The minor league season has ended, so it's about time to start handing out hardware. Over the next few posts, I'll name a hitter and pitcher of the year for each level, starting with rookie ball. It's not necessarily who had the best numbers or who has the highest upside, but a mix that will dictate who goes home with the honors. So, without further ado...
Hitter of the Year: Jacob Scavuzzo, OF
Scavuzzo, a 21st rounder out of Villa Park High School in 2012, didn't do much in his first season. He OPSd .598 for the Arizona League club with a homer and seven stolen bases. Long on talent but short on refinement, the 6'4 athlete needed another season in the lowest circuit to improve his skills.
And improve he did. In his second go round in rookie ball, this time with the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League, Scavuzzo broke out in a big way. He hit .307 with 18 doubles, 14 home runs and three stolen bases on his way to producing a .927 OPS, 10th in the organization and fourth among players with at least 100 at bats.
Still raw, Jacob struggled early to get on base, but began drawing more walks as the season wore on. In July, for example, he worked just three free passes in 23 games. In August, he drew a dozen in 24 games. His power was a pleasant surprise as well. Known more for his speed as an amateur, Scavuzzo clubbed eight homers in July alone and ended up leading the league in that category.
Jacob won't turn 20 until January and still has room to grow, but he showed promise this year. Hopefully it wasn't a Pioneer League mirage.
Pitcher of the Year: Victor Gonzalez, LHP
While Julio Urias was grabbing headlines by debuting in full season ball as a 16 year old, Victor Gonzalez was quietly putting up an impressive season in the Arizona League. The 17 year old Mexico native also signed in 2012, and while he didn't earn as much as his fellow countryman, he had quite a debut in his own right.
The comparisons between Urias and Gonzalez don't end with their Mexican heritage. They have similar size and stuff, as well as both being left-handed. Victor doesn't have quite the velocity, sitting more around 90mph, but the changeup gives him an advanced weapon against opposing hitters.
On the year, Victor appeared in 11 games, starting 10 and posted an ERA of 3.79 which was inflated by a few short, rough outings late in the year. However, early in the season, he was dynamite. In 6 games in July, Gonzalez held the opposition to a .175 average and struck out 29 batters in 23.1 innings.
His 10.7 K/9 ranked him second among Dodger farmhands with at least 10 starts, behind Urias. He walked less than 3 batters per 9 and surrendered just 1 home run in 38 innings. Don't sleep on the guy I like to refer to as "Mini-Urias".
Reliever of the Year - Billy Flamion, LHP
A 2013 draft pick, selected in the 15th round out of Gorrmont College, Flamion played both ways in college but ended up on the bump as a pro. So far, so good.
Flamion, a Modesto native, pitched for both rookie league clubs and showed flashes of dominance in his brief debut. With the AZL Dodgers, he struck out 19 in 13 innings while giving up just 6 hits. He struggled a little after moving up to Ogden, giving up runs in three of his four outings but still managed to strikeout seven batters in five innings.
Billy isn't a finished product, as he's yet to fully commit to a single position. It's unclear if the Dodgers feel he can start, which would certainly add to his prospectual value. His walk rate was high and will need to be addressed. However, he won't be 21 until next year and has plenty of time to figure things out.
Breakout Performance - Joey Curletta, OF
Another 2012 pick, Curletta had a brief and uninspiring debut with the AZL club, hitting .149/.235/.176 in 25 games. Still, he was ranked among the Dodgers' top 30 prospects coming into the season by Baseball America and justified the selection with a strong showing in Ogden.
Seen as a slugger at 6'4 and 225 pounds, it was actually Curly's pure hitting ability that surprised me the most this year. In 62 games, he batted .326 with a .402 OBP. He did a good job of using the middle of the field, not trying to pull everything like many young power hitter.
Joey didn't produce a lot of power in Ogden, which is somewhat surprising, but his swing is still a little raw and he's still growing into his body. I expect the power to come eventually, and if he continues showing this type of hitting ability, Curletta could surprise people with his offensive ability.
Wait Til Next Year - Cody Bellinger, 1B
This year's 4th rounder, Cody came into pro-ball as a lanky first baseman with lots of power potential. After his debut, his status remains intact.
Bellinger struggled to make contact in 2013, batting .210 with 46 strikeouts in 47 games. However, he showed the makings of a good eye, walking 31 times, and did collected 16 extra base hits. Oddly, along with his nine doubles and one home run, he tallied six triples, tying him for second in the Arizona League.
With plenty of projection and learning to come, Cody looks like a promising young player who will take some time to develop. He should get a taste of the Pioneer League in 2014, which could give him an opportunity to put up some gawdy numbers in the process.
Another Conversion Prospect - Bladimir Franco, RHP
I remember seeing Franco's name in 2009 when he clubbed nine home runs in the Dominican Summer League. Four years later, he's on the mound.
This is the second time in less than a year that the Dodgers have taken an infielder and moved him to the mound. Last year, it was announced that former third baseman Pedro Baez would be switching to pitching. Now, it's Franco's turn.
Like Baez, Bladimir has plenty of arm strength and a sturdy build, capable of reaching the mid 90s. However, he's got work to do with his command and breaking ball. He'll turn 23 next spring, so hopefully he can move quickly thru the system.
All Rookie Ball Team
C Kyle Farmer
1B Justin Chigbogu
2B Jesmuel Valentin
3B Alex Santana
SS Brandon Trinkwon
OF Jacob Scavuzzo
OF Joey Curletta
OF Adam Law
DH Theo Alexander
SP Victor Gonzalez
SP Francisco Villa
SP Luis De Paula
SP Victor Arano
SP Jose De Leon
CL Rob Rogers
Up next, the low minors.