Now that the minor league season is over, we need to honor the best in the minor league system. You've been voting for the Players of the Month all season long, and now we need to vote for the Player of the Year.
The rules for voting are almost the same as the voting for the Player of the Month award. I pick one player to represent each of the top five teams in the minor league system. This causes a few troubles as successful players in the minor leagues tend to get promoted. You should vote based the entire minor league season for that the player had. For my part, however, a player had to have played at least a third of a season at that level to get the nomination from that team.
Also, a player still had to have rookie eligibility to be nominated. I play a little loose with this on the monthly awards, but you actually have to be a prospect to be nominated here. This really only affects Spencer Patton. I'm sure he'll get over it.
To be nominated, you still have to be in the Cubs system. Sorry, Dan Vogelbach, Gleyber Torres and the others.
So you need to pick among the five candidates. As always, vote for what they did on the field and not their status as prospects. Of course, while any player can have a strong month and get nominated, any player who has a strong entire season is going to have a shot at a major league future.
There will be a separate article on pitchers later today and I'll announce the winners sometime tomorrow.
With that said, the candidates are:
Iowa Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario: Candelario actually started the season in Tennessee and struggled to a .219/.324/.367, although anyone who watched him could tell he was hitting into a lot of hard luck. The Cubs promoted him to Iowa on June 8 anyway, and Candelario never looked back. He hammered the Pacific Coast League to the tune of .333/.417/.542 with 22 doubles, 9 home runs and 54 RBI in just 76 games. Putting the two lines together, Candelario hit .283/.376/.464 with 13 home runs and 39 doubles. He walked 70 times and struck out 99.
Tennessee Smokies utility player Chesny Young: Normally when you call someone a utility player, it's not meant as a compliment. It is in the case of Young, who played all four infield positions and left field in 2016 and was at least a solid glove everywhere. But Young is also here because of what he did at the plate. Although he was denied his second-straight league batting title because of a technicality, Young did finish the season hitting .303/.376/.387. He also hit a career-high four home runs this season, which actually increased his career total to five. Young even stole 16 bases, although since he did it in 30 attempts, it wasn't really a positive. But with more experience, he could be a baserunning threat in the future as his speed is good.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans second baseman Ian Happ: Happ struggled a bit after a midseason promotion to Double-A, but last year's first-round pick is here for his whole season and what he did in Myrtle Beach. Happ hit .296/.410/.475 with seven home runs in 69 games with the Pelicans. He also stole 10 bases in 13 attempts. Happ struggled with his batting average in Tennessee, much like Candelario, but the power was still there with 8 home runs in Double-A in 65 games. Happ's final line between the two levels was .279/.365/.445 with 15 home runs, 30 doubles and three triples Most importantly, however, is that he successfully made the transition to second base. He's probably always going to be an offense-first second baseman, but after this season, there's little reason to believe that he can't actually be a second baseman on the major league level.
South Bend Cubs outfielder Eloy Jimenez: Jimenez had a breakout season at just 19 in South Bend this summer, hitting .329/.369/.532 with 14 home runs, three triples and league-leading 40 doubles. Jimenez even stole 8 bases. He also hit a home run and made an amazing catch in this summer's Futures Game. The fact that he just now seems to be growing into his power makes the future scary for pitchers who will have to face Jimenez in the years to come.
Eugene Emeralds second baseman Trent Giambrone: Giambrone was a drafted as a college senior out of Delta State in the 25th round this summer. So basically, no one expected much out of him. But the expectations around Giambrone grew over the course of the season, which is evidenced by the fact that he started the season hitting ninth in the Ems order and finished the season hitting fifth. Giambrone was the Ems best hitter all season, hitting .292/.404/.433 with 4 home runs and 12 doubles in 51 games. He was the engine on a team that finished with an incredible 54-22 record on the season.