We arrive in Bluefield, the Jays’ lowest team that plays a regular minor schedule (as opposed to the “complex” schedule with daytime games). The Bluefield Blue Jays had a strong team this year, making the playoffs, so let’s take a look at our Blue Jays from Away Awards for the club.
The Bluefield Blue Jays had a very strong season in 2017 under perennial manager Dennis Holmberg, finishing in first place in the East Division but losing two games to one in a tightly contested semifinals series to the Pulaski Yankees. No game was decided by more than two runs and, after winning the first game, the Blue Jays were swept in the final two at home. The Blue Jays’ offense, younger than average (19.9 years, 0.4 years below league average for the hitters) finished second in the league in runs per game at 6.03, well above the league average of 5.26. The Blue Jays were strong on the pitching side too, coming in at about half a run below the league average, in third place with 4.74 runs per game allowed with a pitching staff that ran 0.1 years below the league average in age.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
For those of you who followed the minor league reports here, you’ll know that I “awarded” Player of the Game (PotG) accolades on a game-by-game basis. It should comfort you to know that I’ve been keeping track of these daily awards and my rationale for the system is as follows.
The Player of the Game Awards were determined by a number of factors that included who I thought had the most impact on the game and who might have gone “above and beyond.” Most nights, there was just one Player of the Game. If there was, he earned one point. If I thought that either a) no one stood out enough to merit a single PotG, or b) two or more players were outstanding and deserved mention, I split the point up into two, three or four shares. If two players earned PotG mention, they each received 0.5 points and if three players earned mentions, they each received 0.33 points, etc. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.
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Despite a late charge by Kevin Smith, Ryan Noda, the Appalachian League MVP, is our Player of the Game Champion!
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
Ryan Noda had good enough numbers to be the league MVP, hitting .364/.507/.575 in 276 plate appearances, posting a 1.082 OPS with seven home runs. In fact, even though his power dropped late in the season, my assumption is that teams weren’t pitching to him as he kept walking and finished with an OBP over .500. Ryan Gold was a strong candidate with an .864 OPS and Kevin Smith hit 25 doubles and led the team with eight home runs but had a .778 OPS.
Honourable Mention: Ryan Gold, Kevin Smith, Yorman Rodriguez
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
Randy Pondler was the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year, posting a 2.51 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 57 1/3 innings, striking out 42 and walking 11. Who am I to deny him the BJfA Pitcher of the Year award?
Honourable Mention: Jordan Barrett, Turner Larkins
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
The Bluefield Blue Jays were blessed with several dominant relievers this season and it was a tough choice that came down to the club saves leader, Ty Tice and runner up Graham Spraker. Tice had the better ERA but it’s Graham Spraker who gets my vote due to a far lower WHIP (0.78) and fewer walks (6) despite throwing more innings (33 1/3) while still posting over a strikeout per inning (39 Ks).
Honourable Mention: Ty Tice, Marcus Reyes
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