by only two. Solarte, who had been in search of a position for the past several years, seemed to find a home at second base where he played 89 of his 121 games.
The other two players from New Britain have been linked together since being drafted in the first two rounds of the 2006 draft. Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson moved through the organization together, including a brief demotion in 2010 and repeating at Beloit in 2008 when both spent over half the year on the disabled list. Their hard work and dreams were fulfilled when they joined the Twins earlier this month. Parmelee seemed to hit everything his first few games and has been solid both at the plate and defensively. Benson struggled at the plate his first few games and has made an occassional defensive mistake. He has been better of late with a performance last night that has Twins management and fans drooling over the player he can be. They are learning from every at bat and inning played which will be important next spring when they report to Rochester for their final trip to the minor leagues.
Parmelee had an excellent season, hitting for a .287 average with a .801 OPS in 530 at bats. He had thirty doubles, five triples, thirteen home runs, a team high 76 runs scored and 83 driven in, which was third most in the league. Benson, who had one stint on the disabled list, hit for a .285 average with a .883 OPS in 400 at bats. Benson had 28 doubles, four triples, a team high sixteen home runs, 69 runs scored and 67 driven in. Benson also had thirteen stolen bases and commited only two errors while playing mostly center field. Both are top prospects with Benson having all five tools that could enable him to become very special once he returns to the Twins later next year.
One player you may have thought I missed at New Britain is Seth Stohs' Hitter of the Year, Brian Dozier. Granted he had 311 at bats for New Britain while having only 180 in Ft. Myers, but he was clearly Ft. Myers' best hitter. Dozier hit for a .322 average (0.895 OPS) for the Miracle and unlike most players who have a drop off when they move up to AA, he hit for nearly an identical average, .318, with a 0.885 OPS. Our friend Seth recently pointed out that Dozier led the Twins organization in five categories, runs (92), hits (157), triples (12), stolen bases (24) and total bases (241). He had the second most sacrifice bunts (10), third most hit by pitches (11) and fourth most doubles (33). He also had the seventh most walks (55) which were nearly as many as his 66 strike outs (only 11.5% of 569 plate appearances). He was selected as an all-star at his first three professional stops, Elizabethton, Beloit and Ft. Myers this summer. Dozier was a surprise addition to the Twins spring training roster for many of us last spring. That will be the last time he should surprise any of us as Pat Reusse recently commented that he could be a contender for the Twins shortstop spot next year.
Another player who spent part of the season in Ft. Myers is Oswaldo Arcia. Although Arcia didn't have the type of numbers for the Miracle we are used to seeing, he played very well after spending nearly two months on the disabled list. He began his season at Beloit, hitting like the player who was the 2010 Appalachian League Player of the Year when he led the league in nearly every hitting category. Arcia had an injured elbow which limited him to being the Snappers' designated hitter. It didn't hinder his hitting however, as he hit for a .352 average with a 1.124 OPS. In only 71 April at bats, Arcia hit eight doubles, one triple and five home runs with eighteen runs scored and driven in. The Twins decided it was best that he have elbow surgery, which kept him out of action from the first of May until late June. When he returned, the Twins opted to keep him in Ft. Myers with the Miracle even though he had spent only twenty games in Beloit. His numbers with the Miracle aren't shocking, however, he continued to hit for power. In 213 at bats, Arcia hit for a .263 average with a .760 OPS including fourteen doubles, two triples and 32 runs driven in. Although he played less than half the season with the Miracle, he tied Danny Rams for the team high eight home runs.
After missing all of 2010 because of Tommy John surgery, Jairo Perez began his season in extended spring training. He joined the Snappers in early June and went on to have one of the best seasons in recent Snappers history. Although his 276 at bats weren't enough to qualify for the league lead, he would have led the league in hitting with a .337 average and OPS (.992). Perez hit fifteen home runs which trailed the team leader, Lance Ray, by one even though Ray had nearly 200 more at bats. He also had twenty doubles, the team's third most runs driven in (60) and 56 runs scored.
Two of the most exciting young prospects in the organization spent this season with the Elizabethton Twins. Eddie Rosario is a nineteen year old centerfielder who like Arcia last year, led or was near the top of almost every Appy League hitting category. Also like Arcia, Rosario was named the league's co-MVP. He had the leagues third best batting average (.337), best slugging percentage (.670), and second best OPS (1.068, the leader had 1.071). He led the league with 21 home runs, nine triples and 71 runs scored. He also had the second most runs driven in (60) while being amongst the league leaders with seventeen stolen bases.
Rosario's teammate, Miguel Sano, has been in the spotlight since the Twins signed him to a 3.15 million dollar contract in 2009 and had to wait to finalize the contract while Major League Baseball investigated his age. Sano began his career in 2010 with the Gulf Coast League Twins. He moved up to Elizabethton this year, shortly after his eighteenth birthday in May. Sano battled Rosario for the league home run title, finishing one short with twenty. He also drove in one run less than Rosario (59) while trailing his teammate by two triples (7). Sano finished with a .292 average with the league's third best slugging percentage (.637) and third best OPS (0.988). Whereas Rosario is an excellent centerfielder who had only two errors, Sano has struggled defensively at both third and shortstop. As his manager said, Sano is young and has a very, very high ceiling but also has a lot to learn.
This week Baseball America named their year end all-star teams. Rosario and Sano were the only Twins prospects to be recognized when both were named to the "Rookie Leagues All-Star Team." Baseball America also named Rosario as the Rookie Leagues Player of the Year.
Phillip Chapman was the only player for the Gulf Coast League Twins to hit over .300 average with more than a hundred at bats. I have opted, however, to not include a player with only 104 at bats in voting for our Player of the Year.
The organization didn't have a lot of team success in the playoffs, but the above players certainly had excellent seasons. I don't know about you, but I am gonna have to give this some thought before I cast my vote!