'09 Players of the Year: D-backs Organization

'09 Players of the Year: D-backs Organization

The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Ryan Wheeler and Billy Buckner for their 2009 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. It's particularly difficult to argue against Wheeler, but FutureBacks.com nevertheless selected a different pitcher and position player as the best D-backs of 2009.

Pitcher of the Year - RHP T.J. Hose

Billy Buckner was an odd choice by the organization, as he only pitched in 18 minor league games, 16 of which were starts.  They were highly successful outings, however, as he went 9-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 103 innings in one of the least pitcher-friendly venues in all of professional baseball.  Nevertheless, there were eight D-backs pitchers who racked up more wins in the minors and 11 who notched more strikeouts than Buckner's 96.

Among those pitchers who had double-digits in victories, Ryan Cook had the lowest ERA at 3.66, but he missed some time due to a blister and only wound up making 25 starts and pitching 142.2 innings.  Tony Barnette had the best record in the farm system at 14-8, but his 5.79 ERA left much to be desired, even taking into account the effects of Aces Ballpark.  Josh Collmenter paced the system with 152 strikeouts, but finished just 8-10 due to some bad luck.

Bryan Augenstein had a stellar 2.98 ERA, but like Buckner, made just 16 starts due to injury and time spent in the majors.  Matt Torra threw a whopping 180 innings and fanned more than four batters for every walk he threw, but also allowed 192 hits and lost 13 games.  Wes Roemer seems to have the best of everything: 12-10 record and 3.86 ERA in 165.1 innings, but he did allow 14 unearned runs.   

The point is that of the D-backs' minor league starters, no one really stood out from over a half dozen strong performances.  Among relievers, we think that T.J. Hose did enough to earn the title of FutureBacks.com Pitcher of the Year.

The Diamondbacks' 36th-round pick of the 2008 draft, Hose is generously listed at 5-foot-10 and doesn't throw all that hard.  It was something of an upset that he broke camp with a full season squad.  He then went on to assume the closer's role in South Bend before advancing to the hitter-friendly California League.  None of the challenges there fazed him, as he finished with a dozen saves to go with a cumulative 2.11 ERA, 70 strikeouts, 17 walks, and 1.06 WHIP in 59.2 innings.  Justin Mace, Hose's teammate at South Bend, put up similarly good numbers without all the strikeouts, but wasn't given the opportunity to prove himself in advanced A-ball as he remained to help the Silver Hawks reach the playoffs.

"Whatever opportunities come up, I just try to take full advantage of them," Hose told us during the season.  He has indeed seized every opportunity thus far and should have plenty more to come.

Position Player of the Year - 1B/C Sean Coughlin

Ryan Wheeler was also an unusual selection - not because he wasn't deserving, but because newly-drafted players usually can't put up numbers that compare with those who have been with the organization since April.  In the case of Wheeler and Paul Goldschmidt, two newly-drafted players were arguably the best hitters in the entire Diamondbacks organization.  Wheeler paced the pack in batting average (.361) and on-base percentage (.462) while Goldschmidt led the system in home runs (18) and slugging (.638).

Both of those players were terrific hitters in college, and they feasted on some inexperienced pitching at the Short-Season levels.  They each also played exclusively at first base and designated hitter, the easiest positions at which to post good offensive numbers.  Sean Coughlin also played at first base and DH, but spent 19 of his 77 total games played at catcher, the most difficult position at which to post good offensive numbers. 

Coughlin did produce good offensive numbers for a month at Visalia.  Then, inexplicably, Coughlin exploded upon getting promoted to Mobile and facing better pitching in better conditions for pitchers.  He went .304/.432/.484 in 199 Double-A plate appearances, including 35 walks to just 19 strikeouts. He posted a .983 OPS as a Double-A first baseman as compared to an .877 mark when playing catcher.

"The biggest thing when I've been hot is being nice and relaxed in the box and not trying to do too much," Coughlin revealed to FutureBacks.

Unfortunately, Coughlin's remarkable season was cut short when he broke a bone in his hand during the Southern League All-Star game.  As a result, his overall numbers on the season don't pop out at you.  Still, his overall .862 OPS in 316 plate appearances is nothing to scoff at, and when you consider that he put up the bulk of those numbers in the Southern League and some of those numbers as a catcher, the stat line looks really good.

Rusty Ryal and John Hester also had terrific full seasons at premium positions with Reno, but they most certainly benefited from the favorable hitting conditions at Aces Ballpark.  Was Coughlin's season more impressive than Wheeler's or Goldschmidt's?  Certainly not, but it may well have been as impressive.  It deserves to get some recognition, as it has largely flown under the national radar. The Diamondbacks' front office is eager to see how Coughlin recovers from his injury, however, and was confident enough in his hitting ability to allow Joshua Whitesell to become a free agent yesterday.

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