Position Player--Brandon Burgess
South Bend is still riding high in the playoff race, and next year looks like
it might be just as bright, because this year Yakima was stocked with hitters.
Ramon Downing was hot all month, hitting .336 and jacking four homers in the
month, but Brandon Burgess gets the nod, because Brandon Burgess did it all.
His .318 was second only to Downing (Chris Rahl actually hit .360 but it came in
only 25 at bats), he hit three homers, led the team with 34 hits, nine doubles,
18 runs scored, a .523 slugging percentage and a .402 on base percentage, and
finished second in RBI with 17. While his outfield defense still needs to
improve, Burgess silenced some critics who referred to him as a 'DH waiting to
happen' by playing solid, if unspectacular, defense in both left and right
field, and showcasing an arm that has gained both strength and accuracy.
In a system stocked with outfielders, his talents will have to continue to
improve, but they already have. In nearly half the games Burgess, who
repeated at Yakima this season, hit more than .100 higher, and his slugging and
on base percentages jumped even more. He had more extra base hits, and cut
his strikeouts by more than half. He did it by not worrying as much about
power, and driving, rather than jerking, the ball. A sixth round pick in
2004, Burgess is just 22, and should move up to South Bend next season, where
his patience will be tested (he walked just 14 times in 117 at bats), but the
biggest test might simply be playing a full season. Burgess' entire season
was essentially a month long this year, and staying healthy for a full year will
go a long way to convincing the Diamondbacks that Burgess is a prospect to
There are good performances, there are great stretches, and then there's the
month Yakima relief pitcher Kyler Newby had in August. Newby was perhaps
the most impressive relief pitcher in the Diamondbacks entire system last month.
Both durable and dependable, Newby got the call often in August, making 10
appearances in the month, and a quick look at his stats shows why. A
middle reliever, Newby didn't win or lose a game in the month, though he did
pick up one save during his 20.1 innings pitched, by far the most of any
reliever in Yakima. He carried a sparkling 1.77 ERA, good enough for
second best on the team last month. His .159 ERA was also good enough for
second on the squad, but what really set Newby apart was his penchant for
Without a 'power' fastball, Newby hit his spots and changed speeds, racking
up 37 strikeouts, or nearly two per inning pitched. While some pitchers at
this level have trouble with control, Newby walked only seven in the month,
which bodes well going into '06. Newby has been invited to the
instructional leagues in Tucson that begin next week, and at just 20 years old
this product of Mesa Community College has the opportunity to move up quickly,
despite the Diamondbacks penchant for moving young pitchers slowly.
"He's as polished a 20 year old as you'll find," said one scout, "the only
difference between Newby and someone like (Seattle Mariners top pitching
prospect) Felix Hernandez is a fastball in the upper 90s, and Newby might
actually be a better 'pitcher' because he's never been able to just blow the
ball by guys."
High praise, and there will likely be more to come. Whether Newby
continues on as a reliever or moves back into the starting rotation, where he
spent his college career, will likely depend on need. The Diamondbacks
have a lot of high draft picks in the lower levels who are slated to be
starters, and Newby's success out of the pen gives the Diamondbacks the option
to simply groom him as a set up man or closer in the future.