2013 Tony Awards: Rookie of the Year
Today we continue on with the year-end IBI Awards and move down to the minor leagues with the annual Tony Awards. We kick things off with the Rookie of the Year.
In the coming days the Defensive Player of the Year, 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 Rookie of the Year Award is given to the Indians minor leaguer who had the best professional stateside debut this year. If a player had logged any time in previous seasons, even just a game or one at bat they were not eligible. As a result some players who saw limited action at the end of 2012 like Tyler Naquin, Dylan Baker, Caleb Hamrick and others were not eligible. Also, there were a lot of candidates so the nominees were limited to only nine which meant right-handers Dace Kime and Ben Heller along with infielder Grant Fink and others just missed the cut.
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” status. 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...
Rookie of the Year Nominees
(in alphabetical order)
Sean Brady (LHP – AZL Indians)
10 GS, 0-1, 1.97 ERA, 32.0 IP, 24 H, 11 R (7 ER), 2 HR, 6 BB, 30 K, .205 BAA
Brady was picked in the 5th round of this year’s draft out of high school. He is an older pitcher coming out of high school as he turned 19-years old in early June, and he pitched like an older pitcher in the rookie level Arizona League where he made a nice pro debut. He is along the lines of Shawn Morimando who the Indians picked up two years ago and is an upside lefty with a lot of promise as a starting pitcher in the Indians system.
D.J. Brown (RHP - Lake County)
27 G, 3-4, 2.71 ERA, 66.1 IP, 59 H, 26 R (20 ER), 5 HR, 20 BB, 71 K, .238 BAA
Brown was a 39th round pick in the 2012 Draft out of James Madison University who was coming off of shoulder surgery and did not pitch in college or with the Indians last season. The Indians still signed him based on his upside with his size, stuff and ability and at least in the early going it appears to have been a wise investment as he had a very nice season at Lake County eating lots of innings in middle relief. There is talk of starting him next season.
Kyle Crockett (LHP – Mahoning Valley, Lake County, Akron)
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 a 4th round pick in 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. He impressed with his advanced feel for pitching, good command of his pitches, and a nasty slider which he wipes out left-handers with. He never stuck around at any level long enough to qualify him as a leader in any pitching category, but his overall output was impressive as he never experienced a hiccup at each level he moved up to.
Trevor Frank (RHP – Mahoning Valley)
20 G, 1-5, 2.83 ERA, 35.0 IP, 31 H, 16 R (11 ER), 1 HR, 2 BB, 39 K, .233 BAA
Frank was picked up in the 8th round of the draft this year out of UC-Riverside and is an older pitcher who could move fast as a pen arm. He had a very good pro debut and the walk to strikeout ratio of nearly 1:20 makes him a pitcher that you compare to the early success that Cody Allen had in 2011. Next season is a big year for him and will prove just how much potential he has as a hard throwing pen arm. He finished 7th in the NY-Penn League in games finished (14), 1st in lowest BB/9 for relievers (0.51) and 2nd for fewest baserunners per nine innings among relievers (8.49).
Clint Frazier (OF – AZL Indians)
44 G, .297 (51-for-172), 32 R, 11 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 17 BB, 61 K, 3 SB, .868 OPS
Frazier was selected in the 1st round of this year’s draft out of high school. He signed quickly, got out to affiliate ball right away and made quite an impression on and off the field this season. His amazing bat speed, plus-plus power potential, athleticism, ability to run and play defense has many people thinking five-tool potential. There is a long way to go but as an 18-year old he showed his potential in his first foray into the pro ranks by ranking 12th in the Arizona League in batting (.297), 8th in runs (32), 11th in hits (51), 6th in triples (5), 6th in home runs (5), 9th in RBI (28), 5th in total bases (87), 2nd in strikeouts (61), 4th in slugging percentage (.506) and 4th in OPS (.868).
