Cubs Name Player, Pitcher of the Year


The Chicago Cubs have named their minor league Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year for 2011, and the results are just a touch surprising. Bryan LaHair wins Player of the Year. This choice was expected. Pitcher of the Year goes to Jeff Beliveau, and that choice was a little surprising.

Beliveau has had a great a year as a reliever in Daytona and Tennessee, but he is far from the only reliever to have a great year in the Cubs farm system, and there are at least two starters who arguably should have had better seasons than Beliveau. That’s not to say Beliveau is undeserving… he absolutely earned the honor… but his selection is still somewhat surprising.

Bryan LaHair, who was also named the Pacific Coast League MVP, has one of the best offense seasons the Cubs minor leagues have seen in awhile. Now in his late 20s, LaHair has reinvented himself as a patient slugger who some project to hit 35+ home runs in the majors. He could be a regular for the Cubs next year either at first base or in left field (if Soriano is gone). His Triple-A OPS of 1.070 pretty much speaks for itself. There were some other candidates for this honor: Jae-Hoon Ha, Evan Crawford, and Steve Clevenger all deserved consideration, as did several players in the very low minors. I’m not sure that my pick would have been LaHair… that choice will be made later this offseason… but I can’t argue that LaHair is a very deserving candidate.

Jeff Beliveau is also deserving. Between High-A and Double-A his ERA was a minuscule 1.57. He will almost certainly get a long look in spring training, and I would be very surprised if he is not in Chicago’s bullpen by the end of the 2012 season… unless he gets hurt or Mike Quade is still the manager, of course.

But let’s look at a few of the other candidates. Nick Struck began the year in Daytona, and though he was not spectacular at any level of the minors, he pitched well enough to finish the year in Iowa. Eric Jokisch was arguably the ace of Peoria Cheifs until late in the season when he was vaulted over Daytona into Tennessee. He pitched very well for the Smokies until he wound up on the disabled list. Or if we are talking about relievers, why not Frank Batista who closed out games for the FSL Champion Daytona Cubs? If we go into the low minors, we find even more quality candidates.

Beliveau had a great season, but I have hard time overlooking Jokisch or Struck when it comes to naming a Pitcher of the Year.