Sometime early in the fall, the Seattle Mariners will announce their annual minor league player of the year winner.
The decision is likely going to come down to two players: Tacoma’s Jesus Montero and Bakersfield’s Tyler O’Neill. Tacoma’s Jabari Blash also merits some consideration.
Montero has done nothing but hit in the Pacific Coast League, batting .349 with 16 home runs and 79 RBIs in 95 games.
But Montero may not qualify for the award in the eyes of the Mariners. He no longer qualifies as a rookie in the major leagues, having spent the entire 2012 season with Seattle.
That leaves the award likely going to O’Neill, who has been one of the most prolific power hitters in the minor leagues this season.
The 20-year-old outfielder has hit 31 home runs in just 103 games in the California League while batting .261 with 84 runs batted in.
“He can run, he can throw, he’s probably a prototypical right fielder,” Mariners director of player development Chris Gwynn said. “He’s got the makeup and mannerisms and intensity of a Brett Lawrie.”
His season was interrupted for three weeks in July when he won a gold medal in the Pan-American Games as a member of the Canadian national team. He hit third in Canada’s lineup.
“He put on his gold medal and was walking around the dugout in Bakersfield, and our guys started throwing stuff at him,” laughed Gwynn. “He’s a happy-go-lucky kid who loves his teammates.”
Blash’s late-season home run surge puts him in the discussion for the award. Blash’s 32 home runs (between Tacoma and Double-A Jackson) ranks top among all Mariners minor leaguers. He’s combined to hit .271 with 59 walks and 123 strikeouts in 116 games between two levels.
Here’s a look at the Pacific Coast League’s year-end awards, which were announced this past week.
Most Valuable Player: Matt Duffy, Fresno. The corner infielder has hit .295 with 19 home runs and 103 RBIs while holding down a spot in the middle of the lineup for the top team in the Pacific Conference.
Pitcher of the Year: Carlos Pimentel, Iowa. The Cubs’ top starter ranks second in the league in wins (12) and ERA (2.99), and is tied for third in strikeouts (113).
Rookie of the Year: Alex Dickerson, El Paso. The 25-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder batted .307 with 12 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .374 on-base percentage in his first season of Triple-A ball.
Manager of the Year: Damon Berryhill, Oklahoma City. In his second year as a Triple-A manager, Berryhill navigated his way through over 300 roster moves to lead the Dodgers to the best record in the PCL.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.