Today we continue with the IPI’s year end awards with the announcement of the Defensive Player of the Year. In the coming days the Biggest Disappointment, Biggest Breakthrough, Reliever of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced.
The Defensive Player of the Year award is given to the Indians minor leaguer who had the best season defensively. This was a new award I added last year, and one I think that is very deserving to acknowledge some of the great defensive play by some players who may or may not have had a good season at the plate. You’ll have to cut some major slack here as the candidates for the award were determined by a combination of their basic defensive stats (fielding percentage) and perception (how they actually looked).
As always, prospect standing is not considered with these awards as they are 100% awarded based on performance. Please keep that in mind as just because a guy is or is not listed does not mean anything from a “prospect” standing. These awards are simply for fun to hand out at the end of the year. Also, the Cleveland Indians in no way whatsoever had any input in these awards.
It is no surprise to see Bellows up for this award as even without the good performance he is considered a very good defensive third baseman. His .962 fielding percentage led all third baseman in the Eastern League, and he also led the league with the most total chances, most assists, and most double plays.
Chen is not considered a very good defensive player, but purely from a numbers perspective he had a good season this year behind the plate. The 18 passed balls were not good, but he had one of the top fielding percentages in the league. More impressive was his .345 throw out percentage of base-stealers which was good for 3rd best in the Eastern League.
Diaz had a very solid year and was one of the most consistent defensive middle infielders in the Eastern League this year, and finished with the most assists and double plays in the league. He also went up to Triple-A Columbus and took over the shortstop duties in the playoffs and was unfazed by the pressure of the playoffs or by the call up itself.
Cody Elliott (OF)
1.000 PCT, 65 G, 123 PO, 6 AST, 0 E, 129 TC, 2 DP
Elliott is a 2011 Draft pick who brings a lot of speed and defense to the table, and he certainly displayed both of those qualities this year in his pro debut at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley. He is now one of the top defensive outfielders in the Indians’ system. He finished tied for 1st in the NY-Penn League in fielding percentage and near the top in assists.
Hankins is another player the Indians picked up in the 2011 Draft that is a solid defender and shows good athleticism on the field. He came in with the label as a scrappy player and he definitely showed that this year both in the field and at the plate. He led all second baseman in the NY-Penn League in fielding percentage.
Martinez has been considered one of the Indians’ top defensive middle infielders for some time now, and he continued that success this season with another good year at second base. He split the season at Low-A Lake County and High-A Kinston, but his fielding percentage at either place would have led the league had he qualified.
Perez was last year’s winner as the IPI Defensive Player of the Year and he had another very strong season. He no doubt is the organization’s top defensive catcher. He finished 2nd in the Carolina League in fielding percentage and he also had the most total chances, putouts, and double plays in the league. His .364 throw out percentage of base-stealers was 3rd in the league.
And the Tony Award goes to….Kyle Bellows
The Indians do not have a lot of elite level defensive players, but there were certainly some impressive performances by several defenders throughout the system this year. Some of the players listed above performed as expected, while others were a pleasant surprise. There are also a handful of players who are good defenders who missed being nominated because they did not play up to par, and there are others who are young and on the rise who may be up for nomination next year.
When it comes down to it the one player who was a cut above anyone else defensively this year was Double-A Akron third baseman Kyle Bellows. His reputation precedes him as a defensive stalwart at the hot corner, and he lived up to that and then some this season in Akron. His pitchers had unbelievable confidence in him, and people inside the organization as well as around the league felt he was the best defender at third base if not the best defender in the entire league.
Bellows displays a quick, strong arm at third base with a unique slinging action when he throws the ball. He not only consistently makes the routine play, but has a knack for making the exceptional play as well with a highlight reel defensive play seemingly every night. He takes a lot of pride in his defense, and probably the best play he makes is how he comes in on a slow rolling grounder and can pick it up with his bare hand and make a strong snap throw to first base.
While Bellows played very good defense at third base all year, he struggled for most of the season at the plate. In 123 games for Akron he hit .229 with 3 HR, 43 RBI, and .605 OPS, numbers which he is going to have to improve upon drastically if he wants to make it to the big leagues.
Bellows problems at the plate stemmed from an abysmal start to his season where in the first 58 games he hit just .168 with a .505 OPS. His defense was never affected even with the poor performance offensively, and after some work with his coaches and a minor adjustment to get him more upright and shorten his swing he hit .281 with a .691 OPS his remaining 65 games.
The offense for Bellows will hopefully come, but he no doubt he is a Major League caliber defender. Hopefully the same can be said for several other players at this time next year when the award is handed out.
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