The Tampa Bay Rays today named LHP Blake Snell Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season and INF Richie Shaffer Minor League Player of the Year. Additionally, RHP Mark Sappington was named the Erik Walker Community Champion. The Rays also announced the Most Valuable Players for each of their nine affiliates, as well as organization-wide awards for Baserunner of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Relief Pitcher of the Year.
This year's winners will be honored during an awards ceremony prior to Friday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles. A pregame autograph session will be held along the right field line from 5:45-6:30 p.m. on Friday, featuring many of the organization's award winners.
The following players were named Most Valuable Player for their respective minor league teams: UTL Taylor Motter (Durham Bulls, AAA); OF Tyler Goeddel (Montgomery Biscuits, AA); RHP Jacob Faria (Charlotte Stone Crabs, A); 1B Casey Gillaspie (Bowling Green Hot Rods, A); INF Jake Cronenworth (Hudson Valley Renegades, Short-Season A); OF Zacrey Law (Princeton Rays, Rookie); OF Oscar Rojas (Gulf Coast League Rays, Rookie); OF Jesus Sanchez (Dominican Summer League Rays, Rookie); and C Rene Pinto (Venezuelan Summer League Rays, Rookie).
Baserunner of the Year honors went to OF Joey Rickard, while RHP Brad Schreiber was named Reliever of the Year and OF Braxton Lee was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Snell, 22, joins Jeremy Hellickson (2009-10) as the only Rays to be named Minor League Pitcher of the Year twice. This year he set the Rays minor league record (min. 130 IP) with a 1.41 ERA (134.2-IP, 21-ER), breaking RHP Dylan Floro's 1.77 mark (2013), and it was the lowest in the minors (min. 115 IP) since Tigers RHP Justin Verlander posted a 1.29 ERA in 2005. Snell ranked among full-season minor league leaders in opponents' average (.182, 1st), wins (15, T-4th), strikeouts (163, 5th) and WHIP (1.02, 5th). He posted a 46-inning scoreless streak to start the season and earned Pitcher of the Week honors with Charlotte (April 9-19) and Montgomery (May 18-24) before his promotion to Durham on July 24. A first-round pick in the 2011 June Draft, Snell held opponents to one earned run or fewer in 19 of his 23 starts. He was named the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year, earned Southern League midseason and postseason All-Star selections and played in the All-Star Futures Game.
Shaffer, 24, was named the Rays Minor League Player of the Year after leading the organization with a career-high 26 home runs and ranking tied for second with 72 RBI, batting .267/.357/.539 (105-for-393) in 108 games between Double-A and Triple-A. A first-round pick in the 2012 June Draft, Shaffer batted .262/.362/.470 (39-for-149) in 39 games with Montgomery before being promoted to Durham on May 24. He recorded four multi-homer games with the Bulls, including two homers and a career-high four hits in his Triple-A debut at Scranton Wilkes-Barre, and a career-high three homers on June 12 at Louisville. He earned International League Player of the Week honors after recording three homers and nine RBI in seven games during the week of August 17-23. In 69 games with the Bulls, Shaffer hit .270/.355/.582 (66-for-244) with 19 home runs, earning a selection to the All-Star Futures Game before making his big-league debut on August 3.
Sappington, 24, took home the Erik Walker Community Champion Award. Named after former Rays minor league pitcher Erik Walker, who died tragically in 2006 following his first season in professional baseball, the award annually recognizes a Rays minor leaguer who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement. Sappington, who spent the 2015 season with Montgomery, was selected from a field that included nominees from each Rays affiliate. The Rays will make a $2,500 donation in Sappington's name to a charity of his choice.
Rickard, 24, ranked tied for fifth among Rays minor leaguers with 23 stolen bases and was caught just six times, leading to his recognition as the Baserunner of the Year. He hit a combined .321/.427/.447 (127-for-396) with 62 runs, 28 doubles and eight triples in 117 games between Charlotte, Montgomery and Durham. He was successful in 17 of his last 18 stolen base attempts this season between Montgomery and Durham.