Kenny Mathews (LHP – Mahoning Valley)
12 GS, 0-3, 2.52 ERA, 39.1 IP, 35 H, 15 R (11 ER), 0 HR, 13 BB, 37 K, .233 BAA
Mathews was a 7th round pick out of Riverside Community College this season, a junior college, and he came in and impressed as a 19-20 year old. He turned 20 in August and is an upside lefty with some advanced feel for the mound, is aggressive and is fearless. He made 12 starts but was slowly ramped up from two inning outings to three inning outings to where he finished the season throwing four innings. He should be in the starting rotation at Low-A Lake County next year.
Francisco Mejia (Catcher – AZL Indians)
30 G, .305 AVG (32-for-105), 16 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 5 BB, 18 K, 3 SB, .872 OPS
Mejia was a high profile signing out of Latin America in July of 2012 and made his organizational debut in affiliate ball this season at rookie level Arizona. He impressed all year in Arizona from spring training, to extended spring training to the Arizona League and all the way through Instructional League with his very strong arm behind the plate and a very good bat at it. He has jumped right into the mix as one of the Indians top prospects in the entire system. He did not qualify because he did not have enough at bats, but he would have ranked 4th in the Arizona League in OPS (.872) had he qualified.
Cole Sulser (RHP – Mahoning Valley)
15 G, 3-2, 1.83 ERA, 54.0 IP, 37 H, 12 R (11 ER), 1 HR, 9 BB, 60 K, .191 BAA
Sulser was a 25th round pick in this year’s draft and really impressed with a sensational performance at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley. Of course, performance is only about half of what matters with prospects, but when you have an advanced pitcher who is older who comes in and shows fastball command, pitchability, and a solid repertoire it grabs your attention. He did not have enough innings to qualify as a league leader in ERA, but he was 9th in the NY-Penn League in strikeouts (60).
Matt Whitehouse (LHP – Mahoning Valley)
14 G, 4-2, 0.72 ERA, 37.1 IP, 22 H, 9 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 4 BB, 29 K, .165 BAA
Whitehouse was snatched up in the 19th round of this year’s draft out of UC-Irvine. He is another pitcher taken in the later rounds who had immediate success in his pro debut thanks to his ability to pound the strike zone, limit walks and command his pitches. His 2.8% walk percentage was exceptional and the ability to limit hits is intriguing. He’s a guy that could get some starting opportunities next year, possibly in a piggyback situation with another pitcher at Low-A Lake County.
And the 2013 Tony Award goes to….Clint Frazier
This was a tough one as for me it came down to Frazier, Mejia and Crockett. All three clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack with their performance and for different reasons.
Crockett lived up to his billing as a top lefty relief pitching prospect coming out of college who could race through the minors and get to the big leagues sometime in 2014. He’s definitely on the fast track and his rapid ascent up the system this season is similar to that of Cody Allen in 2011 when he won the Tony Award for Rookie of the Year.
Mejia lived up to his hype and even though the Indians were aggressive in pushing him to Arizona in his first pro season. Maybe most impressive with him was his consistency over a seven month span where he was out in Arizona the whole time. Players often have a tough time in that environment not just with the heat in the summer, but the isolation they feel at the complex, but he put his work in day in and day out and performed.
But Frazier was just a little more impressive with his debut. When you have an 18-year old showing the kind of power he did this season with a large percentage of his hits going for extra bases, the raw power, the work ethic, the makeup and the overall skillset it just all kind of adds to it. Obviously, as noted above, the Tony Award is based strictly on performance, and in this case it was, but it is those other intangibles that he brings which makes his season even more exciting.
Frazier does have some work to do with the strikeouts and he is well aware of that, but you won’t find a more committed and focused player in the Indians system outside of Francisco Lindor – and he arguably is even more driven and focused than Lindor, which is something I never felt was possible before the Indians drafted and signed Frazier. His excellent debut in rookie ball and Instructional League is a good jumping off point to a hopefully long major league career.
Up next: Defensive Player 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.
Mejia is a very interesting prospect. He's jumped right into the mix as one of the Indians best prospects and he might be one of the most exciting guys along with Frazier to see what he does at Lake County next year over a 140-game season and in front of a fanbase and against tougher pitching.