Midseason Minor League Player of the Year candidates

Matt Barnes is in the hunt with a dominating season at two levels in the Boston Red Sox organization.

With most leagues on break for their respective All-Star games, it’s time to take a look at players who are putting up gaudy numbers and making a case for the Minor League Player of the Year award. Here are a baker’s dozen who have been the best of the best so far.

1. Billy Hamilton, Reds, SS, 21 (age)

66 G, .322, 13 2B, 8 3B, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 80 SB, .408/.441/.849

With all of the dominant pitching in the minors this season, Hamilton could have the edge by being one of the most unique, as well as exciting, players to come around in a while. Every time he gets on base, opposing pitchers, the crowd, the catcher, the beer vendor and those watching at home know he is going to steal, yet no one has been able to contain him. The record for stolen bases in a minor league season is 145 by Vince Coleman in 1983. At Hamilton’s current pace, he will obliterate that number.

2. Dylan Bundy, Orioles, RHP, 19

12 G, 3-2, 1.66 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 63 K/8 BB, 48.2 IP

After embarrassing hitters at class-A Delmarva, tossing 30 shutout innings, allowing just five hits while also striking out 40 to just two walks, Bundy has been a little more human at class-A advanced Frederick. His strikeout totals and pinpoint control is still ridiculous, as he has 23 K/6 BB over 18.2 innings, but he also has surrendered nine earned runs on 18 hits. It will be interesting to see how many innings the Orioles let him go in his first pro season. So far, Bundy and his 100 mph fastball have been one of the most exciting stories of the year.

3. Matt Barnes, Red Sox, RHP, 22

13 G, 7-1, 0.99 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 95 K/12 BB, 72.2 IP

Barnes has been just as impressively dominant as Bundy this season, even though he is three years older. And just to give Bundy a little more credit for what he is doing, Barnes was trying to figure out Big East hitters as a 19-year old, posting a 5.43 ERA over 53 innings his freshman season. But this award is all about this season, and Barnes has been baffling hitters at every level. After allowing a measly earned run over 26.2 innings at class-A Greenville, allowing 12 hits while striking out 42 batters to just four walks, he got a promotion to class-A advanced Salem. All he has done over his eight starts against stiffer competition is go 5-1 with a 1.37 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 53 K/8 BB. Barnes will most likely put up better numbers than most on this list as he will have a higher pitch count than his teenage counterparts, and he should also spend the entire season in the minors.

4. Wil Myers, Royals, OF, 21

66 G, .337, 18 2B, 3 3B, 24 HR, 61 RBI, 5 SB, .408/.718/1.127

Myers has been an equal-opportunity masher this season, putting up nearly identical numbers over two levels. Over 35 games at double-A Northwest Arkansas, he hit .343 with 11 doubles, 13 home runs, 30 RBI and a 1.146 OPS. Through his first 31 games at triple-A Omaha, he is hitting .331 with seven doubles, 11 home runs, 31 RBI and a 1.105 OPS. He may not end the season in Kansas City, but his overall numbers might be too hard to ignore.

5. Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks, RHP, 21

14 G, 11-1, 2.11 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 104 K/42 BB, 85.1 IP

If not for his uncharacteristic command issues this season, Bauer would be number one on this list. He is second in the minors in strikeouts and tied for first in wins. His unorthodox delivery and nine-pitch repertoire make him one of the most exciting players to watch, and he always seems unfazed in any situation, even in the PCL, where pitchers usually need therapists after every outing. Over his six starts at triple-A Reno, he is 4-0 with a 2.68 ERA and 44 K/16 BB over 37 innings.

6. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, 1B, 22

63 G, .364, 17 2B, 1 3B, 23 HR, 59 RBI, .426/.745/1.170

Rizzo should be called up to the majors any day now as the Cubs are already getting Brian LaHair playing time in the outfield in preparation of Rizzo’s arrival. Maybe the voters can just add up his last two seasons in the PCL where he has hit .344 over 156 games with 51 doubles, 49 home runs, 160 RBI and a 1.104 OPS. The guy has nothing left to prove in the minors, and his numbers speak for themself.

