The CCO’s post-season minor league awards continue with the Minor League Player of the Year. Tim Saunders and Daury Torrez were named Short-Season Player and Pitcher of the Year last week.
Several players took positive steps forward in the Cubs’ system this season as a new philosophy was implemented throughout the organization. But one position player stood out from the rest and delivered a strong, consistent season from the beginning to the end.
The Boise Hawks season came to an end on Sunday night with a 12-9 loss to the Vancouver Canadians in game three of the Northwest League Championship Series. The Hawks took a 7-5 lead into the eighth but Vancouver scored seven unearned runs and held on to win the series. All players that began the season on full-season rosters either in Peoria, Daytona, Tennessee or Iowa were considered but only players that remained in the minors for the entire season were eligible.
The CCO Minor League Player of the Year – Justin Bour, 1B
Coming up to the Tennessee Smokies in 2012, it appeared that the 24-year old left hander would be splitting time at first base with Rebel Ridling. A team leader on the Southern League’s runner-up, Ridling was fourth in the league in hitting, tied for fifth in home runs, and ninth in RBI in 2011. But as the 2012 season progressed Justin Bour started out-performing his right-handed counterpart at first base. Settling into the clean-up role, Bour took over the Southern League lead in RBI in the second month of the season. Bour did not slow down and he finished as the league leader with 110 RBI, also tops in the Cubs’ organization. Bour hit 17 home runs, tied for seventh in the league. Bour’s 17 dingers also tied him with Peoria Chiefs’ third baseman Dustin Geiger for the most with one team in the Cubs’ system. Bour led the Smokies in hitting at .283, which was good for eighth in the Southern League.
While some may point to his 18 errors at first as a future red flag, a closer look reveals that Bour may be better than his numbers indicate. Tennessee was seventh (out of ten) in Southern League in fielding, as Smokies’ infielders committed 32 errors at both shortstop and at third base. Bour’s .985 fielding percentage was first among all of the system’s first basemen, and .001 behind that of Anthony Rizzo before he was promoted.
A 25th round draft pick in 2009 out of George Mason University, Bour is completing his fourth season in the Cubs organization. He split time between the AZL Cubs and Boise as a rookie, batting .262 with four home runs and 40 RBI in 62 games. In his first full season with Peoria in 2010, Bour was second in the Midwest League with 87 RBI, as he hit .219 with 12 home runs. Bour continued producing runs in 2011. Bour was second in the Florida State League with 85 RBI while hitting .277 and finishing second in the league with 23 home runs.
Justin Bour heads a list that includes a couple of teammates in utility man Greg Rohan and infielder/outfielder Rubi Silva. Rohan led the entire system with 21 home runs, while batting .282 with 106 RBI over three levels (Daytona, Tennessee and Iowa). Silva was tops in the organization with a .296 average and led the organization with 14 triples. Also under consideration was Daytona outfielder John Andreoli, who led the Florida State League with 55 stolen bases to go along with a .289 average and 25 RBI while placing second on the team with 119 hits.
Thursday: The CCO Minor League Pitcher of the Year
Short Season-A – Boise Hawks
After a three hundred mile bus ride from Yakima to Vancouver between Wednesday and Thursday, Boise began the Northwest League Championship series with a 10-7 loss to the Canadians. Starting pitcher Ian Dickson had one of his better outings. Dickson allowed an earned run over three innings while striking out three. Justin Amlung followed and struck out the side in an inning of work. But Hunter Ackerman gave up two earned runs in his inning of work. Then things got sloppy as James Pugliese was the victim of two unearned runs. Pugliese let in four while striking out three in 1.2 innings. Hayden Simpson was then charged with three unearned runs without recording an out. Rafael Diplan went the rest of the way and tossed 1.1 scoreless innings.
Marco Hernandez continued to sizzle at the plate. Hernandez went 3-for-5 with two RBI. Jeimer Candelario went 2-for-5 and drove in a run, while Dan Vogelbach (1-for-4) had a double and plated two.
Friday gave the Hawks time to rest and recover, as Saturday proved to be a tense match-up with Boise coming on late to defeat Vancouver 3-2. The Hawks made the most of their six hits, scoring single runs in the seventh and eighth inning, as well as a walk off run in the bottom of the ninth. Willson Contreras (2-for-4) drove in Dan Vogelbach with a bases loaded single in the bottom of the seventh. In the eighth inning, Trey Martin walked and came home on an RBI double by Stephen Bruno (1-for-3) that tied the score and set up the dramatic ninth inning.
Jeimer Candelario (1-for-3) led off the ninth with a double. Izaac Garsez was hit by a pitch and Rock Shoulders (1-for-3) walked to load the bases. Willson Contreras delivered again, as he singled in the winning run.
What was advertised as a possible pitcher’s duel turned out to be a slugfest, as Boise lost 12-9 to Vancouver in the third and final game of the Northwest League Championship Series. Both teams starting pitchers were a little tight, as Tayler Scott surrendered two earned runs in the first inning. Scott allowed three more earned runs in the fourth inning, leaving with five earned runs in 3.2 innings.
Michael Heesch put out the fire. Heesch struck out four over 3.1 scoreless innings. Tyler Bremer started the eighth inning. Two walks and wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out. Eduardo Orozco was asked to get the final five outs, but it proved to be too much. Orozco gave up three hits, an error and a wild pitch yielded seven unearned runs, two for Bremer and five for Orozco. Brian Smith was able to the Hawks out of the inning. Smith recorded an out in the eighth then gave way to Juan Carlos Paniagua. The fireballer was everything as advertised, blowing away two batters for strikeouts.
Gioskar Amaya (2-for-5 with a RBI) and Marco Hernandez (2-for-4) were catalysts at the top of the order. Stephen Bruno went 2-for-4 with a double and a RBI. Dan Vogelbach (2-for-4) launched a three-run homer and drove in four runs. Jeimer Candelario (2-for-5) plated two and Rock Shoulders went 2-for-5.
News and Notes
The Cubs dismissed six coaches from the Minor League system on Saturday. Dave Bialas, Casey Kopitzke, Barbaro Garbey, Frank Castillo, Marty Mason and Jason Dubois will not return next season. Dave Bialas managed the Iowa Cubs this past season while Marty Mason served as the pitching coach for the Daytona Cubs.
The Cubs signed Jesse Hodges to a minor league deal. Hodges will report to Mesa and participate in the Arizona Instructional League.
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