ST. PETERSBURG -- Friday brought a day of recognition for Rays players and Minor Leaguers.The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced its annual Rays awards at the Clutch Hitters Luncheon, held at the St. Petersburg Hilton Carillon.Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. won the Don Zimmer Award,
ST. PETERSBURG -- Friday brought a day of recognition for Rays players and Minor Leaguers.
The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced its annual Rays awards at the Clutch Hitters Luncheon, held at the St. Petersburg Hilton Carillon.
Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. won the Don Zimmer Award, given to the Rays' most valuable player.
"Congratulations to Steven Souza," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I thought for the bulk of the year he was our most consistent player. He showed up, he performed, he stayed healthy -- which I know was a huge goal of his. I thought he really grew offensively, the work he and [hitting coach] Chad [Mottola] did this year.
"I know he got to 30 home runs, and people talk about that, but if you look at the big hits, the amount of games when he impacts us offensively, scoring a run, driving in a run, we're a really good team. He's right in the middle of a lot of those things."
Right-hander Jake Faria (5-4, 3.43 ERA) was named Outstanding Rookie and right-hander Alex Cobb won the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.
In addition, the Clutch Hitters presented the Rays Baseball Foundation with a check for $30,000 at the luncheon. Each of the players was honored during a ceremony prior to Friday night's game against the Orioles.
Headlining the Minor League award winners were outfielder Jesus Sanchez, who was named the Minor League Player of the Year for the organization, and right-hander Yonny Chirinos, who won Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors. Infielder Miles Mastrobuoni was named the Erik Walker Community Champion winner.
The following players were named Most Valuable Player for their respective Minor League teams: Infielder Willy Adames (Triple-A Durham), outfielder Justin Williams (Double-A Montgomery), infielder Brandon Lowe (Class A Advanced Charlotte), Sanchez (Class A Bowling Green), infielder Vidal Brujan (Short Season A Hudson Valley), catcher Ronaldo Hernandez (Rookie League Princeton), infielder Jonathan Aranda (Gulf Coast Rookie), outfielder Yunior Martinez (Dominican Summer League Rays 1, Rookie) and outfielder Aldenis Sanchez (Dominican Summer League Rays 2, Rookie).
Baserunner of the Year honors went to infielder Lucius Fox, while right-hander Diego Castillo was named Reliever of the Year, and catcher Nick Ciuffo was named Defensive Player of the Year.
"Michael Johns is here, our Port Charlotte manager, and we were just talking about the Durham club," Cash said. "There's a bulk of those guys who have come up together and actually won together. If you look at the teams, from A ball, to Double-A, to Triple-A, they've won a lot. That's important. I told MJ, 'Let's get 'em here quick.' Because if they're winning let's take some of that mojo with us."
Cash added that he liked where the organization is positioned from a player development standpoint.
"Probably more so than three years ago," Cash said. "We're starting to see these guys really benefit and really mature as players, and they're kind of knocking down the door at this point."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.