Baby Bombers 2013 MVPs: Short-Season Heroes
Alas, the team has combined their thoughts and come up with the five players who shined a little bit brighter. Because of the aforementioned rise in promotion, we've relaxed our usual guidelines of service time in order to make the choice at one level - and, while we've stuck to our thoughts that we can't in good conscience name a pitcher as an MVP, we will give an honorable mention to the man we found to be each level's "Cy Young" as it were.
Without further ado, the series begins today with three MVPs from the short-season leagues (Staten Island and the two GCL teams) and continues in ascending order all week, finishing with the Triple-A MVP on Friday.
The addition of a second Yankees team in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League for 2013 meant that nearly 100 players in total would be plying their trade in the lowest two levels of domestic Minor League baseball.
That, in and of itself, could've made it much harder to choose an MVP from among those who wore pinstripes in Staten Island or down at the complex in Tampa - but there were three men who perhaps stood out above the rest, and as all three of them combined represent all three of those teams, we've decided to honor the triad together.
The leader of the pack, so to speak, is shortstop Abiatal Avelino, who actually spent a little time with all three short-season squads this year. Just 18 years old, Avelino is in just his second season in the system and came to America after hitting .302 with 25 RBI and 20 steals in the Dominican Summer League last year - and he didn't disappoint.
Avelino played 51 total games this year, notching 17 with both the GCL Yankees 1 and 2 squads and 17 in Staten Island, and hit a combined .303 with 20 RBI, 28 steals in 32 attempts, and 45 runs scored. Avelino didn't hit any homers (nor did he in 2012 in the Dominican), but he had 14 extra-base hits among his 60 knocks, and as he did most of his damage with the playoff-bound GCL Yankees 2, he will "represent" that team.
Across the complex, another 18-year-old middle infielder opened a lot of eyes: second baseman Gosuke Katoh, the Yankees' second-round pick in the 2013 draft.
Dismissed by many as a "light hitter" and thought of as a "value pick" taken to save bonus pool money, Katoh proved the skeptics wrong by hitting .310 with a .924 OPS for the GCL Yankees 1, notching 22 extra-base hits among his 57 knocks, and tying for the league lead with six home runs. Katoh also played good defense, registering a .977 fielding percentage and turning 19 double plays.
The honoring of Avelino and Katoh leaves us with a Staten Island MVP, and that man is one whose early-season performance made it seem like his mid-season assignment to Staten Island was a "demotion" of sorts: outfielder Yeicok Calderon.
After spending the last two years in the GCL, Calderon began 2013 at Class-A Charleston, hitting a disappointing .189 with five home runs in 43 games before being shut down in late-May; when he picked back up at the start of the NYPL season, however, Calderon started hot and never looked back, finishing with a .268-10-43 line and finishing in the Top 10 in the league in homers, RBI, doubles, and total bases.
While Katoh and Avelino will likely call the GCL (or at best, Staten Island) home next year, the soon-to-be 22-year-old Calderon will be in his fourth year in America and sixth in the system overall, a total that almost entirely precludes him from a return to any short-season offerings and will require him to start (and stay) at one of the higher Class-A levels.
As far as pitchers go, we spotlighted a handful from both levels in our Baby Bombers Playoff Primers, and so we stick with a majority of those as honorable mentions; RHPs Victor Beriguete (1-1, 1.95 ERA, GCL Yankees-high 11 saves, 32 K in 27.2 IP), Brady Lail (4-1, 2.33 ERA in 12 games/11 starts) and Kenedy Agramonte (6-0, 0.71 ERA, 31 K in 25.1 IP) get the GCL nod, while RHPs Dillon McNamara (SI-high four wins, 2.19 ERA in 20 appearances/37 innings) and Stefan Lopez (1-1, 1.09 ERA in 33 innings over 19 relief outings) and LHP Caleb Smith (1-2, 1.89 ERA, 52 strikeouts in 47.2 innings over 13 games/nine starts) earn some Staten Island love.