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Mariners Announce Minor League Awards

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Tyler O’Neill finally gets some much-deserved recognition

@c_r_cunningham

Today the Mariners announced which minor league players and staff members have earned end-of-season recognition. Like everything else in the organization this year, the awards have a different look: they have been renamed to honor past greats of the organization, and the “Heart and Soul” award has been split into a community service award honoring the late Dave Henderson and the “Mr. Mariner” award, celebrating the player who most embodies Alvin Davis’s love of the team above himself. Prior to Saturday’s game, the awards will be announced in a pregame ceremony and several of the winners will be attendance, so go holler at ‘em.

The Ken Griffey Jr. Award (Minor League Hitter of the Year) - Tyler O’Neill, AA Jackson

Tyler O’Neill is going to have to make an off-season trip to the IKEA up in Canada (IKEh?) and get himself a bigger trophy case. As if his regular-season stats weren’t enough, O’Neill hit .448 over the playoffs, and delivered several clutch hits including a walk-off three-run homer to win a crucial playoff game. He was selected to multiple all-star teams and the prestigious Futures Game, won every award (literally all of them), and almost captured the Southern League Triple Crown. This is a wild amount of acclaim for a kid who just turned 21 this season. What’s exciting about O’Neill is this year he showed he’s not just a world-beating slugger, although he is certainly that; he can also hit for average, shows good speed on the bases for a guy whose entire upper half is carved from marble, and can play an above-average corner outfield. O’Neill has also embraced the organization’s mantra of C the Z, cutting his strikeouts from 30% to 26%, while collecting 62 walks over the year—more than all his previous years combined—for a 10.8% walk rate (last year: 6.5%). It’s going to be great fun to watch O’Neill at Spring Training this year, where he’ll surely have a bigger role than last year. For even more fun, check out this piece Ethan wrote on O’Neill back in May basically forecasting that Tyler would make the farm great again, then hit him up on Twitter (@EthanNovak) for lottery numbers, sports betting lines, whatever.

The Jamie Moyer Award (Minor League Pitcher of the Year) - Andrew Moore, AA Jackson

AA Jackson was an embarrassment of riches this year, especially with regards to its pitching, but what’s impressive about Moore is, instead of wearing down at his first year of full-season ball, he actually got better as the year went on. After just two months at high-A Bakersfield, in which he led the Cal League in ERA and BAA, Moore was promoted to Jackson, where he dropped his ERA incrementally over the course of the season (with the exception of a slightly-rough August) while maintaining a K/9 of about 7 and actually decreasing his walks to a miserly 1.5/9. He ended the season with a complete game shut-out of the Montgomery Biscuits, in which he threw over 70% of his pitches for strikes, and then eight innings of one-run ball against Biloxi, before having a rough outing (by Andrew Moore standards) against Chattanooga, in which he surrendered two whole runs in six innings. He rebounded in the playoffs, however, when he carried a perfect game into the seventh before Keon Wong—younger brother of MLBer Kolten Wong—bunted his way on base (don’t worry, the baseball gods righted this Wong). I’m not sure about the others, but Eugene-based OSU-product Moore should definitely be at Safeco this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re there. (Just shout GO BEAVS! and see who responds.)

The Edgar Martinez Productive Team Plate Appearance Award - Dalton Kelly, A Clinton

A new award this year, the PTPA recognizes the player who best embraces the philosophy of Control the Zone, and is named after Edgar Martinez, whose career OBP is 14th of all-time and better than David Ortiz’s can ever possibly be and you should go remind everyone on Twitter of that right now. This year for the LumberKings, Kelly posted an OBP of .384, good for eighth-best in the Southern League, while hitting .293 and slugging .416. He had a double-digit walk rate (11%) while keeping his strikeouts in check (20% K rate) and proved to be a threat on the base paths as well, snagging 21 stolen bases. Kelly always seemed to deliver in the clutch, most notably in a late-season game when he came up in the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded and delivered a screaming RBI double to give the LumberKings the lead and eventually a tough road win. Expect the Mariners to be aggressive in promoting the 22-year-old lefty first baseman.

The Alvin Davis “Mr. Mariner” Award - Zach Shank, AAA Tacoma

Zach Shank is often the forgotten man. A 28th-round draft pick, Shank spent each of the past two years ping-ponging between AA Jackson and AAA Tacoma. But through all the shuttling, Shank remains a beacon of consistency, posting similar numbers at whatever level, thanks to his mantra: “it’s baseball at every level.” The big difference: last year, in 93 games, Shank slashed .250/.323/.351; this year, in 120, it’s .290/.354/.377. The presence of Mike Freeman and Shawn O’Malley probably cost the 25-year-old utility player a shot at a call-up this year, but don’t count out the humble, hardworking infielder, who is always willing to do whatever he can to help out his team.

The Dan Wilson Minor League Community Service Award - David Rollins, AAA Tacoma

David Rollins spent the season bouncing between Seattle and Tacoma, but still managed to make time to visit Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. Rollins also works with local Boys and Girls Clubs, and always makes time for his littlest fans:

The Dave Henderson Minor League Staff Member of the Year - Mitch Canham, Manager of A Clinton

While Jackson has garnered the lion’s share of the post-season acclaim, the Clinton LumberKings also had themselves a darn fine season under the helm of first-year manager Mitch Canham, setting a franchise record at 86 wins. Fun fact: the ‘Kings record of 86-56 is almost an exact inverse of their dreadful 46-93 record in 2015. If you don’t know much about local product and OSU grad Canham, this Jerry Crasnick profile from 2008 is a compelling read; Canham has walked a path in life few of us can understand firsthand, and has fully earned the right to say things like this:

The Mariners organization is exceptionally blessed to have someone who cares so much for his players and their success. Cheer loudly when his name is announced on Saturday.