So as I have done in previous articles in this series, I am going to consult with the facts – the stats from this past season.
However, even then, the answer may not be clear. Should more weight be put on run production or on-base skills? Would it be better to seek out a balance of all key stats?
To be included among the 44 players in this population, a hitter needed to have at least 250 at bats this season and not be a first-year player. Rookies have their own separate awards.
Let's start with the nine who batted at least .285, including six .300 hitters.
Five of the nine have batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, at .345 or above. That was led by New York-Penn League batting champ Steven Ramos at an amazing .404 and Palm Beach's David Popkins at .385. High BABIPs indicate a portion of good fortune occurred at the plate.
The power category can be summed up by a review of slugging percentage. Here are the nine who slugged at least .450, ranking as the best in the system in 2013.
Among those on this list are two veteran first basemen that performed very well this season – Palm Beach's Jonathan Rodriguez and Springfield's Xavier Scruggs. Scruggs paced the system with 29 long balls and was fourth in RBI with 81, though his strikeout rate of almost 40 percent was highest in the system. Rodriguez' 20 steals was just one behind the organization's leader Ramos. One downside of both first sackers in terms of consideration for his award, however, is the reality that they repeated their 2012 levels in 2013.
2012 first-rounder Stephen Piscotty ranks among the top sluggers after also making the batting average-best list. Same with injury bug-bitten Tommy Pham, who teases us with a taste what he might accomplish in a full season of good health.
We also see a trio of minor league veterans who helped lead the Memphis offense in Brock Peterson, Chad Huffman and Jamie Romak. Of course, Peterson was rewarded with several stints in St. Louis. The three, along with Springfield All-Star Ruben Gotay, performed well, but are not going to receive this particular award due to journeyman status.
The other Memphis player among the top sluggers is second baseman Wong. He and Popkins continue from the batting average and OBP lists.
Putting it all together in OPS, 11 hitters had an on base plus slugging mark over .800.
|On-base plus slugging||Team||OPS|
The just-turned 23-year-old has wheels, leading the system with a Memphis-team record-tying eight triples. Wong's stolen base count of 20 was tied for third in the organization and he is clearly smart on the bases. His success rate of 95.2 percent led all Cardinals farmhands with double-digit attempts.
Beyond his strong OBP, Wong demonstrated a good eye at the plate by striking out just 14.6 percent of the time. That is third-best of any names appearing more than once on these leaderboards, after O'Neill and Piscotty.
This season, Wong had 36 multiple-hit outings and logged seven hitting streaks of five games or more, including his longest of 15 games. This was all accomplished while he competed in his first season at the highest level of minor league play, Triple-A.
Our Memphis Redbirds Player of the Year earlier earned both The Cardinal Nation and the Cardinals organization Player of the Month recognition in May and appeared in his second consecutive MLB Futures Game in July.
What remains to be seen is how Wong can translate his minor league success to the major leagues. He is currently among the 25 players on the St. Louis Cardinals post-season roster and preparing to compete in the World Series. Not a bad way to cap off a very strong 2013 minor league season.
Congratulations to Kolten Wong, The Cardinal Nation Minor League Player of the Year for 2013.
Note: For more information on all The Cardinal Nation minor league award winners for 2013, click on this link. You will be taken to an index page with links to all articles about previous winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming award announcements as well as 2013 team recaps. Note that many of the detailed articles are subscriber-only.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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