Consider this nothing more than a way to talk about our future as an organization while we wallow in last place.
Here are my five candidates each to win M's Minor League Pitcher and Hitter of the Year.
Nick Franklin, Clinton
Nate Tenbrink, High Desert
Rich Poythress, High Desert
Dustin Ackley, West Tennessee
Carlos Peguero, West Tennessee
Franklin has perhaps been one of the biggest surprises in all of the minors. Unexpected to have such a good bat at such a young age, and considerably younger than the competition, Franklin has put up .328/.366/.586 line with 9 doubles, 6 triples, 8 home runs, and 26 RBI plus 8 steals in 11 attempts. I'm not that old, but when Franklin was born I was totally into The Simpsons already. That's weird.
Tenbrink has toyed with the Cal League this year. A not-too-highly-touted prospect gets much love from the High Desert heat again this year, this time its Tenbrink for a .379/.452/.649 line with 10 doubles, 5 triples, 9 home runs and 42 RBI. Perhaps more impressive is the 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts and 22 walks drawn. No matter what the case for how good Tenbrink really can be, if he can put up similar numbers to this for a full year, he'll be a frontrunner for the M's hitter of the year.
Poythress's all around numbers aren't as good as Tenbrinks, but he has hit 11 home runs with 41 RBI in the Cal League. He's definitely mentionable, as Joe Dunigan was mentionable last year, but Poythress is also much better.
Ackley is the org's best talent, the highest touted name, and despite struggles has shown excellent plate discipline (26:25 bb:kk ratio) and has the tools to have a huge 2nd half. He's in the running as much as anyone.
Peguero was the talk of the town a few weeks ago, he has since slowed down and shown why people were so hesitant to believe in him. He still leads the org in home runs with 12, but everything else is unimpressive. But another home run binge, who knows.
Erasmo Ramirez, Clinton
Michael Pineda, West Tennessee
Mauricio Robles, West Tennessee
Steven Hensley, West Tennessee
Luke French, Tacoma
Erasmo is my surprise pick. After his killer 2009, he makes his way stateside and has still shown that brilliant control from the VSL he displayed with 28:2 K:BB ratio in 39 innings and a 2.06 ERA. He may struggle to get recognized without racking up a lot of wins, or striking out better than 8 per inning, but Erasmo is my dark horse.
Pineda is my clear frontrunner. 3-1, 2.23, 44.1 innings, 54 k, 11 bb, 1 HR allowed. And he's the best pitching talent in the organization already.
Robles is probably the 2nd best, and has put up the numbers. 3-1, 3.05, 41.1 innings, 46 k, 22 bb. Okay, the walks are bad, but Robles is 21 years old in AA and he's doing pretty darn well.
Hensley gives West Tennessee three pretty damn good starters and he's ahead in the race to wins, having gone 5-1 in 7 starts with a 1.58 ERA and 32:17 k:bb in 40 innings.
Luke French is in here for a couple reasons: I don't know what the rules say about "minor league pitcher of the year" and if you have to technically not be a "Rookie" anymore and also because I had a hard time finding candidates for pitcher of the year and French is 5-1 with a 1.61 ERA for Tacoma which probably looks good to some people.
So there you have it.
Why have I made up this list and so early in the year? Because the major league team is hard to think about right now, I prefer to have visions of Pineda dance in my head. Also, to get some more minor league talk going around. Who did I clearly snub? Who do you like so far this year? Who do you think is going to sadly fall back to earth and who will rise from the ashes?
I apologize for lack of solid statistics such as xFIP, BABIP, and the like, but I did not have readily available access to those numbers for minor league players. I do so apologize for that! But feel free to throw them in comments.