Early in the season, when Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy were hitting, there was plenty of excitement to go with Charleston’s losing record. Even individual success, though, proved inconsistent and the RiverDogs finished with just 55 wins — only 10 more than short season Staten Island.
There must be some expectation of inconsistency at this level, and the Yankees certainly saw that up and down the roster and throughout the season. Charleston was near the middle of the South Atlantic League — but still in the bottom half — in most offensive categories, and it was roughly the same for the pitching staff, which had the league’s second-most strikeouts but also its second-most walks.
Hitter of the Year: C Gary Sanchez
There were no flawless Hitter of the Year candidates in Charleston this year, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be at this level. The guys who got off to hot starts were gone by mid-season, and the guys who stuck around showed some of the growing pains that come with youth and inexperience. Ultimately, the team’s top prospect was also it’s best overall hitter. Sanchez played in just 82 games — he finished the season on the DL with a broken finger — but he led the team with 17 home runs, 12 of them coming in just 38 games in the second half. A slash line of .256/.335/.485 is far from perfect, but the power stands out, and the guy has yet to turn 19.
Starter of the Year: LHP Nik Turley
Only one Charleston starter reached 100 innings this season, and that was Shane Greene, who had a 4.37 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. Instead, I’ll go with Turley, who made just 15 starts before a promotion and a broken hand that ended his season in mid-July. Those 15 starts, though, were terrific. Through 82.1 innings, Turley had 82 strikeouts, 21 walks, a .224 opponents batting average and 1.11 WHIP. His 2.51 ERA would have been the second-lowest in the league had he qualified. Turley’s been getting healthy and seems in line to open next season in Tampa. He’s a bigger prospect than his 50th-round draft selection indicates.
Reliever of the Year: RHP Tommy Kahnle
Like a lot of pitchers at this level, Kahnle’s walk total was way too high this season — 49 walks in 81 innings — but his 112 strikeouts is outrageous and hard to overlook. Kahnle ranked 13th in the league in strikeouts, and did it without a single start. Opponents hit .223 against him, and right-handers managed just a .205 average. A fifth-round pick in 2010, this was Kahnle’s first full season of pro ball. He was drafted out of college, so it wouldn’t have been out of the question to see him move beyond Low-A this season, but Kahnle showed the potential to be a dominant strikeout pitcher out of the bullpen.
Breakout performance: RHP Mark Montgomery
For a while it seemed this would be a breakout year for one of Charleston’s top hitters — Slade Heathcott, J.R. Murphy, Ramon Flores, Rob Segedin — but injuries and slow second half performances changed things. Certainly Turley had a breakout season in the Charleston rotation before his promotion. Ultimately, no one burst onto the scene quite like Montgomery, a 11th-round draft pick this year who had 41 strikeouts in 24.1 innings for Charleston. He allowed just 17 hits, only three of which came in his last eight outings (he had 14 strikeouts and three walks in that span). If a breakout season is one that grabs your attention, Montgomery’s certainly fits the description.
Disappointing numbers: RF Kelvin De Leon
Back in 2008, De Leon had a nice year in the Dominican Summer League, and the Yankees have spent three years waiting for him to replicate that success in the States. Despite leading Charleston in RBI, De Leon put up another powerful but ultimately disappointing season. He hit 14 homers, but had a .221/.282/.369 slash line. He struck out 147 times, fourth-most in the league. It’s not that there were huge expectations for De Leon, but there was certainly some hope that this might be the year he broke out. Instead he was right with Anderson Feliz and Eduardo Sosa falling short of those hopes.
Top prospect watch: C/3B JR Murphy
Obviously Sanchez was the top-rated prospect on this team, and Heathcott was close behind, but Murphy entered the year near the bottom of the Top 10 and he some early noise with a .297/.343/.457 slash line in Charleston (he hit .321/.381/.509 in an eye-opening month of May). One of the more intriguing bats in the Yankees system, Murphy was promoted to Tampa in mid-June and had his season cut short by a broken foot in July (just days after a four-hit, four-RBI game). Murphy will have to wait until next year to see if he can build off an encouraging first half.
Notable: LF Ramon Flores had more walks than strikeouts in April and a .375 on-base percentage in the first half. In the second half, his batting average and slugging percentage stayed roughly the same, but his on-base dipped to .329. For the year he hit .265/.353/.400 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases… 3B/LF Rob Segedin hit .323/.396/.482 before a mid-June promotion to Tampa, where his numbers dropped to .245/.311/.309. The third-rounder is currently in the Arizona Fall league… 1B Kyle Roller hit .305/.379/.545 in Charleston and followed that by hitting .265/.365/.427 in Tampa. Not bad for a first full year as a pro… Middle infielders Anderson Feliz, Jose Mojica and Jose Toussen combined for 72 errors and none had an OPS higher than .649… After barely pitching the past three years, RHP Manny Barreda had 82 strikeouts and a .247 opponents batting average in 74 innings out of the bullpen… Last year’s 12th-round pick RHP Dan Burawa jumped from Charleston to Tampa and is wrapping up his year in the Arizona Fall League.