The Trenton Thunder had a bit of a disappointing season. They finished in third place in their division with a 69-72 record. After Jesus Montero was knocked out of the lineup with an injury, this team just wasn't as exciting to follow.
The Thunder finished off the season with a four-game series against the second place New Britain Rock Cats. If Trenton had been able to win three of these four games, they would have qualified for the playoffs. Instead, New Britain won three, and Trenton will watch from home.
Mike Axisa over at River Ave. Blues just penned his 2009 Minor League Awards. I suggest you check them out.
Trenton Thunder MVP
Eduardo Nunez, SS: .322/.349/.433 with a .356 wOBA in 527 PA.
The young, switch-hitting shortstop certainly held his own in AA as a 22-year-old. Just so you know, the average age in AA this season was 24.9 years old, with a standard deviation of 2.0. There were more potent offensive players, but the fact that Nunez led the team in plate appearances and played shortstop made him more valuable to the team.
The Yankees signed him in 2004, at age 16, so he has certainly come a long way. That said, I'm not buying into the Eduardo Nunez hype. For one, he is not a good defender. TotalZone has ranked him average or below average in every season. This season, TotalZone says he was worth -7 runs with the glove.
There are some other red flags in his performance as well. For the season, his BABIP was a very high .355. For a top prospect with speed, this wouldn't be that out of line, but Nunez has maintained a career BABIP of .300 in the minor leagues.
I plugged Nunez's line into Chris Dutton's xBABIP tool, and got an expected batting average on balls in play of exactly .300. After neutralizing Nunez's BABIP to .300, his batting line is a meager .275/.302/.385—one that wouldn't be drawing any attention.
After the season, Nunez will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft and I'm sure the Yankees will be tempted to add him to the 40-man roster. He definitely needs to repeat Trenton and is nowhere near big-league ready. I don't think it is necessary for the Yankees to protect him from the Rule 5 this offseason.
Trenton Thunder Pitcher of the Year
Zach McAllister: 7-5 record, 121 IP, 98 H, 39 R, 30 ER, 4 HR, 33 BB, 96 K, 2.23 ERA, 3.03 FIP.
McAllister isn't a top prospect because he doesn't have ace potential, but what he has done is damn impressive. Since being drafted in the third round of the Yankees' 2006 draft, McAllister has just dominated.
Last year, he posted an ERA of 2.09 and a FIP of 3.26 in 151 IP between Charleston and Tampa. This year, he sat out some time with fatigue, but still managed to put up similar numbers as a 21-year-old in Trenton. He is very young for AA and still dominating.
His ERA typically outperforms his FIP, and there is a reason for that. McAllister works by generating a ton of ground balls. This season, 46.1% of balls in play against him were ground balls.
McAllister recently received a call up to pitch in the postseason for AAA Scranton. Next season, he'll start with Scranton. If he continues to pitch as well as he has, he'll be knocking on the door for a call up to the majors the next time the team is in need of a starter.
Trenton Thunder Surprise of the Year
Reegie Corona, 2B/SS: .287/.397/.397 with a .375 wOBA in 368 PA.
As you can see, Corona put up a better offensive season in Trenton than Nunez. Corona wasn't Trenton's most valuable player because he also spent much of the season at AAA, where he struggled.
On the season, Corona spent a majority of his time at AA playing second base, but also continued to play shortstop sporadically. TotalZone has consistently rated Corona as an average to below-average shortstop and an average second baseman.
The Mariners thought that his defense would be better than average, and drafted him in the Rule 5 draft this past offseason. Luckily for the Yankees, he was terrible in Spring Training and returned to them.
There are no clear signs that Corona's defense improved, but his offense definitely did. The 22-year-old produced a 15.4 walk percentage, by far the highest of his career. His BABIP was a bit high, at .336, while his career rate is an average .307.
To be fair to Eduardo Nunez, a neutralized version of Corona's batting line with the same xBABIP calculator would be .264/.375/.375, which is still okay from the middle infield. Corona has zero power, he set a career high with a .111 ISO this season, which limits his upside to a utility type.
The Yankees will have a tough decision to make with him in the offseason. Their roster is full of utility players with Ramiro Pena and Kevin Russo. Will it be worth protecting Pena from the Rule 5 draft this time around? I think it would be worth it. Having a bit of added depth and versatility is worth the 40-man spot.
If the Yankees decide to protect Corona and keep him around, he should start next season in Scranton and look to produce better than he did in AAA this season.
Trenton Thunder Disappointment of the Year
Justin Snyder, UTIL: .195/.279/.263 with a .259 wOBA in 298 PA.
It doesn't get much worse than the line Snyder put up playing 94 games for Trenton this season. Even if you adjust for the bad luck Snyder hit into, his batting line still comes out to a very weak .250/.332/.328.
Snyder was the Yankees' 21st round draft pick in 2007, and signed for a well above slot bonus. In his first two professional seasons, he produced offensively while moving around the diamond defensively. His wOBA in 2008, a full year at Charleston, was .359.
Snyder's biggest strength is his plate discipline. Even in such a down year, he was able to maintain a 10 percent walk rate, which is right around league average. His power dissappeared in 2009, though. His ISO has dropped from .142 to .119 to .069 since his 2007 debut.
It looks like the Yankees' decision to send Snyder to Trenton before even getting a taste of Tampa didn't work out too well. Hindsight is 20/20, but it is clear now that he was not ready for Trenton. I assume he'll start next season in Trenton again, and this time he'll have a lot to prove.