However, the additions of first baseman Connor Powers and first-round pick Cory Spangenberg and the continuing excellence of RF Rymer Liriano changed the dynamic of the team. The TinCaps went into the playoffs as a team that relied upon speed, defense and pitching with Powers and Liriano supplying the power.
Fort Wayne won their first round before falling to Lansing in the second round of the Midwest League playoffs.
Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible. For the top prospect, we took into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: The Midwest League is the first full season league and one of the more challenging to hitters because of the early cold weather. At this level, batters are still adjusting to wood bats and learning how to cover the plate. Pitchers with so-so “stuff” can succeed as long as they have decent fastball command and the ability to throw a second pitch.
Player of the Year: RF Rymer Liriano .319/.383/.419
Liriano has always been considered a true five-tool talent and this season in the Midwest League he provided a glimpse of what the future could hold as he was named the Midwest League MVP. He led the team in every cumulative offensive category but two really jump out.
He led the team in extra-base hits with 50 and 65 stolen bases in 85 attempts.
Runner-up: 1B/3B Connor Powers .338/.422/.538
If Connor Powers had started the season in Fort Wayne instead of joining the squad on June 3, we might be talking about a different MVP. Thirty-eight extra base hits in 76 games with a 42/64 BB/K ratio in 317 plate appearances is something that will definitely propel him to an everyday position in Lake Elsinore in 2012.
Player of the Year: RF Rymer Liriano
Not to toot my own horn, but I have been on the Liriano bandwagon for the past couple years. He played center in the AZL with the arm and range to play there, but the organization believes that as he grows into his body he will be more suitable for right. This year he did what his tools project; hit over .300 with 50 extra-base hits, stole 65 bases, showed a great arm, great range… and I believe that is five tools.
Runner-up: 1B/3B Connor Powers
I really wanted to be different from John and pick someone else, but from listening to nearly every TinCap game, no one on the team was as responsible for the terrific second half as Powers. The first half the team had Liriano and not much else but the addition of Powers gave them a legitimate second hitter in the lineup. His .961 OPS led everyone on the the team including Liriano.
Player of the Year: OF Rymer Liriano
He was among the league leaders in average, slugging, on-base percentage, hits, doubles, triples, runs scored and stolen bases. He was also one of the youngest players in the league, playing the first 12 weeks of the season as a teenager. Some decisions just aren’t hard.
Runner-up: 1B/3B Connor Powers
Drafted after a solid offensive career at Mississippi State last year, the 21st-rounder went out to Eugene and laid an egg in his professional debut. That struggle earned him an extended stay in Peoria while the Padres turned to 25-year-old indy-league vet Jake Blackwood to fill a roster spot in Ft. Wayne. Whatever they spent those two months working on clearly worked, as Powers delivered big-time when he got to the Midwest League. Over the final month of the season, Powers got even better, posting an OPS above 1.100 after August first.
Others of Note: After outshining the talent around him in Eugene, first-round pick Cory Spangenberg struggled when he joined the TinCaps in July, hitting just .154. But he rebounded very nicely, hitting .360 over the final month of the season. The club will need to decide whether they use the same aggressive timeline with him that they put in place for Jedd Gyorko last year. Nineteen year old outfielder Luis Domormo hit over .300 for most of the season, finishing with a .283/.335/.405 line. Rico Noel never really hit for the batting average the front office expected (.253), but stole 50 bases out of 54 attempts. While it’s easy to forget, Jake Blackwood deserves credit for giving the team a lot of quality at-bats over the first two months of the season, earning a promotion to Elsinore.
MadFriars’ 2011 Fort Wayne TinCaps Player of the Year: Rymer Liriano
Top Prospect: Cory Spangenberg (John):
First in response to inquiries by Ben and David, no I’m not on crack and two, I don’t have my head up my...
PETCO Park, as is well known to Padres’ fans, is maybe the most pitcher friendly park in baseball. Throw in the fact that two teams in their division, the Dodgers and particularly the Giants, also play in pitcher friendly parks and any team San Diego puts on the field needs to be oriented towards pitching and defense.
For the organization that means finding pitchers that don’t walk people and keep the ball in the park. Second, if the opposition is going to hit the ball your team better be able to field it which means you need to have athletes, particularly up the middle that can get the ball and prevent runs.
Finally the position players need to have games that are designed around getting on base, hitting the ball into the gaps and being able to run; whether it is stealing a bag or advancing from first to third.
More than anyone in the organization, Spangenberg fits the mold. He hit .316/.419/.418 between Eugene and Fort Wayne to go along with 25 stolen bases in 33 attempts. He has a quick left-handed swing that generates hard contact to the gaps and while still a little raw defensively, has the potential to have plus range at second.
He should begin the year in Lake Elsinore in 2012 and could be in San Antonio by the end of the year. He has a shot to the Padres’ starting second baseman in 2013.
While it is true Liriano's potential is great, Spangenberg is much closer to realizing his.
Top Prospect: Rymer Liriano (Ben and David)
Cory Spangenberg may be a surer bet to earn a regular job in the big leagues, but Liriano's upside is tops in the system.
Some observers have trouble making the set of skills and the picture of the man connect because he's noticeably thicker-bodied than most guys with 60-plus steals. It's admittedly hard to think of anyone his size who has made it to the majors with the set of skills he has. However, he's still figuring out how to use some other skills - most notably his in-game power - and by the time he reaches the majors, he should offer 25 homers and 30+ stolen bases while meeting the club's "virtual center fielder" preference for right field.
Liriano has twice misfired after aggressive promotions, so the Padres will probably slow-play his development schedule from here, but he's still in line to reach the majors before his 23rd birthday.