The Tampa Bay Rays today named 1B Casey Gillaspie Minor League Player of the Year and RH Brent Honeywell Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Additionally, OF Zac Law 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 tonight's game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. A pregame autograph session will be held along the right field line from 5:30-6:15 p.m. tonight, featuring many of the organization's award winners.
The following players were named Most Valuable Player for their respective minor league teams: RH Austin Pruitt (Durham Bulls, AAA); 1B/OF Jake Bauers (Montgomery Biscuits, AA); RH Greg Harris (Charlotte Stone Crabs, A); INF Michael Russell (Bowling Green Hot Rods, A); LH Travis Ott (Hudson Valley Renegades, Short-Season A); OF Eleardo Cabrera (Princeton Rays, Rookie); OF Jesus Sanchez (Gulf Coast League Rays, Rookie); C Ronaldo Hernandez (Dominican Summer League Rays 1, Rookie); and OF Sabriel Polanco (Dominican Summer League Rays 2, Rookie).
Baserunner of the Year honors went to OF Jake Fraley, while RH Joe Serrapica was named Reliever of the Year and C Nick Ciuffo was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Gillaspie, 23, was tabbed the Rays Minor League Player of the Year after batting .284/.388/.479 (134-for-472) with 18 home runs and 64 RBI between Montgomery (85 games) and Durham (47 games). He earned a spot on the Southern League midseason All-Star Team, and his 11 home runs with Montgomery ranked fourth in the SL at the time of his promotion. Following his promotion, he hit .307/.389/.520 (55-for-179) with seven home runs with Durham. His 22 extra-base hits (13-2B, 2-3B, 7-HR) with Durham were tied for third in the International League following the All-Star break.
Honeywell, 21, was named Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 7-3 with a 2.34 ERA (115.1-IP, 30-ER) in 20 starts between Charlotte and Montgomery. His 2.34 ERA ranked first among Rays minor leaguers with at least 100 innings pitched. Honeywell opened the season making 10 starts with Charlotte, going 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA (56-IP, 15-ER) and a 5.82 SO/BB ratio (64-SO, 11-BB). At the time of his disabled list stint in mid-May, he led the Florida State League in strikeouts (46) and ranked third in ERA (1.30). He finished the season making 10 starts with Montgomery, where he went 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA (59.1-IP, 15-ER) and 53 strikeouts.
Law, 20, 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. Bowling Green's nominee for the award, Law was selected from a field that included nominees from each Rays affiliate. The Rays Baseball Foundation will make a $2,500 donation in Law's name to a charity of his choice.
Fraley, 21, led Rays minor leaguers with 33 stolen bases (in only 55 games), leading to his recognition as the Baserunner of the Year. He was successful on 78.6 percent of his stolen base attempts, and ended the season with a streak of 13 consecutive stolen base attempts. Included in his 33 stolen bases were nine multi-steal efforts as well as three games with three stolen bases. Selected by the Rays in the second round of the 2016 June Draft, Fraley led the New York-Penn League in stolen bases and his seven triples tied for most in the league.
Serrapica, 22, did not allow a run in 22.1 innings with Short-A Hudson Valley en route to Reliever of the Year honors. The Fordham University product converted all eight of his save opportunities and ranked tied for fifth among Rays minor leaguers in saves. Serrapica recorded 28 strikeouts for an 11.3 SO/9 IP, which ranked 11th among Rays farmhands (min. 20 IP).
Ciuffo, 21, was named Defensive Player of the Year after throwing out 27 of 46 (58.7 percent) potential base stealers with Charlotte. His eraser rate was the highest among Florida State League catchers (min. 20 attempts), and he led Stone Crabs catchers to a league-best 39.6 caught stealing pct. as a team.
Pruitt, 27, went 8-11 with a 3.76 ERA (162.2-IP, 68-ER) with Durham and ranked among International League leaders in games started (28, tied for first), innings pitched (fourth), WHIP (1.19, fourth) and strikeouts (149, second). In his first Triple-A season, Pruitt was named to the IL All-Star team and recorded the win at the Triple-A All-Star Game. The University of Houston product had a 5.52 SO/BB ratio and his 149 SO ranked third among Rays farmhands to Jaime Schultz (163) and Jacob Faria (157).
Bauers, 20, spent the entire season with Montgomery and hit .274/.370/.420 (135-for-493) as one of the youngest players in the Southern League. He earned both SL midseason and postseason All-Star honors, leading the league in games played (135) and leading the team in home runs (14) and RBI (78). Ranked by MLB.com as the No. 3 prospect in the Rays organization, Bauers ranked among SL leaders in RBI (fourth), doubles (28, fourth), on-base percentage (fifth), total bases (207, fourth), walks (73, second) and runs scored (79, third).
Harris, 22, went 10-6 with a 3.12 ERA (147-IP, 51-ER) in 26 games (23 starts) with Charlotte and ranked among Florida State League leaders in strikeouts (134, first), ERA (sixth), WHIP (1.20, fifth), innings pitched (third) and opponents' average (.228, fourth). He was the only representative of the Stone Crabs on the FSL postseason All-Star Team.
Russell, 23, hit .293 (116-for-396) over 109 games for Bowling Green and ranked second in the Midwest League in runs scored (76) and fifth in stolen bases (29). Named to the MWL midseason All-Star Team, Russell finished the season having made starts at all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots.
Ott, 21, finished 6-0 with a 1.06 ERA (59.1-IP, 7-ER) in 13 games (10 starts) for Hudson Valley. He started the season without allowing an earned run through his first 27.2 innings pitched. A former 25th round pick of the Washington Nationals, he earned NYPL Pitcher of the Week honors for July 11-17, going 2-0 without allowing an earned run. He was selected to start the NYPL All-Star Game and pitched a perfect inning with a pair of strikeouts.
Cabrera, 20, hit .311/.375/.466 (74-for-238) in 60 games for Princeton and ranked among Appalachian League leaders in hits (74, first), total bases (111, second), runs scored (44, tied for fourth) and batting avg. (ninth). Following the season, he was selected to the Appalachian League postseason All-Star Team.
Sanchez, 18, hit .329/.351/.549 (70-for-213) with seven home runs and 39 RBI between the GCL Rays (42 games) and Princeton (14 games). At the time of his promotion, he was leading the Gulf Coast League in hits (53) and total bases (87) and ranked third in RBI (31). Sanchez was also named to the GCL postseason All-Star Team.
Hernandez, 18, returned to the Rays Dominican Summer League affiliate after playing 13 games there last season. He hit .340/.406/.485 (70-for-206) in 54 games this season, ranking sixth in the league in batting avg. and leading the DSL Rays1 with six home runs and 35 RBI.
Polanco, 21, led the DSL Rays2 in virtually every offensive category, including hits (65), doubles (15), home runs (6), RBI (37) and runs scored (40). He hit .284/.367/.445 (65-for-229) over 60 games in his second professional season.