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Mariners hand out Minor League awards

SEATTLE -- Shortstop Chris Taylor was named Player of the Year, while right-hander Taijuan Walker earned Starting Pitcher of the Year honors as the Mariners announced their annual Minor League awards on Thursday.

Right-hander Carson Smith was named Relief Pitcher of the Year and outfielder Abraham Almonte received the Heart and Soul Award for his exemplary play and leadership.

The four winners will be honored in a pregame ceremony at Safeco Field prior to Saturday afternoon's game against the A's. Walker and Almonte are both currently with the big league club as late-season callups.

Taylor, 23, hit .314 with 108 runs, 28 doubles, 11 triples, eight home runs, 60 RBIs and 38 stolen bases in 134 games while splitting the season between Double-A Jackson and Class A Advanced High Desert. He ranked third among all Minor League players in runs and was tied for eighth in hits.

Taylor, a fifth-round Draft pick out of Virginia in 2012, was one of just three Minor Leaguers to hit over .300 with 100-plus runs, 45-plus extra-base hits, 30-plus stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .400 or higher, joining top prospects Byron Buxton of the Twins and George Springer of the Astros.

Walker split the season between Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma before getting promoted for three starts with the Mariners. He was a combined 9-10 with a 2.93 ERA and 10.19 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in the Minors. The 21-year-old then went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA over 15 innings for Seattle.

A supplemental first-round Draft pick in 2010, Walker pitched in the All-Star Futures Game and was selected as a Southern League All-Star this season. He is ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect in baseball by

Smith went 1-3 with 15 saves and a 1.80 ERA in 44 relief appearances for Jackson. After giving up five runs over his first six appearances to start the season, the 23-year-old allowed only five earned runs over his last 38 games, and he posted a 1.01 ERA.

Smith, the Mariners' eighth-round selection in the 2011 Draft out of Texas State, held opponents to a .183 batting average, with 17 walks and 71 strikeouts in 50 innings.

Almonte, 24, was called up by the Mariners on Aug. 30 and reached base safely in each of his first 18 games with an at-bat, and he hit .279 with 10 runs, two homers and nine RBIs.

Acquired from the Yankees in a trade for reliever Shawn Kelley in February, Almonte combined to hit .300 with 23 doubles, six triples, 15 home runs, 68 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 123 games between Jackson and Tacoma.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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