Despite what some of you have said about having too much minor league coverage we are BACK AT IT AGAIN handing out our awards for best tools in the system. Keep in mind this is simply based on this season, but there is not anything too controversial regarding our selections which lead us to have 9 unanimous selections out of 12 categories. So grab your cup of coffee and enjoy this small break from work.
This was the first of the nine unanimous selections and it should be no surprise the winner of this is Ozzie Albies. As our very own Garrett Spain puts it “Not really a contest. Ozzie’s natural hitting ability is unmatched by anyone. Astudillo has better pure bat-ball skills but pitch recognition puts Ozzie well ahead.” At 19, Ozzie was on the brink of cracking the major league roster after hitting an outstanding .292/.358/.420 between two levels before suffering a devastating elbow injury. While it put a damper on his season he should still be healthy by the start of spring training with hope of cracking the roster out the bat.
Surprise another unanimous selection! Austin Riley wins the best raw power award after his great 2016 campaign. When Austin Riley gets ahold of one - you know it. Eric Cole had this to say about Austin “The ball sounds different coming off of Austin’s bat. I could see Demeritte winning this next year as he is in the same league with Riley. Some might want Braxton to get a nod here, but he is 3rd at best here.” This leads us to….
Raw power is nice and all but how it translates to game power is of course the most important thing. This was a two man race between Austin Riley and Travis Demeritte, with a consolation prize to Carlos Castro, however it was once again a unanimous selection for Austin Riley. Austin finished the season hitting .271/.324/.479 with a Braves minors lead of 20 homers hit. As the temperature got hotter, so did Austin’s bat which saw him close the season on an absolute tear including a second half slash line of .289/.348/.581 including 17 of his 20 homers. Eric said it best “Demeritte was the frontrunner for me until Austin went on a warpath in the second half. Putting up the numbers he did in low-A at his age in the Sally is kinda crazy.”
There is plenty of speed in the organization from top to bottom so you would expect this to be tough to select however, tell me if you’ve heard this before, Anfernee Seymour was our unanimous selection. Seymour was acquired in the early August trade with the Marlins which saw the Braves trade away Hunter Cervenka for Seymour and Michael Mader. While there are things to be desired from his overall game there is no doubting his pure 80 speed. In 215 professional games Seymour has an eye popping 83 stolen bases despite a .313 career OBP. Matt Powers kept it short and sweet “Seymour’s got true 80 speed,so it's gotta be him.”
UH OH POSSIBLE CONTROVERSY, but not really. Our first non-unanimous award goes to Connor Lien with Ray-Patrick Didder getting the honorable mention. Ray-Patrick Didder made highlight after highlight play this season with his arm but the nod still goes to Lien despite his struggles with his health in 2016. Lien had a bonkers 21 outfield assists in 2015, and still had 6 despite playing half of a season. This of course logically leads us to…
Honorable Mention: Ray-Patrick Didder
A near unanimous selection with Ray-Patrick Didder putting up one of the most impressive fielding seasons I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It seemed like every day Didder was making a highlight play in the field and his outfield defense was key in Rome’s impressive second half surge. You know you had a very strong defensive year when you win this over the likes of a Connor Lien, or Ozzie Albies - a sentiment shared by Eric Cole “Very quick, great instincts, strong arm, and always looking for an out. Package gives him the nod over other worthy options like Albies and Lien.”
Honorable mention: Cristian Pache.