2013 Tony Awards: Reliever of the Year
Today we continue the IBI postseason awards with the announcement of the Relief Pitcher of the Year.
The starting pitchers often get most of the focus, so this award gives an opportunity to showcase and recognize some of the top relief pitching performances over the course of the 2013 season. Because there are so many worthy relief pitcher candidates who had good seasons this year, to be nominated for the award a reliever had to have made at least 20 appearances. The top 10 performances are featured, though it is important to note that relievers such as Francisco Valera, Benny Suarez, D.J. Brown, Ben Heller, Breily Puerta, Trevor Frank and Anderson Polancowere considered and just missed the cut.
Here are the 2013 Tony Awards so far:
Rookie of the Year: Clint Frazier (OF)
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyler Holt (OF)
Biggest Disappointment: Trevor Bauer (RHP)
Biggest Breakthrough: Carlos Moncrief (OF)
Comeback Player of the Year: C.C. Lee (RHP)
In the coming days the Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced. Again, 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.
Onto the nominees…
Reliever of the Year Nominees
(in alphabetical order)
Austin Adams (RHP)
45 G, 3-2, 4 SV, 2.62 ERA, 55.0 IP, 44 H, 19 R (16 ER), 3 HR, 29 BB, 76 K, .215 BAA
Adams came back from a shoulder injury that wiped out his entire 2012 season and was a fixture in the Double-A Akron bullpen all season putting up consistent, quality outings almost every time out. The bullpen role is one that the Indians plan to keep him in as they feel he will shine there more and it may cover up some of his command issues. He’s a pen arm to keep an eye on for next year and should be in consideration to be rostered in a few weeks.
Kyle Crockett (LHP)
21 G, 1-0, 0.36 ERA, 24.2 IP, 16 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 HR, 5 BB, 32 K, .184 BAA
Crockett was only in the Indians system for about half the season as he was selected in the 4th round of this year’s draft and hit the ground running spending time at three different stops from short season Single-A Mahoning Valley all the way to Double-A Akron. But even though he was limited to about two and a half months of work, he impressed with his advanced feel for pitching, command, and out pitch slider. He is a guy that should be a spring invite to major league spring training so the big league coaches and front office staff can get a longer look at him as a possible option later in the year.
Jose Flores (RHP)
59 G, 7-3, 16 SV, 2.71 ERA, 66.1 IP, 55 H, 26 R (20 ER), 1 HR, 27 BB, 87 K, .222 BAA
Flores has been in the system for some time and was even resigned last offseason as a minor league free agent. He is once again up for free agency and will look to cash in on an opportunity with someone after he had a nice showing at Double-A Akron this season where he finished 4th in the Eastern League in saves (16), 1st in appearances (59), 1st in games finished (53), 4th in batting average against for relievers (.222), 1st in K/9 among relievers (11.8), and 5th in fewest baserunners per 9 (11.53). He also finished 2nd in the organization in saves (16).
Preston Guilmet (RHP)
49 G, 5-4, 20 SV, 1.68 ERA, 64.1 IP, 43 H, 19 R (12 ER), 4 HR, 14 BB, 72 K, .182 BAA
Guilmet had another fantastic and dominant season pitching out of the bullpen at the highest level in the minors at Triple-A, and even made his major league debut this season. He is proof that you don’t need velocity and impressive stuff to succeed and that if you know how to pitch, have good command, can locate, and also create some deception you can be just as successful. He finished 3rd in the International League in saves (20), 4th in games finished (34), 1st in BB/9 (1.68), and 1st in fewest baserunners per 9 (7.97). He was also 1st in the organization in saves (20).
Louis Head (RHP)
47 G, 4-4, 8 SV, 2.48 ERA, 69.0 IP, 62 H, 27 R (19 ER), 4 HR, 15 BB, 66 K, .247 BAA
Head is one of the few relievers in the lower levels who really made some strides not just with their development but also performed at the same time. He has jumped onto the prospect scene for the Indians as an interesting bullpen prospect with his ability to pound the zone and with a nice arsenal. He should be in consideration for a spot at Double-A Akron to open next season, although he could start at High-A Carolina depending on the amount of depth stashed at Triple-A Columbus. He finished tied for 3rd in the organization in saves (8).
Jeff Johnson (RHP)
46 G, 0-1, 8 SV, 2.25 ERA, 48.0 IP, 40 H, 15 R (12 ER), 2 HR, 15 BB, 50 K, .221 BAA
Johnson is a guy who missed his draft season with the Indians because he was recovering from injury and last year made a nice debut. This season he took a step forward as another newcomer to the mix as a bullpen prospect for the Indians in the near future. Bullpen prospects are often volatile as they come and go, but Johnson’s impressive splitter is a pitch that is really intriguing and should keep him in the conversation for some time. He has certainly upped his priority level this season. He finished tied for 3rd in the organization in saves (8).
