With a small leak coming out, we know that the Blue Jays’ brass have already made up their minds on the 2015 Webster Awards which go to each Blue Jays minor league team’s Most Valuable Player.
Before the official announcement comes out, I’m going to make my predictions for the 2015 Websters with a little bit of an explanation about some trends that I’ve noticed. The first one is that a player generally needs to spend most of a season with one particular team in order to be recognized as the MVP. Obviously if a player blows the doors off, they will get more consideration but usually, it’s a guy who’s stayed with a team. The second trend is that the Blue Jays will almost always honour a homegrown player over someone who may be more deserving but came to the organization later on as a free agent or via a trade. The third trend is that the Webster winner tends to be a hitter far more often than a pitcher.
Dominican Summer League Blue Jays
This year, there were several players who shone, particularly with the bat but one player had a season that was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in the DSL since I’ve started covering the Jays’ minor league system. Norberto Obeso hit .351 in 338 plate appearances and walked 58 times with only 20 strikeouts. He led the club in OPS by a wide margin and was mentioned to me by Hitting Coordinator Mike Barnett as a particular standout.
The only pitcher I could see winning the award is 21-year-old Jairo Rosario but his age and the fact that it was his third year in the DSL work against him.
A possible runner up is Francosco Rodriguez who, with nine home runs, has hit more dingers than I’ve ever seen a DSL player hit.
2014 Prediction: Enmanuel Moreta
2014 Winner: Enmanuel Moreta
2015 Prediction: Norberto Obeso
Gulf Coast League Blue Jays
While they were very successful on the field, this year’s GCL team was populated mostly by college players, none of whom really distinguished themselves. The youngest hitter with an OPS over .700 was Edward Olivares who, despite a good ISO and OBP, only hit .198. 22-year-old Lance Jones hit .299/.446/.402 for the best OPS by a regular player (.848).
In this case, I’m actually going to have to go with a pitcher, probably the one who showed the most upside of the GCL’s current crop. 2015 third-round pick, 18-year-old righty Justin Maese was quite dominant and efficient, throwing 35 2/3 innings with a 1.01 ERA, walking only six and striking out 19. I think that this year, a pitcher takes the award.
Bluefield Blue Jays
The Bluefield Blue Jays had a terrible season and, like their younger cousins down in the GCL, didn’t really have any offensive standouts. Rodrigo Orozco, a 20-year-old Panamanian had the only OPS above .800 with a .300/.368/.435 line, showing some power (16 doubles, a triple and four home runs) as well as the ability to get on base.
A pitching candidate could very well be Angel Perdomo who posted a 2.62 ERA and 1.17 ERA over 48 innings with 36 strikeouts and 14 walks. I’d almost say it’s a toss up as both were promoted to Vancouver at the end of the season but Orozco gets the edge as a hitter.
2014 Prediction: Richard Urena
2014 Winner: Richard Urena
2015 Prediction: Rodrigo Orozco
Last year, there was a clear favourite going into the offseason but this year, it’s not as simple to discern who might win. I’m leaning towards Sean Hurley, a 23-year-old out of Florida who may just have found a rhythm and his power stroke in his third pro year. In his first full year in Vancouver, he hit .253/.363/.441 with nine home runs (best on the team).
Taylor Saucedo gets an honourable mention for the pitchers, posting a 2.52 ERA over 35 2/3 innings and dark horses could be either Clinton Hollon (3.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 15 BB, 40 K, 45 1/3 IP) or Canadian Sean Ratcliffe (3.60 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 30 K, 16 BB, 40 IP).
Does Hollon get the award as a show that the organization still has faith in him and to reward him for a solid season after Tommy John surgery? I think it’s Hurley.
2014 Prediction: Franklin Barreto
2014 Winner: Franklin Barreto
2015 Prediction: Sean Hurley
So, apparently, it’s going to be Midwest League MVP Ryan McBroom. Not that there are any real holes to be found in that award.
It was just announced to the triumphant #Lugnuts that Ryan McBroom has been named the R. Howard Webster Award winner as team MVP. Deserved.