7. Danny Hultzen, Mariners, LHP, 22

13 G, 8-3, 1.19 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 79 K/32 BB, 75.1 IP

Hultzen hasn’t allowed a run since May 23, a span of 24.2 innings. Like Bauer, command issues have been the only knock on him this season as he has almost allowed as many free passes (32) as hits (38). When hitters are only batting .151 against you, however, you can afford to give up a walk or two. Hultzen is currently at double-A, should reach triple-A soon, and could possibly end the season in Seattle.

8. Jose Fernandez, Marlins, RHP, 19

14 G, 7-0, 1.59 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 99 K/18 BB, 79 IP

Fernandez isn’t getting a whole lot of national attention right now, even though the Cuban-born flamethrower has been doing his best Dwight Gooden impersonation all season long. The 14th pick in the 2011 draft, Fernandez must not like the home cooking of North Carolina, as he has a 3.52 ERA over four home games. Over his 10 road starts, however, he is 6-0 with a 0.68 ERA, allowing just 28 hits over 53.1 innings. Few have been able to match his blend of power and control this season.

9. Oscar Taveras, Cardinals, OF, 19

67 G, .328, 20 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 46 RBI, 5 SB, .384/.587/.971

Taveras proved he could hit for average as an 18-year-old last season when he batted .386 with a 1.028 OPS over 78 games at class-A Quad Cities. He also smacked 27 doubles, so people knew power was coming. They just didn’t think it would come this soon as his 37 extra-base hits ranks among the best in the minors. The left-hander has a great approach at the plate for a player his age, only striking out 37 times on the year. He is one of the best players in double-A, despite being one of the youngest.

10. Travis d’Arnaud, Blue Jays, C, 23

60 G, .335, 20 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 48 RBI, .385/.602/.987

The Blue Jays’ top prospect coming into this season, d’Arnaud had a mediocre April, hitting .282 with two home runs and 11 RBI over 21 games. Then May came around and so did his bat. Over 25 games, he hit .367 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 23 RBI. He hasn’t slowed down in June and is hitting .351 with three home runs and 14 RBI through 14 games. If he keeps at his current pace, he could win the PCL Triple Crown this season.

11. Miles Head, Athletics, 1B, 21

67 G, .382, 23 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR, 56 RBI, .433/.715/1.149

The Oakland A’s are making out like bandits in their trade with the Red Sox for closer Andrew Bailey last season. Besides acquiring outfielder Josh Reddick, who has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season, they also got a guy in Head, who has been destroying everything thrown to him this season. He ranks near the top in nearly every offensive category in the California League, except for steals, in which he trails Billy Hamilton by just 77. He just got a promotion to double-A, so we will see if he can maintain his incredible numbers against better competition. On a side note, as a Cubs fan, it gives me hope knowing that Theo Epstein drafted three of the players on this list so far, four if you include the mention of Reddick.

12. Tyler Austin, Yankees, OF, 20

58 G, .336, 20 2B, 5 3B, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 14 SB, .409/.655/1.064

After hitting .354 with 18 doubles, six home runs, 36 RBI, 18 stolen bases and a .997 OPS over 47 games as a 19-year-old last season, expectations were high on the 13th-round draft pick in 2010. He hasn’t disappointed, thus far, and is currently on pace for a 30 HR/30 SB season, a rarity in the minors. Another player who thrives on the road, Austin is hitting .408 over 28 away games, with 10 doubles, 10 home runs, 32 RBI and a 1.208 OPS. He is currently at class-A Charleston, but should get a promotion soon, as he is clearly no match for his current competition.

13. Gary Sanchez, Yankees, C, 19

58 G, .313, 18 2B, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 10 SB, .361/.545/.906

The Yankees have put a lot more focus on their farm system in recent years and they have been rewarded with some elite-level prospects. Sanchez may end up being the best, and his monthly splits show the progress he is making at the plate. In April, he focused on hitting, batting .329 over 21 games with no home runs and six RBI. In May, he decided to swing for the fences, hitting just .267 but smashed seven home runs and drove in 30 runs over 24 games. He has put it all together so far in June, hitting .380 with five home runs and 15 RBI through 13 games. He is currently a teammate of Austin’s at Charleston, but might be on a slower development as he will be 19 all season long.

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