Rays prospect Johnny Field wins team’s top minor-league player award
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Outfielder Johnny Field understands the importance of envisioning progress. So in being named the Minor League Player of the Year within the Tampa Bay Rays organization Friday, he was satisfied with gains made.
"My whole life, I’ve been really big on trying to set goals and set goals as high as I can, just so if you don’t reach (them), you’ve got something to shoot for next year," he said. "Obviously, I thought this was a little far-fetched, but this was a goal to try to have a huge year and put myself in this position."
Field was among a variety of minor-league award winners recognized in a pregame ceremony Friday at Tropicana Field, before the Rays opened a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox. Beyond Field, left-hander Blake Snell was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Right-hander Jake Faria, meanwhile, was named the Erik Walker Community Champion, an honor given to the player who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement.
Field batted .290 (92 for 317) in 82 games with Class A Bowling Green before making his debut with Class A Charlotte, with which he hit .320 (48 for 150) in 40 contests. Mitch Lukevics, the Rays’ director of minor league operations, said Field’s effort makes him stand out.
"He really likes to play the game," Lukevics said. "He works at the game very hard. You wouldn’t put him in a category with some of the other players with total skill, but he has proven with heart, determination and the skill he has that he has become a really good player."
Snell, meanwhile, posted a 3-2 record with a 1.79 ERA throughout eight starts with Bowling Green, before going 5-6 with a 3.94 ERA in 16 starts with Charlotte. He credited more comfort with his mental approach as a reason for his growth.
"It was more of just of the mental side that I changed," Snell said. "Because I’ve always had power and stuff, but I just didn’t know how to use it. So now learning from my coaches and focusing on what I should be doing, that’s how I kind of developed the year I had."
In addition, teams within the Rays’ system announced their respective most valuable players. Those winners include outfielder Mikie Mahtook (Triple-A Durham), infielder Ryan Brett (Double-A Montgomery), infielder Patrick Leonard (Charlotte), infielder Kean Wong (Bowling Green), outfielder Hunter Lockwood (short-season A), right-hander Brent Honeywell (rookie ball Princeton), right-hander Henry Centeno (Gulf Coast League), outfielder Angel Perez (Dominican Summer League) and outfielder Oscar Rojas (Venezuelan Summer League).
"Obviously, there were some ups and downs, and there were some things I wish I would have done better," Mahtook said. "But all in all, I thought it was a pretty good season. … If you had to be anywhere else other than the big leagues, Durham is probably the place to be."
Finally, infielder Tommy Coyle was named Baserunner of the Year, plus left-hander Adam Liberatore (Reliever of the Year) and catcher Justin O’Conner (Defensive Player of the Year) also were honored. Coyle had 30 stolen bases with Charlotte, and Liberatore posted a 1.66 ERA in 54 contests working out of the bullpen for Durham. O’Conner threw out 24 of 48 potential base stealers in Charlotte, before catching nine of 12 runners with Montgomery.