First, it was Zack Granite taking home the first ever Award Week honor from All Aboard as the season MVP. Stephen Gonsalves followed right behind with the Ace of the Year award, recognizing the lefty as the best starting pitcher of the season for Chattanooga, while Trevor Hildenberger was selected as the relief pitcher equivalent. Finally, someone goes home with the Rebound Player of the Year award today, honoring the player with the biggest half-to-half turnaround performance. 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.
Rebound Player of the Year: C Stuart Turner
Stuart Turner entered the year praised widely and consistently for his work behind the plate. Baseball America entered the year dubbing him the best defensive catcher in the Twins organization and his entire professional career backed it up coming into the 2016 season and his play behind the plate throughout ’16 was more of the same. Turner finished the year with a .994 fielding percentage in 83 games (80 starts) as a catcher. He led the Southern League in caught stealing percentage among qualified catchers with a career high .396 (19-for-48). And above all else, he handled a rotation chalk-full of young and talented pitching prospects with extreme success, ending the year with a 48-32 record in games started in the gear (he was the only catcher to finish with a record in GS behind the plate over .500 for the Lookouts in 2016).
All this Turner did consistently throughout the 2016 grind. What distinguished him this year and earned him the Rebound Player of the Year was the strides he made at the plate from half to half.
Turner began the year with a torrid pace at the plate, hitting .321 through nine games, but fell back to career averages and even wound up under them after a difficult May and June. In the fifth and sixth months of the calendar year, Turner finished with .206 and .194 batting averages respectively and ended the top half of Southern League play batting just .197.
I’m not sure what he did during the all-star break, but whatever it was, it worked.
Turner jump started his season with a 13-game hitting streak right out of the gates in the second half, hitting .364 in the process (16-for-44) with five doubles, two homers, six runs scored and 12 driven in through those first 13. Stu continued putting up consistent offensive numbers then surged again when the Twins sent fellow catcher Mitch Garver up to Triple-A.
Turner responded to his teammate’s departure with hits in eight of the next nine Lookouts games with a trio of three-hit performances during that span.
The two surges combined with a few big nights here and there, including a monster four-hit and a homer night in Jacksonville, made 2016 a tale of two halves for Turner. In the bottom half of the season Turner finished with a batting average 77 points higher than his first half performance with six more runs, 19 more hits and over twice as many doubles and RBI, leading to career highs on the season in the latter two stats.
The massive turn around at the plate coupled with his consistently fantastic play behind it not only earned Turner the Rebound Player of the Year Award, but makes him a fascinating catching prospect to keep your eyes on in the years to come.
Thus concludes All Aboard’s Award Week and this specific writer’s time with the Chattanooga Lookouts and the official blog of the team. I hope those of you that stopped in for Lookouts coverage at any point during the year enjoyed your reading experience half as much as I enjoyed writing it. For now, I find myself, as George Washington put it (Thanks Hamilton. Seriously though, how great is Hamilton?) consigned “to the mansions of rest” until such a time that baseball begins again and I can revel in the enjoyment of joining those of you out there in full blown, entirely biased support of the Lookouts. Thanks for your support all season and Go Lookouts! –Jeremy Day
First, it was Zack Granite taking home the first ever Award Week honor from All Aboard as the season MVP. Stephen Gonsalves followed right behind with the Ace of the Year award, recognizing the lefty as the best starting pitcher of the season for Chattanooga. Now, it’s time for the Stopper of the Year award, given to the bullpen arm that could be counted on all year to come in and slam the door shut on the other team. 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.
Stopper of the Year: RHP Trevor Hildenberger
The Chattanooga Lookouts began the year with a blessing in the back of their bullpen, a talented, top prospect, lights out arm attached to one JT Chargois. Chargois was a closer prospect who came to Chattanooga without having ever blown a professional baseball save. But as the baseball gods giveth, the baseball gods taketh away, and Chargois was quickly promoted to Triple-A by the Minnesota Twins leaving a question mark at the back-end of the relief corp.
That question lasted all of a minute.
Trevor Hildenberger, All Aboard’s Stopper of the Year in 2016, arrived from Ft. Myers and promptly began putting up unbelievable numbers as distinct as his sidearm delivery. Unfortunately, injuries intervened and Hildenberger was shut down a month early to preserve his future. Given the early exit, fans may have forgotten just how phenomenal Hildenberger was in his time with the Lookouts. Let me offer you some reminders:
- 32 games pitched. 38.2 innings thrown. THREE earned runs allowed. THREE. THREEEEEEEEEEE.
- That’s good for a 0.70 ERA by the way. Just in case the three wasn’t impressive enough for you.
- Hildenberger went 16-for-17 in save situations with the Lookouts. How any team was able to draw a blown save out of him, I’ll never know.
