Jesus Sanchez, Yonny Chirinos tabbed as Rays’ top minor league performers
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays on Friday named OF Jesús Sánchez Minor League Player of the Year and RH Yonny Chirinos Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Additionally, INF Miles Mastrobuoni was named the Erik Walker Community Champion. The Rays also announced the Most Valuable Players for each of their nine affiliates, as well as organization-wide awards for Baserunner of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Relief Pitcher of the Year.
This year’s winners will be honored during an awards ceremony prior to tonight’s game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. A pregame autograph session will be held along the right field line from 5:45–6:30 p.m., featuring many of the organization’s award winners.
The following players were named Most Valuable Player for their respective minor league teams: INF Willy Adames (Durham Bulls, AAA); OF Justin Williams (Montgomery Biscuits, AA); INF Brandon Lowe (Charlotte Stone Crabs, A); OF Jesús Sánchez (Bowling Green Hot Rods, A); INF Vidal Bruján (Hudson Valley Renegades, Short-Season A); C Ronaldo Hernández (Princeton Rays, Rookie); INF Jonathan Aranda (Gulf Coast League Rays, Rookie); OF Yunior Martínez (Dominican Summer League Rays 1, Rookie); and OF Aldenis Sánchez (Dominican Summer League Rays 2, Rookie).
Baserunner of the Year honors went to INF Lucius Fox, while RH Diego Castillo was named Reliever of the Year and C Nick Ciuffo was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Sánchez, 19, was tabbed Rays Minor League Player of the Year and Bowling Green Most Valuable Player after batting .305/.348/.478 (145-for-475) with 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 117 games with the Hot Rods. The Rays No. 4 prospect and the No. 65 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, Sanchez earned a spot on both the Midwest League midseason and postseason All-Star teams, leading the league in batting average and RBI and finishing second in hits. His 15 home runs and 82 RBI were also the most of any player in the Rays organization.
Chirinos, 23, was named Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 13-5 with a 2.73 ERA (168.1-IP, 51-ER) in 27 games (26 starts) between Montgomery and Durham. His 2.73 ERA ranked second in the organization (min. 100 IP) and his 13 wins tied for second among Rays minor leaguers. Chirinos began the season making four starts in Montgomery, where he went 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA (27.1-IP, 8-ER). After his promotion to Triple-A on May 2, he made 23 appearances (22 starts) with the Bulls, going 12-5 with a 2.74 ERA (141-IP, 43-ER). His 0.98 WHIP with Durham ranked second in the International League. He earned IL Pitcher of the Week honors twice this season, for the periods of May 8-14 and July 3-9.
Mastrobuoni, 21, took home the Erik Walker Community Champion Award. Named after former Rays minor league pitcher Erik Walker, who died tragically in 2006 following his first season in professional baseball, the award annually recognizes a Rays minor leaguer who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement. Bowling Green’s nominee for the award, Mastrobuoni was selected from a field that included nominees from each Rays affiliate. The Rays Baseball Foundation will make a $2,500 donation in Mastrobuoni’s name to a charity of his choice.
Fox, 20, was recognized as the organization’s Baserunner of the Year. His 30 stolen bases ranked second among Rays minor leaguers. He was successful on 30 of his 43 attempts (69.7 percent).
Castillo, 23, was named Reliever of the Year after making 51 appearances between Montgomery and Durham. He was 15-for-18 in save opportunities and pitched to a 2.76 ERA (71.2-IP, 22-ER). In 21 appearances for Montgomery, Castillo went 8-for-10 in save opportunities and had a 1.86 ERA (29.0-IP, 6-ER). He ended the season in Durham and converted his final six save opportunities of the regular season, then went on to record the save in the Governors’ Cup-clinching win and Triple-A National Championship Game.
Ciuffo, 22, was named Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. He threw out 23 of 60 (38.3 percent) potential base stealers with Montgomery and ranked fifth among Southern League qualifying catchers in caught stealing percentage. He recorded a .990 fielding percentage in 619.1 innings behind the plate.
Adames, 22, hit .277/.360/.415 (140-for-506) with 10 home runs and 62 RBI in his first full season in Durham. Ranked as the Rays No. 2 prospect and the No. 15 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, he finished third in the International League in hits and fifth in total bases (210). He also ranked among team leaders in batting average (first), on-base percentage (second), triples (5, first), RBI (third) and walks (65, second). Adames was named an International League midseason All-Star, batting .277/.363/.431 (88-for-318) with seven home runs and 40 RBI before the break.
Williams, 22, hit .301/.364/.489 (110-for-366) with 14 home runs and 72 RBI in 96 games with the Biscuits. He ranked among Southern League leaders in batting average (fourth) and slugging percentage (third). He also finished among Rays organizational leaders in home runs (second) and RBI (third). Williams was named Southern League Player of the Month for August, batting .333/.411/.677 (31-for-93) with eight home runs and 28 RBI, including a three-homer game on August 30. He earned a promotion to Durham for the International League playoffs and hit .333 (4-for-12) in four games.
Lowe, 23, split the season between Charlotte and Montgomery, batting .298/.375/.493 (122-for-410) with 11 home runs and 58 RBI in 114 games. He spent the first 90 games of the season with Charlotte, where he hit .311/.403/.524 (98-for-315) with nine home runs and 46 RBI, and was promoted in early-August. Lowe was named the Florida State League Most Valuable Player and made both the FSL midseason and postseason All-Star teams. He led the FSL (min. 300 AB) in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (.927). He also finished with the Charlotte single-season records in SLG and OPS.
Bruján, 19, spent the entire season with Hudson Valley, batting .285/.378/.415 (74-for-260) in 67 games. He hit .309 (56-for-181) before the All-Star break and was selected to the New York-Penn League midseason All-Star team. Bruján finished as the league leader in hits, runs scored (51) and total bases (108) and ranked fifth in stolen bases (16).
Hernandez, 19, played 54 games with Princeton, batting .332/.382/.507 (74-for-223) with five home runs, 22 doubles and 40 RBI. His .332 average led all hitters in the Rays organization. He also finished among Appalachian League leaders in hits (third), doubles (second) and slugging percentage (fifth). He earned Appalachian League Player of the Week honors for the period of August 21-27, batting .500 (10-for-20) with five doubles and seven RBI in five games.
Aranda, 19, hit .293/.352/.356 (51-for-174) in 49 games with the Gulf Coast League Rays. He led the GCL Rays in hits and stolen bases (14) and finished second on the team in batting average and on-base percentage. Aranda had his strongest stretch to end the season, batting .329 (28-for-85) with 11 RBI over the season’s final 24 games.
Martínez, 18, spent his second full season with the Rays Dominican Summer League affiliate and hit .265/.312/.307 (50-for-189). He ranked second in the DSL with 35 stolen bases and led the DSL Rays1 in batting average.
Sánchez, 19, played his first season in the Rays organization, batting .333/.385/.392 (63-for-189) with 21 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 50 games with the DSL Rays2. His batting average ranked first on the team and tied for eighth in the DSL. He also led the team in slugging percentage, hits and stolen bases.