The regular season portion of the minor-league season ended yesterday, and while all five of the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliates are playoff-bound (and the AZL Dodgers won the league championship over the weekend), it’s not too early to award the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year awards.
Hitter of the Year
SS/2B Gavin Lux
Coming into the 2018 season, there wasn’t a lot to be terribly excited about with Lux. He had a good-not-great showing with Great Lakes and it didn’t look like he was going to live up to his 1st-round billing. Well, a trip through the California League quickly changed some minds. Folks were still understandably skeptical because the Cal League is a hitters’ haven, but a late-season promotion to the Texas League showed Lux’s special 2018 was no fluke.
With Rancho Cucmaonga, Lux hit .324/.396/.520. With Tulsa, he hit .324/.410/.500. It was a smaller sample size with the Drillers, but Lux’s 2018 performance has catapulted him up the prospect rankings and he should find himself in some Top 100 lists this winter.
The only month when Lux struggled was June, but that month still saw him produce an .826 OPS. His next-lowest month besides June was April, when he OPS’d .882. He was a model of consistency throughout the Dodgers’ minor-league system.
Lux played mostly shortstop this season, with his other games coming at second base. Some believe that’s his ultimate home due to a questionable arm (accuracy and strength) and, at times, sloppy/rushed footwork, but if he could somehow stick at shortstop, he might be mentioned among the best shortstop prospects in the minors.
Verdugo gets some credit for producing great numbers in Triple-A, but Lux’s consistency and improvement gave him the edge for me. Also, he had an excellent season as a 20-year-old. It might be time to start buying into the hype.
Pitcher of the Year
RHP Tony Gonsolin
Gonsolin made a name for himself last season out of the Rancho Cucamonga bullpen, as he was touching 100 MPH in the Cal League playoffs. Instead of the Dodgers keeping him in the bullpen and maybe fast-tracking him to the majors, they converted him to the rotation, and it looks like it has paid off. He pitched strictly out of the bullpen last season, so seeing him pitch to a 5.49 ERA in April shouldn’t have been surprising. But for the remainder of the season, he pitched to a 2.08 ERA. He earned a promotion to Tulsa in July and had a 2.44 ERA in nine games with the Drillers.
Gonsolin’s stuff didn’t waver in the rotation. Sure, he wasn’t hitting 100 with his fastball, but he was still throwing in the mid-90s consistently and deep into his outings. His offspeed offerings also took a step forward and he became a legitimate starting pitching prospect. He’s not a prototypical starter size-wise, but he’s more than capable of being a quality pitcher in a starting rotation.
He saw his workload limited during the last month of the season, which isn’t unusual. He threw just 70 last season as a reliever, so a 45 percent increase in innings pitched is more than reasonable. Gonsolin averaged just a shade more than 77 pitches per start, so I’d expect the Dodgers turn the 24-year-old loose next season.
He was easily the best pitcher in the org for me. If Dean Kremer hadn’t been traded in the Manny Machado deal and kept up his pace, well, we might have a different selection here. But Gonsolin had a great season.
Next up is the All-Prospect Team, which is always a fun exercise. These two will definitely find their way onto that team.