- Trevor’s success was instant with his call up as he threw hitless innings in his first two outings, striking out two in his debut.
- Speaking of strikeouts, Hildenberger had 45 of them in his 38.2 innings, good for a 10.5 Ks-per-9 rate to go along with a sparkling 7.50 SO/W ratio as well (Southern League batters walked just six times off Trevor).
- After taking a loss in a two-inning, one-run outing against Pensacola, Hildenberger went on an incredible stretch of dominance, keeping Southern League teams scoreless in 19.1 consecutive innings over 15 games, 11 of which Hildenberger finished without allowing a hit. His total stats during that run: 2-0, 11-for-11 in save situations, eight hits allowed, two walked, 20 struck out.
- The scoreless streak ended on June 25th when the Jackson Generals managed a run off the righty. Hildenberger wouldn’t allow another earned run for the rest of his season (11 games).
- Hildenberger was ruthlessly efficient both beginning innings (just four hits allowed in lead-off at bats) and with runners in scoring position. Opposing teams hit .105 with runners in scoring position and were hitless with runners on and runners in scoring position with two outs while Hildenberger was on the mound.
- Can’t get enough Hildenberger facts? Head back in to the All Aboard archives for our feature on the closer posted back in July. His story is an intriguing one and definitely worth reading as Hildenberger continues his climb up prospect rankings and toward the Majors. To make it easier on you, here is the link: Trevor Time: A Look at the Rise of a Closer
Check back tomorrow for the final chapter in the All Aboard Award Week series. The final article will select the Lookouts player that showed the most improvement from half to half.
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!
Today marks the official beginning of award week here at All Aboard, the Official Blog of the Chattanooga Lookouts. For the rest of the work week, All Aboard will be used to celebrate the standout players and performances of the season starting with today’s announcement of the Lookouts Most Valuable Player in 2016. 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.
All Aboard 2016 Most Valuable Player: Zack Granite
Before using a plethora of words to describe just how impressive Zack Granite’s 2016 season was for the Lookouts I will try to do so in as few words as possible.
Here are the major offensive categories in which Granite did NOT set new career highs in this year:
On Base Percentage (fell .003 short of surpassing his previous high).
End of List.
Those three things are the entire list of career high’s not beat for the speedy outfielder who eclipsed his season totals in games played, at bats, hits, batting average, doubles, triples, home runs, runs scored, runs driven in, slugging percentage, total bases, outfield assists and stolen bases, a previous season high he doubled in ’16.
Granite set the tone for Chattanooga from the top of their lineup all season, was arguably their best player at every possible facet of the game of baseball sans pitching and was a near permanent fixture in the All Aboard Three Stars of the Series weekly article recapping the top three players of the last five games. Because covering Granite’s season in one coherent article is a task far too daunting for this humble blogger, let’s break this down into easy to digest (and write) pieces.
At The Plate:
Somehow, Zack Granite began his season with two hits in his first 12 at bats and ended April hitting an underwhelming .205. From that point on, Granite hit .310 and finished the season with the third highest batting average in the Southern League at .295. The speedy outfielder also finished top three in the league in hits (155, 12th in MiLB, 1st in SL), runs (86, 2nd), triples (8, 2nd) and stolen bases (more on that later). He caught fire with the weather, hitting .363 in June and over .300 in July and August and remained remarkably consistent the entire year no matter who he was facing pitching-wise, with a .291 average vs LHP and a .296 vs RHP.
Granite’s season was marked by multiple four-hit games, four straight two-hit nights to start June, a two triple/5RBI game against Birmingham on August 12th, and a 15 game hitting streak between June 13th and July 4th.
One last impressive note on Granite’s plate production: He showed a fantastic contact tool and strong eye at the plate, with just 43 strikeouts compared to 42 walks in 526 at bats.
On the Base Path:
Granite shined bright in Manager Doug Mientkiewicz’s aggressive running style, doubling his previous stolen base season total and finishing first in the Southern League and tied for first in all of minor league baseball with 56 swiped bags. The total not only was Granite’s highest, but the fourth highest total in a single season all-time for a Lookouts player, exceeding Miami Marlins star Dee Gordon who stole 53 in 2010.
In the Field:
Chattanooga finished the year as the best statistical defensive team in the Southern League and Granite may be at the top of the lists of reasons for that. The left hander manned a consistently spectacular center field all season, ending the year with just one error in 305 total chances and 1097.2 innings patrolling the outfield. He led the Southern League in total putouts with 291 and threw out the most runners on the base paths with 13.
Check Back tomorrow for the next in All Aboard’s Award Series with the year’s best pitcher! Any guesses as to who it will be? Let us know who your pick is on twitter (@ChattLookouts).