C.C. Lee (RHP)
29 G, 1-0, 2.48 ERA, 29.0 IP, 19 H, 8 R/ER, 1 HR, 10 BB, 37 K, .182 BAA
Lee won this award back in 2011 after a sensational campaign, and his performance to go along with his stuff and major league potential aligned to make him the IBI’s #5 prospect going into the 2012 season. After missing almost all of the 2012 season because of Tommy John surgery he came back this year and looked almost identical to the pitcher he was before surgery which is almost unheard of – and he made his major league debut to boot. The Indians have some big shoes to fill in their bullpen this offseason, and Lee could be someone ready to fill them.
Bryan Price (RHP)
47 G, 2-3, 4 SV, 2.04 ERA, 75.0 IP, 57 H, 21 R (17 ER), 5 HR, 16 BB, 92 K, .206 BAA
For the first time since his full time conversation to the bullpen three years ago, Price finally had a complete season as he avoided injury and the consistency of his performance was there all season. As a result, he shined and showed why the Indians were so excited to acquire him in the first place. Over the years he slipped in priority as other relievers jumped him, but after his season and the success he had at the highest level of the minors in Triple-A, he is the one doing the jumping and is now a legit middle relief prospect for the Indians. He is an interesting pen option for the Indians in 2014.
Bryce Stowell (RHP)
36 G, 4-1, 4 SV, 2.58 ERA, 45.1 IP, 33 H, 18 R (13 ER), 2 HR, 21 BB, 62 K, .201 BAA
Stowell is an example of that relief prospect volatility I talked about with Johnson. Stowell had a fantastic season in 2010 and rapidly rose through the system with a blazing fastball that touched 100 MPH, but then an elbow injury cropped up at the end of that season and he has battled with minor injuries and inconsistency ever since and has slipped in priority. His chances to pitch at Triple-A since 2010 have been non-existent - which is not a good sign - but to his credit he’s gone out and performed and really dominated the Double-A circuit. He is a guy I’d still love to see get an opportunity at the Triple-A level next year to see what he can do.
Enosil Tejeda (RHP)
47 G, 2-3, 2 SV, 1.23 ERA, 58.1 IP, 34 H, 13 R (8 ER), 0 HR, 22 BB, 66 K, .173 BAA
Tejeda was an unheralded Latin American free agent signing in April of 2010 who had a nice showing in the Dominican Summer League that year and who first caught my eye during Instructional League that year and subsequently included him in my Top 15 Latin American prospect listing entering 2011. Since then he’s done nothing but perform very well, developed his arsenal, and shown remarkable consistency not normally seen from relievers. He won’t wow with a blazing fastball, but the results are unmatched.
And the 2013 Tony Award goes to…..Preston Guilmet
First off, I should mention that Crockett and Tejeda were both very deserving of the award and would have been worthy choices if picked, and even Flores was considered with the way he dominated the statistical categories in the Eastern League. Crockett was one of the best pitchers in the minors for two and a half months and Tejeda's showing over five months was only matched by Guilmet.
Tejeda has been up for this award in each of the last three years and has arguably been the Indians best reliever from a performance perspective over that time period and maybe only matched by Guilmet. Tejeda was once again deadly on right-handed hitters this season as he held them to a .078 average and .237 OPS in 129 plate appearances. This is a mark that has held constant (and actually improved year by year) in his career as he held right-handers to a .143 average and .450 OPS in 2012 and a .186 average and .611 OPS in 2011.
But in the end it is hard to overlook what Guilmet did at Triple-A this season and also getting added to the 40-man roster and making his major league debut. He once again dominated hitters with his sneaky fastball and the unique downward angle and deception he creates with his extreme over-the-top delivery, and he put up some ridiculous numbers at Columbus including a 1.68 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 10.1 K/9 and 5.14 K/BB ratio. Those are silly numbers and show a pitcher that is ready to be challenged and given an opportunity to pitch at the major league level.
Guilmet most definitely has his flaws as he doesn't throw particularly hard and he is still somewhat viewed as a gimmick pitcher with his unique delivery, but bottom line he gets results and has proven people wrong - including myself - that wondered if his stuff and style of pitching would translate to the upper levels of the minors. Well, it most certainly has and he has dominated at every level possible except for one: the major leagues. He should get his opportunity to prove whether he can have success or not there next season as he's a key bullpen piece for next year that the Indians will rely on even if he is just a depth option at the outset.
Up Next: Pitcher of the Year
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2013 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.