Schreiber, 24, was named Reliever of the Year after recording a career-high 30 saves, tied for second in the minor leagues and most by a Rays minor leaguer since Lee Gardner in 2003 (30). He was selected to the Florida State League All-Star Team, saving 18 games in 20 opportunities, second in the FSL despite his midseason promotion. In 54 appearances overall between Charlotte and Montgomery, Schreiber posted a 2.89 ERA (62.1-IP, 18-ER) with 57 strikeouts, 24 walks and only three home runs allowed.
Lee, 22, was named Defensive Player of the Year after posting a .988 fielding percentage, committing only four errors in 329 total chances while playing 113 games in center field for Charlotte. A 12th-round pick in the 2014 June Draft, Lee recorded 13 outfield assists, most among primary center fielders in the Florida State League.
Motter, 25, ranked among International League leaders in doubles (43, 1st), extra-base hits (58, 1st), slugging percentage (.471, 3rd), total bases (229, 3rd), hits (142, 4th), on-base percentage (.366, 4th), runs (74, 4th) and batting average (.292, 8th) en route to the Durham MVP nod. A 17th-round pick in the 2011 June Draft, Motter earned IL Postseason All-Star honors as a utility player after starting at least five games in right field, center field, left field, third base, second base and shortstop and batting in all nine positions in the batting order.
Goeddel, 22, registered career highs across the board, batting .279/.350/.433 (132-for-473) with 12 home runs. He ranked among Southern League leaders in RBI (72, 3rd) and triples (10, 5th), and ranked second among Rays minor leaguers with 28 stolen bases. He became the fifth Rays minor leaguer and one of two minor leaguers this season to record double-digit doubles (17), triples and home runs, and at least 20 stolen bases.
Faria, 22, earned Charlotte's MVP honors and was a Florida State League All-Star, finishing tied for third among FSL pitchers with 10 wins in 12 appearances (10 starts), despite being promoted to Montgomery in mid-June. In his second start with the Biscuits on July 4 vs. Biloxi, Faria recorded seven no-hit innings with a career-high 14 strikeouts, earning Southern League Pitcher of the Week honors. Across two levels, Faria ranked among minor league leaders (min. 120 IP) in wins (17, 1st), ERA (2nd), opponents' average (.194, 4th), strikeouts (159, 5th) and WHIP (1.04, 6th).
Gillaspie, 22, ranked second in the Midwest League and fourth among Rays farmhands with 17 home runs, despite missing seven weeks with a wrist injury. A first-round pick in the 2014 June Draft, Gillaspie earned MWL All-Star honors, batting .278/.358/.530 (65-for-234) in 64 games with Bowling Green before his midseason promotion to Charlotte.
Cronenworth, 21, was named Hudson Valley MVP after headlining the team's five All-Star selections and leading the team in walks (31) and on-base percentage (.399). A seventh-round pick in this year's June Draft, he started 36 games at shortstop, 14 games at second base and batted .291 (57-for-196) as the Renegades leadoff hitter.
Law, 19, hit .270/.330/.418 (69-for-256) with eight homers and 12 stolen bases for Princeton in his first full season after being selected in the 23rd round of last year's June Draft. The center fielder led Appalachian League outfielders in games (64), total chances (150) and putouts (136), and recorded nine outfield assists.
Rojas, 19, who was named MVP of the Venezuelan Summer League Rays in 2014, ranked among Gulf Coast League leaders in stolen bases (16, T-2nd) and extra-base hits (17, 4th). He also led the GCL Rays in several offensive categories, including hits (50), doubles (12), RBI (22), total bases (77) and OPS (.751).
Sanchez, 17, earned Dominican League All-Star honors in his first professional season, batting .335/.382/.498 (80-for-239) while leading the team in hits, doubles (13, tied), tripled (seven, tied), home runs (four) and RBI (45). The center fielder ranked fourth in the DSL with 119 total bases.
Pinto, 18, returned to the Rays Venezuelan Summer League affiliate after playing 40 games there in 2014. In 51 contests this year, he ranked among league leaders in batting average (.323, 1st), slugging percentage (.552, 1st), extra-base hits (27, 1st), triples (7, 2nd), total bases (111, 2nd), home runs (6, T-2nd), runs (42, 3rd), RBI (38, 4th) and doubles (14, T-4th). He also led all VSL qualified catchers with a 47.9 eraser rate, throwing out 23 of 48 potential base stealers.