Triple-A Omaha looked as good as dead in the final week of the regular season, but division foe Memphis did not want the title either. The Storm Chasers clinched on the final day of the season with a losing record (70-74). And then they took off, losing just once in the postseason to win both the Pacific Coast League title and the Triple-A Championship (7-1).
The KC Royals choice for Pitcher of the Year was lefty Chris Dwyer, who received his first big league promotion following his well-deserved MVP award in the Triple-A Championship (6.2 perfect innings before allowing a hit).
On the season, Dwyer was 10-11 with a 3.55 ERA in 29 games (28 starts). He was tied for sixth in wins in the PCL and ranked sixth in losses. His ERA also ranked sixth. He was 11th in strikeouts with 112 and third in innings pitched (159.2).
Omaha held the lead in the American Northern Division for most of the season, but fell back to second place in August. Coincidentally, that was Dwyer‘s worst month. He went 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA and allowed 29 hits and 15 walks over 28 innings (he struck out 16). He did pick up the win to stave off elimination on the next to last day of the season on September 1st (though he walked seven over six innings).
I do not have a problem with the selection because Dwyer truly had a great season, but my choice is a veteran who had a season NO ONE was expecting.
Right-hander Brian Sanches signed with the Royals this past offseason to bring his career full-circle (I became friends with him back in 2000 when he was pitching in High-A Wilmington). He was supposed to only be in the rotation until Marks was brought back from extended spring training.
Sanches ended up making 13 starts (five coming after the All-Star break). In 27 games, he went 10-3 with a 3.20 ERA (7-2 as a starter). He did allow 103 hits in 101.1 innings, but only allowed three home runs and walked 21, compared to 61 strikeouts. He finished tied for sixth in the PCL in wins with Dwyer. He would have qualified in the top ten for other pitching categories (ERA and WHIP), but he did not have enough innings.
July was his best month, as he went 5-0 with a miniscule 0.95 ERA in six games (four starts). In 28.1 innings, he allowed 22 hits and four walks while striking out 13. He even pitched a seven-inning complete game back on July 23rd.
Sanches was also good in August, going 2-1 with a 3.28 ERA. He struck out 16 in 24.2 innings (which was his highest strikeout total of any month). He made a spot start on August 25th and picked up another victory (6IP, 6H, 3R, 2ER, 0BB, 4K).
He was expected to be in the bullpen for the postseason, but found out thirty minutes before game time that he was going to start Game 1 of the PCL Semifinals against OKC (who had the league’s best record). Sanches picked up the victory, as he pitched 5.2 scoreless innings. He allowed four hits and two walks with two strikeouts. Not bad for a guy who threw a 25-pitch bullpen session that day during batting practice, which was why he was pulled after 65 pitches (41 for strikes).
That start kept Sanches in the rotation for the PCL Finals and he started the Game 4 clincher. He struggled a bit, but limited the damage to just two runs over five innings (a two-run homer in the fifth was his lone blemish).
The unexpectedness of Sanches‘ season is why he is my pick (though I may be a little biased).
I agree with the Royals selection for Hitter of the Year, infielder Christian Colon. He also took this honor last season with Double-A NW Arkansas. He was a staple in Omaha’s lineup, near the top of the order (131 games).
It was a rough first half for the former top draft pick (just .243) and he only hit .219 in the month of June. However, Colon took off after the All-Star break.
After the break, Colon hit .335 in 43 games with the same amount of home runs he hit prior (six). In July, he hit .314, but turned it up in August to hit .324.
Even through his struggles, Colon was still working walks (41), compared to 57 strikeouts in 512 at-bats. He also stole bases (15). He was best with men on base: .296 with six doubles, two triples, and three homers. With runners in scoring position, he hit .286.
Colon had a good postseason. In the PCL Semifinals against OKC, he went 3-for-10 with a double, a home run, two runs scored, and two RBIs. In the PCL Finals against Salt Lake City, he went 2-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. He laid down two sac bunts in the first game.