Mariners honor Minor League award winners
SEATTLE -- It's been a busy last couple days for shortstop Drew Jackson.
The 22-year-old, who hit .358 in his first year of professional baseball with the Class A Short Season Everett AquaSox and was named Northwest League Player of the Year, will be a student of the game Saturday as he and several other Mariners Minor League players are recognized before the Mariners' game against the A's. On top of that, he's also just a student.
Jackson is taking 17 units at Stanford this fall to finish up his science, technology and society degree. He sat through his Friday classes, flew up to Seattle Saturday morning for the Mariners game and will be back in the Bay Area on Monday for more time in the classroom.
"That's one good thing the Stanford coaches pride themselves on is getting their players ahead early," said the Mariners' 2015 fifth-round Draft pick. "Even if they get drafted after their junior year they can finish within a quarter, so that's something I'm pretty grateful for."
Along with Jackson, the Mariners recognized their Co-Minor League Players of the Year, Jesus Montero and Tyler O'Neill, Starting Pitcher of the Year Edwin Diaz, Relief Pitcher of the Year Paul Fry, Heart and Soul Award winner Jabari Blash and Northwest League Manager of the Year Rob Mummau before Saturday's game.
Saturday was a chance for the Minor Leaguers to be recognized for their achievements this season. For some, like Diaz, it also served as an opportunity to set goals moving forward. Diaz, who was selected by the Mariners in the third round of the 2012 Draft, initially struggled after his promotion to Double A Jackson but lowered his ERA with the Generals to 4.57 after 20 starts.
"I think I got better. I think the first month over there was tough. If you miss one pitch, you get hit," Diaz said. "I think if I make the adjustment quick I can be here next year. To be here next year, that's my goal."
Blash missed 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance in June 2014. In 2015, he made up for lost time, cranking 32 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A Tacoma while hitting .271 over 116 games.
"Last year with the suspension I missed a ton of at-bats, which hurt me. I struggled a little bit in Tacoma last year so this year I knew that it was kind of revenge," Blash said. "I had a good time and swung the bat and we had some fun and am just looking forward to getting here."
For Blash, the offseason plan is to rehab a strained right knee and continue to get at-bats in Venezuelan Winter League. For others, like O'Neill, fall provides an opportunity to prove themselves against better competition in the Arizona Fall League.
"Obviously, it's another necessary step, I feel like," said O'Neill, who hit 32 home runs with Class A Advanced Bakersfield this season. "I know it's going to be the hardest competition of my life so far and I really want to perform there."