To no one's surprise, you chose Bryan LaHair and his record-setting season for the BCB Minor League Player of the Year. Now it's time to turn our attention to the pitchers, where the choice won't be so clear-cut. Once again, a reminder that this award is intended to reward production and not status as a prospect, but you can vote for whomever you want. This award should be defined by you, so it would be nice, although not required, if you would tell us who you voted for and why.
I tried to pick one player from each affiliate. Of course, there's some overlap as successful pitchers get promoted.
The candidates after the jump. As always, the honor is just to be nominated.
Iowa Cubs John Gaub: It was a record-setting season for the Iowa Cubs this season for all the wrong reasons. Iowa finished the year with the worst team ERA in franchise history. But you can't pin any of that on left-handed reliever Gaub, who the Cubs got from Cleveland as part of the Mark DeRosa trade. Gaub threw 55.1 innings in 50 relief appearances this season and struck out an amazing 75 batters. The hard-throwing lefty finished the year with a 4-4 record and a 3.42 ERA along with seven saves. That's so nice that I hate to mention the 40 walks he issued in those 55 innings. Good thing he held opposing hitters to a .209 batting average, which kept a lot of those walks from causing much trouble.
Tennessee Smokies Jeff Beliveau: Another hard-throwing lefty reliever (seeing a pattern here?), the Rhode Island native started the season in Daytona where he played a major part in the D-Cubs fantastic start with a 0.51 ERA over 17.1 innings of relief. He spent the rest of the season in Tennessee where he was nearly as good, posting a 1.89 ERA and a 6-1 record. Overall for the year, Beliveau threw 74.1 innings and struck out 89 while only walking 13. His final line on the year was 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA.
Daytona Cubs Aaron Kurcz: Another reliever, but this time one who throws from the right side. Kurcz started the season in the Daytona rotation where he was fine. But he always projected out to be a reliever and when the D-Cubs moved him back to the pen, his control improved and his K rate went up. In 82.1 innings as both a starter and a reliever, Kurcz struck out 91 and walked 34. He was 5-4 with a 3.28 ERA.
Peoria Chiefs Eric Jokisch: The central Illinois native must love home-cooking, because he excelled beyond all expectations for the Chiefs this season. The left-handed Jokisch started the season piggybacking Hayden Simpson so more of his appearance were in relief than as a starter, but in reality he was a starting pitcher all season. In 25 games for Peoria, Jokisch was 9-3 with a 2.96 ERA. He pitched 118.2 innings there and struck out 103 and walked only 32. He was rewarded with a promotion to Tennessee near the end of the season where he held his own over three start, going 1-0 with a 4.11 ERA.
Boise Hawks Yao-Lin Wang: The Taiwanese right-handed was the ace for a much-improved Hawks pitching staff this year. Over 14 starts, he went 4-4 with a 3.22 ERA. Over 67 innings, he struck out 77 and walked only 20. Wang throws in the low 90s and generally keeps the ball down.
AZL Cubs Brian Smith: The left-handed starter from Ontario (the one in Canada, not the one in California) fell to 40th round in the 2010 draft on signability concerns, but the Cubs inked him at the deadline and he made his minor league debut this season. He didn't disappoint, going 3-4 with a 3.30 ERA over 46.1 innings over 14 games. He struck out 41 and walked 23. I don't know what he was throwing in Arizona this summer, but in high school in Canada he threw 88-90 mph with a solid changeup. He's got a body that could add velocity as he matures.