While Rookie ball provides a chance for many Minor Leaguers to get their feet wet in professional baseball, Low-A typically represents the first major step on the path to the Majors.
Minor League Baseball announced the end-of-season award winners and All-Star teams for the three Low-A leagues on Friday after tallying votes from league broadcasters, MiLB executives and select members of the media.
Below, you’ll find the major award winners from each circuit. The list is replete with promising prospects, including three from MLB’s overall Top 100.
Most Valuable Player: Diego Infante, Charleston (TB)
Part of a deep Rays system, Infante opened eyes for Charleston in 2021, posting a .296/.393/.507 slash line with 16 homers, 80 RBIs and 20 steals in 101 games. The 21-year-old outfielder ended the regular season on a 24-game hitting streak, including his final nine at High-A.
Pitcher of the Year: Joey Estes, Augusta (ATL)
Estes’ first full Minor League season was a smashing success in 2021, as the right-hander recorded a 2.91 ERA, 127 strikeouts and 29 walks across 99 innings. The 2019 16th-round Draft pick is currently Atlanta’s No. 14 prospect, but he could continue to climb the list.
Top MLB Prospect: Jhonkensy Noel, Lynchburg (CLE)
Noel spent only 38 games in Low-A this past season, but he clearly made his presence felt. The 20-year-old corner infielder (Cleveland’s No. 25 prospect) showcased his prodigious power with regularity as he hit .393 with 11 dingers and a 1.119 OPS in 162 plate appearances for Lynchburg.
Most Valuable Player: Endy Rodriguez, Bradenton (PIT)
Acquired from the Mets in the three-team deal that sent Joe Musgrove to the Padres and Joey Lucchesi to Queens, Rodriguez impressed in his first season in Pittsburgh’s system, registering a .294/.380/.512 slash line with 15 homers and 73 RBIs in 98 games. The athletic switch-hitter (Pittsburgh’s No. 19 prospect) saw time behind the plate as well as at first base and in the outfield for Bradenton.
Pitcher of the Year: Adrian Florencio, Bradenton (PIT)
The Pirates’ farm system also produced Low-A Southeast’s top pitcher in Florencio, who racked up 117 strikeouts and walked only 30 batters while posting a 2.46 ERA in 95 innings. The 6-foot-6 righty solidified his award-worthiness down the stretch, allowing seven earned runs and fanning 45 hitters in his final 33 2/3 innings (1.87 ERA).
Top MLB Prospect: Eury Perez, Jupiter (MIA)
Standing 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds -- four inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than when he turned pro two years ago -- the 18-year-old Perez (the Marlins’ No. 6 prospect) was a standout on the mound for Jupiter in 2021, striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings (82 K’s in 56 IP) and registering a 1.61 ERA before advancing to High-A for his final five appearances of the year.
Most Valuable Player: Luis Matos, San Jose (SF)
Part of a Giants international signing class that also included Marco Luciano (MLB’s No. 5 prospect) in 2018, Matos (MLB’s No. 77 prospect) was excellent in his first full professional season. The 19-year-old outfielder recorded a .313/.358/.494 slash line, 15 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals across 109 games for San Jose.
Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Harrison, San Jose (SF)
The Giants gave Harrison (MLB’s No. 99 prospect) a $2,497,500 signing bonus, the equivalent of late-first round money, after selecting him in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft. The left-hander lived up to expectations in his first pro season, flashing 98-mph heat with a strong slider while recording a 3.19 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings.
Top MLB Prospect: Zac Veen, Fresno (COL)
The ninth-overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft was as advertised in his first taste of pro ball, hitting .301 with 15 homers, 75 RBIs, 36 steals and a .900 OPS over 106 games. The 19-year-old Veen (MLB’s No. 50 prospect) received plus grades nearly across the board from MLB Pipeline.