All Aboard Award Week: Ace of the Year
Yesterday it was Zack Granite taking home the first ever Award Week honor from All Aboard as the season MVP. Today, it’s time to find out the Ace of the Year, recognizing the best starting pitcher of the season for Chattanooga. Quick Note: The selection of the All Aboard awards are made by the Lookouts media department and reflect only the opinions and thoughts of said staff members, not those of the Chattanooga Lookouts players, coaching staff, the Minnesota Twins, Southern League or Major/Minor League Baseball. Now that the above business is taken care off, let’s get in to it.
Ace of the Year: LHP Stephen Gonsalves
While he was only in Chattanooga for half of 2016, you’d be hard pressed to make an argument for a starting pitcher other than Stephen Gonsalves more deserving of the award, not only on the Lookouts but in the Southern League and perhaps even in all of Minor League Baseball. The 21-year-old was lights out in his 13 starts for Chattanooga, perplexing Southern League lineups throughout the entire second half. Gonsalves finished his first stint in the Southern League with an 8-1 record, 43 hits and 17R/15ER allowed in 74.1 innings pitched for a 1.82 ERA, 89 batters struck out, a sparkling .171 batting average against, 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings and just one home run allowed (curse you, Joe Hudson of the Blue Wahoos!).
Gonsalves flashed signs of things to come from his very first start in with the Lookouts, throwing five solid innings against the Jackson Generals with threw runs allowed and six struck out to earn his first of eight wins. His second start wasn’t nearly as smooth as Pensacola touched Gonsalves up with six runs on six hits to chase him after 3.2 frames. That proved to be the only time Southern League teams would get the best of Gonsalves as he kept teams under two or fewer runs in every single other outing to finish the year.
The bounce back from his second game was instant, with Gonsalves responding with 12 straight shutout innings across two starts, capped by one of the most dominant starts the Lookouts had all season on July 12th. That day, Gonsalves allowed just four hits from the Tennessee Smokies, walked no one and struck out ELEVEN batters in six innings. Stephen then went out and stretched that level of play out across an entire month, dominating hitters left and right in August. In five starts in the penultimate month of the season, the lefty went 4-0 and allowed a single, solitary run in 32.2 innings pitched. For those doing the math at home that is an unbelievable 0.28 ERA.
Gonsalves earned Southern League Player of the Month honors for his August efforts to go along with an impressive and seemingly ever-growing list of accolades from the 2016 season, including: Southern League Pitcher of the Week for 8/15-21 when he kept Montgomery hitless through six innings, a Florida State League Midseason All Star selection right before his call-up, MLB Pipeline Team of the year and Baseball America 1st Team MiLB All Star recognition.
Some other fun facts from Gonsalves eye-popping (see what I did there?) half in Chattanooga:
- The Lookouts won 10 of Gonsalves’ 13 starts. Two of the three losses during his turn in the rotation were one run extra-inning contests.
- Gonsalves went 5-0 with a 1.01 ERA in six games at AT&T Field, surrendering just four runs in 35.2 innings pitched and holding visiting batters to a .167 batting average against.
- Gonsalves finished the season all over the minor league rankings sitting in 4th in batting average against, 7th in ERA, 11th in WHIP and 13th in wins and strikeouts.
- Perhaps most impressive of all to note, Gonsalves accomplished all of this while being 3.2 years YOUNGER than the average Southern League player (per Baseball Reference).
Check back tomorrow for the yet-to-be-cleverly-named relief pitcher of the year award. Then award week wraps up Thursday with the most-improved player by halves honor. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on the Lookouts social media accounts!