I had a great time with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2014, having visited Lansing three times this season and getting to see the development of some of the players that I had seen last year in Bluefield. That said, I was very disappointed with the outcome of the season. My original prediction was that, with a very talented young pitching staff and offense that included the most top-20 prospects in the Midwest League, the club would start off slowly but would become a juggernaut as the very young players developed.
Well, my prediction didn’t come to fruition as the Lugnuts finished with a 62-77 record under John Tamago, Jr. Despite a second-half record of 30-40, the club was in playoff contention all the way down to the wire thanks to a mediocre second half by several other clubs in the Eastern Division.
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 0.3 points. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.
Here are the final standings for Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game for the Lansing Lugnuts:
|Chase De Jong||5.5|
|Dickie Joe Thon||5.5|
|Yeyfry Del Rosario||1.5|
As you can see, it’s a very close race at the top of the table for the every day players that I was considering for the Player of the Year award. Mitch Nay was promoted with a couple of weeks left in the season and might have been able to our Player of the Game Champion, Matt Dean who ended up leading the club in home runs.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
I’m going to be very uncreative here and award the Player of the Year to Matthew Dean. Dean had the highest OPS of anyone on the team with more than 200 plate appearances, and despite a slightly lower batting average and OBP while hitting five fewer doubles than Mitch Nay, Dean’s ability to tap into his extra-base power for a team-leading nine home runs and 192 total bases gives him the edge.
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
The Lugnuts didn’t have any dominating pitchers this year and there are several quirks of fate that came into play that prevented any of the top prospects from grabbing this award. Therefore, I’m handing this award to Brad Allen, a 25-year-old righty from Elk Grove Village Illinois who the Jays picked up as a minor league free agent part way through the season. Allen was, by far, the most consistent pitcher for the Lugnuts throughout the second half of a year that was characterized by an inability of the younger pitchers in the rotation to either live up to the hype or stay healthy. Allen averaged almost exactly five innings per start, throwing 75 1/3 innings over 15 starts and had a 3.11 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with 23 walks and 82 strikeouts (which translate to 7.4% BB rate and 26.5% K rate). If you want to hear our interview with Allen from this August, check out Podcast Episode 30.
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
Brady Dragmire threw a whopping 77 1/3 innings out of the bullpen for the Lugnuts over 43 appearances and was trusted to finish 19 games, earning five saves. What’s impressive about Dragmire is the quiet, unassuming way that he went about his business. Dragmire doesn’t have overpowering stuff (as can be seen by his low-ish 14.4% strikeout rate) but his exceptional control (2.9% walk rate) allowed him to post a 2.91 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. The 21-year-old was a ground ball machine, inducing 2.17 ground outs for every air out, enabling him to be effective with an improved slider and a little more velocity.
Honourable mention goes to Phil Kish who, in his first full season of baseball, ate up innings in the Lugnuts bullpen, posting a 2.77 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and dominated hitters in Vancouver (one unearned run allowed in 14 innings) when sent down at the end of the year to help out at the back of the bullpen with another NWL title run.
Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
It took me a little while to come to this decision but I’m very comfortable that Alonzo Gonzalez was the Jays’ organization’s most improved player on the Lugnuts. But wait, you say, his numbers aren’t that much better than last year when he was a starter. Aha! Last year, as a 21-year-old starter for the Lugnuts, Gonzalez was getting rocked. He had an ERA of 5.56 and a WHIP of 1.90 over 79 1/3 innings over 18 appearances (including 16 starts) before heading down to Vancouver where he pitched another 37 innings out of the bullpen (much more effectively). Coming back to Lansing at the age of 22 in 2014, Gonzalez pitched in relief but logged the same number of innings (79 1/3). While his ERA was 5.11, his WHIP was far lower at 1.47 and his peripherals were far better, walking 8.5% (down from 10.9% in Lansing last year) and striking out 25.5% (up from 12.4%). The biggest kicker for me was the difference in FIP between the years. In 2013, Gonzalez rocked a 5.56 ERA and a 5.42 FIP while in 2014, he had a 5.11 ERA and 3.83 FIP. In addition, his fastball velocity was way up when I saw him this year. He was ranging from 87-89 mph last year but was sitting 90-92 mph this season.
Honourable mentions go to Canadian infielder Justin Atkinson who raised his batting average 61 points over his 2013 season in Vancouver. Unfortunately, his walk rate slipped by almost half and his ISO remained about the same. I’ll also give points to Jorge Saez who jumped from Bluefield to hit .291/.400/.425 with 10 doubles, a triple and two home runs before being promoted to Dunedin.
Blue Jays from Away Best Newcomer
At this point, the “Best Newcomer” award goes from being something that is handed out to new draft picks to something that will be won by minor league free agents or players coming to the organization from another avenue (like the minor league Rule 5 draft). There were actually no qualifiers on the hitting side and on the pitching side the clear winner is Brad Allen.
Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. It’s coming soon to Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page! If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.