So now that the minor league season is over, it’s time to recognize those who demonstrated excellence throughout the entire season. So I’m asking you to vote for the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year.
The rules are the same as the voting fo the Player of the Month award. I pick five players, one from each team, and you vote for one of them. I should mention is that players without rookie eligibility are not eligible either. This really only came into play with the Pitcher of the Year Award, which we’ll vote on tomorrow. Although I went in a different direction for the Iowa nominee, shortstop Mike Freeman is still about 30 at-bats shy of losing rookie eligibility. He was considered, however. David Bote was not as he has now passed his rookie eligibility, although he probably played too few games in the minors this year to be considered anyway.
This is an award designed to honor the player who had the best season in 2018, not who is going to have the best season in 2022. You can vote for whomever you like, but I ask that you base your vote on who had the best season in 2018 and not prospect status. However, if you have one of the best seasons in the entire Cubs minor league system, you’re going to be some sort of prospect.
Clicking on the player’s name will take you to his milb.com page.
If you’re reading this on Google AMP or Apple News, you’ll have to go to a web browser to vote.
The nominees are:
Iowa Cubs/Tennessee Smokies third baseman Jason Vosler
Vosler led all Cubs minor leaguers with 23 home runs in 2018. Vosler played 66 games in Double-A before his promotion to Iowa on June 15. He hit 12 home runs for the Smokies and posted a slash line of .238/.351/.477. He then played 63 games for Iowa and had 11 home runs. Vosler hit for a higher average in Iowa (.263), but a much lower on-base percentage of .306.
Between the two stops, Vosler hit .251/.330/.467 with 29 doubles, three triples and 23 home runs. Vosler had 93 RBI and scored 61 times. Despite playing half a season in Double-A, his 11 home runs for Iowa was second on the team behind Bote. His 12 home runs in Tennessee was tied for third on that team.
Tennessee Smokies shortstop Zack Short
There’s hardly a dime’s worth of difference in the final batting lines between shortstop Zack Short and second baseman Trent Giambrone, so it came down to Short’s defense compared to Giambrone’s speed. In the end, I went with the shortstop who has slightly-better isolated power over the second baseman with better speed. Short also played a few more games as Giambrone had one short trip to the DL. I went back and forth.
Even though there are a lot of differences between the two players, Giambrone’s breakout this year has some similarities to Bote’s last season. So keep an eye on Giambrone in 2019.
The disappointment in Short’s 2018 season pretty much starts and stops with his .227 batting average, fueled in large part because of an uptick in strikeouts over 2017. But he was trading in those strikeouts for more walks and more power.
Short’s final line with the Smokies was .227/.356/.417 with 28 doubles, two triples and 17 home runs. As you can see from that line, Short is one of the best players in all of Double-A at drawing a walk. Those 17 homers tied Giambrone for the team lead. Short also stole eight bases in eleven attempts. He scored 68 runs and drove in 59, both of which led the Smokies for the season.
Defensively, Short isn’t great at shortstop but he’s average to average-plus. There’s a lot of value in someone who can play shortstop at even an average level and he has a chance to be a bit better than that.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans/South Bend Cubs first baseman Jared Young
Young can play a little left field as well, although his days as a middle infielder are probably over. Young started the season in South Bend where he played 69 games, hit ten home runs and posted a line of .313/.368/.525. That kind of line in low-A is always going to get you promoted, and on July 7 the Cubs sent Young to High-A Myrtle Beach. In 51 games for the Pelicans, Young hit .282/.341/.431 with six home runs and six steals, after having just one steal in South Bend.
Put those two lines together, and Young hit an even .300 on the year with a .357 on-base percentage and a .485 slugging percentage. He had 19 doubles, eight triples and 16 home runs. Young had a system-high 76 RBI and he scored 61 times.
South Bend Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya
Amaya’s second half didn’t match his first half, but that’s to be expected from a 19-year-old who caught 93 games this year, more than double his previous season-high. He still led South Bend in home runs with 12 and was just one-off the team lead in RBI with 52. All the while, he was a solid defensive catcher behind the plate and while I can’t say I watched every South Bend game, I thought his defense, and in particular his throwing, improved later in the year.
Amaya’s final batting line was .256/.349/.403 over 116 games. He had 21 doubles and two triples in addition to those 12 home runs.
Eugene Emeralds/South Bend Cubs outfielder Nelson Velazquez
This one is hard because this is an award for the entire season and Velazquez started the season in South Bend. The 19-year-old Puerto Rican struggled badly in the early-season cold of the Midwest League, posting a line of .188/.242/.196. In 31 games, he only had one extra base hit and that was a double. On May 8, the Cubs sent Velazquez back down to Extended Spring Training and waited for Eugene to start up in June. He struggled in June in Eugene as well.
But when the calendar turned to July, Velazquez’s bat kicked in. Velazquez hit one home run in June, five in July, three in August and two in September. His 11 home runs led the Emeralds. No one else had more than four. He led the Ems in doubles (18), RBI (33) and runs scored (35). His 12 steals were second on the team behind speed demon Fernando Kelli.
For Eugene, Velazquez’s final line was .250/.322/.458 in 72 games. When you add in his South Bend numbers, that works out to .233/.307/.416 with 15 steals.
Who is the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year?
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