Position Player of the Year - 1B Javier Brito
The BayBears solved a dilemma quite neatly by naming Justin Upton as their Player of the Year and Javier Brito as their team MVP. We agree that Upton was the Player of the Year for the entire organization, but give the BayBear honors to Brito.
Upton had a better slugging average than Brito did. Carlos Gonzalez hit more homers and drove in more runs, and Emilio Bonifacio scored more runs and collected more hits. But Brito was near the top in every offensive category.
Brito was first in both walks, batting average, and on base percentage - each by a lot. He finished second on the team in runs, hits, total bases, SLG, OPS, and RBI. Sure, he was the team's first baseman, and first basemen are supposed to be among the team's best hitters, but Brito was among the entire league's best hitters, as his BA and OBP both paced the Southern League.
Brito's season was so impressive that the organization felt comfortable dealing longtime first base prospect Chris Carter for pitcher Emiliano Fruto near the end of the season. We can expect his numbers at hitter-friendly Tucson Electric park to be even more impressive next year. While the team appears likely to re-sign Tony Clark for his leadership qualities, Javier Brito could be the one platooning with him in late 2008 if Conor Jackson doesn't blossom into the hitter that everyone thought he would become.
Pitcher of the Year - RHP Esmerling Vasquez
The Mobile BayBears named Esmerling Vasquez as their Pitcher of the Year. The Arizona Diamondbacks named him as the organizational Pitcher of the Year. We therefore can't argue that Vasquez wasn't at least the Pitcher of the Year for the BayBears, even though Matt Green led the team with 12 wins and had a fine year himself..
10-6 with a 2.99 ERA is certainly impressive, but the real eye-popping number for Vasquez this season was his hits allowed: just 125 in 165.1 innings. While he finished second in the Southern League in both ERA and innings pitched, he ranked 24th in hits allowed, leading to a league-best WHIP of 1.12.
What makes Vasquez so hard to hit? He has the best curveball in the system, according to farm director A.J. Hinch. "[There are] not a lot of true curveball guys in our system," Hinch told us, but he cited this Dominican's big hammer as the best he has seen this year. It just got better as the year wore on, as evidenced by Vasquez' 2.62 ERA after June 1st.
Vasquez has been a starter the past two seasons after working the bullpen his entire career before that. After all of the innings he threw during the regular season, he is once again relieving in the Arizona Fall League. He hadn't allowed a run until his fifth outing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, but his control has not been on par with what we were used to in the regular season. He walked just 60 in his 165.1 innings at Mobile, but has already issued five free passes through his first 5.1 AFL innings.
Given there results, it is likely that Vasquez will once again start next season, and we view him as a darkhorse candidate to compete for the 2008 rotation.