Baby Bombers 2013 MVPs: Trenton
Only three men played in at least 90 of the Tampa Yankees’ 135 games in 2012, leaving the choice for MVP down to just a select handful of men…and while he may not have necessarily led the team in every category, his far away dominance in those he did lead in makes first baseman Kyle Roller our 2012 MVP for the T-Yanks.
Well, for Roller, 2013 was a lot like 2012; he was one of only six men to play in at least half of Trenton’s 141 games, and while he didn’t lead every category, his overall line – .253-17-69 with a .774 OPS, 24 doubles, and 53 walks – leads him to a second straight victory as one of our Baby Bombers MVPs.
As we predicted, Roller did in fact move up to Double-A this year, and late in the season, he acknowledged it was perhaps the biggest jump he’d make in his Minor League career.
“This is a big step, Double-A; it’s tough pitching, guys are faster, and they throw harder,” Roller told YESNetwork.com in August. “It’s been a grind every day.”
Still, Roller wasn’t too far off from his numbers across the board from the 2012 season in Tampa, and he credits that to knowing to stay within himself.
“I’m just trying to be more of a consistent hitter and not so streaky,” he said. “That’s been my biggest adjustment: taking good at-bats, carrying them over, and not trying to do too much after I have a successful streak. That’s what I’ve learned and tried to do as the season went on.”
While doing that, though, Roller, like almost everyone who stayed healthy all year in the system, had to play with a litany of different lineups and teammates – but even at the spot of the toughest jump, he was able to take on a leadership role and help himself and the team succeed.
“Every year in Spring Training we play with the same guys, and you get a feel for how they play so you get comfortable with each other. If somebody goes down, we trust that we have someone else that can fill their shoes,” Roller said. “And, any tips I’ve picked up along the way or any advice I can give, I try to share with the new guys that come up; everybody who came up did a nice job of doing adapting quickly, and we had great team chemistry.”
Among those he played with were several of the organization’s top prospects, including a quartet of highly-touted outfielders in Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, and later Mason Williams – as well as out Tampa MVP, Ben Gamel – and Roller said that in and of itself made 2013 a dream season.
“It’s been unbelievable to play with these guys, they’re some of the best out here,” he said. “They all play the game hard, and play it the right way. You learn from them and just try to follow in their footsteps and do what you can to help the team win.”
In the end they did just that, as Trenton earned a wild card berth and then went 6-0 in the postseason en route to the Eastern League title, giving Roller his first (and hopefully not last) taste of playoff baseball – and hopefully also not his last taste of the never-say-die spirit that made the Thunder winners.
“I’d never been in a playoff situation in my professional career, but once you get the feel, it’s exciting,” he said. “This is what it’s all about. We were in a lot of crunch situations, but this team always finds a way to come out on top. We push and we battle, and we never feel like it’s over until the last out is made.”
As far as Trenton’s Cy Young goes, it could have been a hard decision to make, as several relievers turned in dominant seasons and almost every starter had a very good stretch; that said, the Thunder chose to honor Nik Turley as their pitcher of the year, and thus, so shall we.
The lefty, who has gone from 50th-round draft pick to 40-man roster player since joining the club, had a breakout 2013 season, following the template of footsteps that Brett Marshall paved in 2012. Turley went 11-8 with a 3.88 ERA in 26 starts this year, pitching a team-high 139 innings and striking out 137 along the way.
Those totals placed him fourth in the EL in strikeouts and tied him for fourth in wins, and like Marshall, he’s expected to move up to Triple-A next year and possibly make his presence felt on the Bronx sooner rather than later.