The Chicago Cubs had a fantastic 2014 campaign in their farm system, which was capped by a Midwest League Championship for the Kane County Cougars. Today the Cubs named their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. It came as no surprise that Kris Bryant took the top player honors, as he has with seemingly every other award possible. Kane County pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng took the organization’s award for best pitcher.
What can I say about Bryant that hasn’t already been said? The young man has had one of the finest first years in professional baseball I have ever witnessed. The organizational award will sit nicely on his mantle next to the USA Today and Baseball America Player of the Year awards.
And the numbers don’t lie. He was really, really good.
The right-handed hitting third baseman began the season with the Tennessee Smokies. In 68 games, Bryant batted .355 (88-for-248) with 20 doubles, 22 home runs, and drove in 58 runs. He posted a .702 slugging mark and a .458 on-base percentage. He was named the Southern League Hitter of the Week three times, including consecutive weeks (May 26-Jun 8). In that two-week span, he hit .447 (21-for-47), five doubles, eight home runs, 12 RBI and walked 15 times. He was named to the mid-season Southern League All-Star team, and led the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in at the break. To top it off he captured the home run derby title as part of the All-Star game festivities.
Bryant was promoted to Triple-A Iowa following the break, and never took his foot off the gas. He batted .295 (72-for-294) with 14 doubles, a triple, 21 home runs, and 52 RBI. In all, Bryant, 22, batted .325 (160-for-492) with 34 doubles, one triple, 43 home runs and 110 RBI in 138 games between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He led all of Minor League Baseball with the aforementioned 43 home runs, as did his 78 extra-base hits, 325 total bases, .661 slugging percentage and 1.098 OPS. He finished second in runs scored (118), and second in RBIs (110).
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After taking Bryant with the second overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Kris Bryant is quickly paying dividends, and will leave the Cubs with some hard questions to answer coming out of Spring Training if he keeps this up.
Jen-Ho Tseng was also in his first year of professional baseball, but was signed as a non-drafted free agent in July of last year. Tseng was a driving force in Kane County’s title run, going 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 19 games (17 starts). He held opponents to a .204 batting average (76-for 373), a .241 on-base percentage, and a .308 slugging percentage. He struck out 85 while only walking 15. That was good for 1.3 walks and 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Tseng surrendered three runs or less in 16 of his 17 starts.
While Bryant would be considered a ‘runaway’ with this award, it wasn’t for lack of talent within the system. The same can be said for Tseng. Both were very deserving, but there were others that weren’t that far behind. Okay, a little behind Bryant, but he set a high bar for everyone else.
Bryant and Tseng will both be honored during an on-field ceremony prior to the Cubs 7:05 p.m. CT contest this Wednesday, Sept. 17, against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Tseng was also honored before tonight’s contest with the rest of the Kane County Cougars Championship team.