The Double-A level can test a prospect's viability as a potential Major League All-Star. This year, some of the most highly touted Minor Leaguers -- recent first-rounders and prized international signees alike -- met that challenge, raising lofty expectations even higher. Others, like a catcher who struggled to a .260 OBP and a mere nine home runs in 2019, broke out to establish themselves as marquee offensive talents.
Minor League Baseball announced the end-of-season award winners and All-Star teams for the three Double-A leagues on Wednesday, having tallied votes from league broadcasters, MiLB executives and select members of the media.
Here are the major award winners from each circuit.
Most Valuable Player: Oswaldo Cabrera, Somerset (NYY)
The Yankees' No. 16 prospect was not ranked at the end of 2020 but proved himself indispensable in the Patriots' 72-47 season. The versatile 22-year-old infielder led the entire Double-A level with 215 total bases and 54 extra-base hits (including 24 homers) and led the Double-A Northeast in RBIs (78) and hits (112) while batting .256/.311/.492 over 109 games for Somerset.
Pitcher of the Year: Grayson Rodriguez, Bowie (BAL)
Rodriguez emerged as the top-ranked pitching prospect and No. 8 overall in Pipeline's midseason rankings, and his performance justified that elevation as well as this honor. The 21-year-old righty worked in the mid and upper 90s with his fastball, which he complemented with a 65-grade changeup, a strong slider and an effective curveball. His 121 strikeouts led the league, and that number is made more impressive by his 22 walks over 79 2/3 innings at the level. He was 6-1 with a 2.60 ERA over 18 starts for the Baysox.
Top MLB Prospect: Adley Rutschman, Bowie (BAL)
This should shock nobody, as Rutschman stands as MLB's No. 1 prospect and spent the bulk of his season in the Double-A Northeast. But nor should his status reduce the accomplishment. The 23-year-old catcher batted .271/.392./508 with 18 homers over 80 Double-A games, placing third in the league with 55 walks despite limited time there.
Most Valuable Player: MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC)
Melendez's 41 homers were good for the 2021 Joe Bauman Award, and he hit 28 of them in the Double-A Central. MLB's No. 67 prospect also posted a .285/.372/.628 slash line -- leading the whole level in slugging and OPS -- after batting .163/.260/.311 over 110 games one level down in 2019. The 22-year-old catcher also had 65 RBIs over 79 games for the Naturals.
Pitcher of the Year: Cole Winn, Frisco (TEX)
Winn was the 15th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, and he turned in as strong a season this year as the Rangers could have asked, making 19 starts for the RoughRiders before wrapping up the campaign with a pair for Triple-A Round Rock. He was 3-3 with a 2.31 ERA for Frisco, punching out 97 and walking 26 over 78 frames.
Top MLB Prospect: Bobby Witt Jr., Northwest Arkansas (KC)
Witt picked up the Triple-A version of this honor on Tuesday for his work with Omaha over the final 62 games of the season. In the 61 games the shortstop and No. 3 prospect spent with the Naturals, Witt batted .295/.369/.570 with 16 homers, 11 doubles, four triples and 14 stolen bases.
Most Valuable Player: Jonathan Aranda, Montgomery (TB)
Unranked among the Rays' Top 30 Prospects, Aranda was a beacon of consistency for the Biscuits, finishing second in all of Double-A ball with a .325 batting average and first with a .410 on-base percentage. The 23-year-old second baseman also had 10 homers, five triples and 19 doubles over 79 games for Montgomery, and his .540 slugging percentage led the Double-A South.
Pitcher of the Year: Max Meyer, Pensacola (MIA)
The Marlins' first-round pick of the 2020 Draft and third-ranked prospect, Meyer flat out dominated in his first full season. The 22-year-old lefty made 20 starts for the Blue Wahoos, throwing 101 innings and leading the entirety of Double-A with 2.41 ERA and .226 average against while going 6-3 with 113 strikeouts and 40 walks. He wrapped up the season in Triple-A and as MLB's No. 30 prospect.
Top MLB Prospect: Shea Langeliers, Mississippi (ATL)
Known as an elite defender behind the plate, Langeliers added considerable power to his steady offensive game, making him an all-around swoon-worthy prospect. The 23-year-old backstop swatted 22 homers -- third most in the Double-A South -- while batting .258/.338/.498 over 92 games for the M-Braves. He's MLB's No. 69 prospect.