— Jesse G-S (@jgoldstrass) September 10, 2015
2014 Prediction: Mitch Nay
2014 Winner: Mitch Nay
2015 Winner: Ryan McBroom
Dunedin Blue Jays
Here’s where we get interesting. The two best Dunedin battesr were Anthony Alford and Rowdy Tellez. Tellez only played in 35 games before breaking a bone in his hand (requiring surgery) and, with seven home runs, could have easily challenged for the team lead over the course of the season had he been there all year. Alford played 57 games and had an OPS that was over 100 points higher than the only person who could seriously challenge Alford for the award. Who is that? It’s Matt Dean who has been awarded a trip to the Arizona Fall League after a 14-home run campaign that ended up with him tied for first in the Florida State League. Dean’s .253/.313/.410 slash line with 27 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs comes with 139 strikeouts in 521 plate appearances, however, and I think that quality will trump quantity in this case.
The only real challenger on the pitching side is Murphy Smith who threw 83 1/3 innings with a 2.92 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. That said, the injured pitcher is no match for Alford.
2014 Prediction: Dwight Smith, Jr.
2014 Winner: Dwight Smith, Jr.
2015 Prediction: Anthony Alford
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Will Dwight Smith win his second Webster Award? It’s a very good question as the Double-A level is a really interesting one for Webster forecasting. With so many players who aren’t home grown coming into the organization at this level, sometimes you have to look down the list a bit to find someone. K.C. Hobson had a bit of a rebound year, leading the club in plate appearances and coming in second in home runs but his low batting average (.240) and OBP (.288) hinder his attempt to put up impressive numbers. Dwight Smith, at 22, had some nice counting numbers (team lead in doubles, seven home runs, but he had long lull in the late summer, leading to an unimpressive overall line of .265/.335/.376. A feel-good story could be Mighty Mouse, Jorge Flores. The 5-foot-5 middle infielder hit .276 (the best mark on the team for anyone with over 200 plate appearances) and showed an ability to get on base (.360 OBP). With all that said, I think the best hitting candidate is 27-year-old lefty Ryan Schimpf, who once again, led the Blue Jays’ organization with 25 home runs (including 20 in New Hampshire). With just 307 plate appearances, Schimpf hit .271/.378/.581, severely cutting down on his strikeouts and posting an ISO over .300 (which is kind of bonkers).
The best candidate on the pitching side would have been Matt Boyd and I would definitely have leaned towards him getting this award had he not been traded. But he was traded. I’ve never seen a reliever win this award although Chad Girodo and Blake McFarland could certainly make good cases and Taylor Cole had an up and down year, despite showing a lot of promise.
The winner of this award for the Bisons is always a tough one to call. Rarely given to someone who isn’t a home-grown Blue Jay, the 2015 Webster Award winner might have to be a huge upset. With 2015 International League MVP Matt Hague on the team with a monstrous season under his belt, the Blue Jays almost have to give the award to him unless they want to demonstrate that excellence will only be rewarded for players who come from within the organization. Hague hit .338/.416/.468 and another player from outside the organization, Alex Hassan was next (for players with over 100 plate appearances in Buffalo) with a .314/.357/.419 slash line. Next is Dalton Pompey who brought his numbers up to respectability after a disastrous start to the season in Toronto and Buffalo. Coming back to Buffalo, Pompey finished with a .285/.372/.356 line but hit .327/.414/.414 in his final 42-game stint with the Bisons. The only home grown Blue Jays who had a really solid year in Buffalo was Andy Burns (.293/.351/.372) although changes to his stance and mechanics that have led to a higher average, in my eyes, has also led to reduced power (26 doubles and four home runs).
On the pitching side is where things can get really interesting. With Randy Wolf traded and Jeff Francis hardly a spring chicken, I can see Scott Copeland giving the hitters a run for their money. Copeland posted a 2.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 125 innings with 37 walks and 66 strikeouts. Obviously, his lack of sexy numbers could work against him but he was a workhorse throughout the entire year.
To me, this is a three-man race. Does Dalton Pompey get rewarded for turning his season around despite playing only 65 games in Buffalo? Does Andy Burns get rewarded for a very solid but unspectacular season in his first go-round in Triple-A? Or is it Scott Copeland, a workhorse pitcher who, at Age 27, got his first taste of the big leagues after being released by Baltimore in 2012?
2014 Prediction: Kevin Pillar
2014 Winner: Kevin Pillar
2015 Prediction: Dalton Pompey
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