Players to Watch: Week Seven

A weekly list of the top six performers of the 2014 season

By Zach Leach

Another Cape League season is coming to a close. It always seems like it goes by in a flash. There have been plenty of memorable moments and amazing achievements this year, like every year, as the best college players in the country have given their all throughout the summer. We have seen over twenty players make an appearance on the “Players to Watch” list in 2014, as it has been a season defined by competition and depth. With only four days left, the battles for playoff seeding are as tight as they can be, and the end-of-the-year awards will be just as close. There have simply been so many good players on the Cape this summer that it has been hard for any one player to stand out. With that said, here are your final “Watch Listers” of the year, and as a special edition to end the season, my predictions for the Pat Sorenti MVP Award and the P.F.C Whitehouse Outstanding Pitcher of the Year Award:

Ian Happ (Cincinnati)

Outfielder, Harwich Mariners

.331 BA, 23 R, 24 RBI, 4 HR, 8 SB

Happ continues to be the offensive catalyst for a Harwich team that is fighting for first in the East and is looking for a Cape League championship. The two-time All-Star has been playing his best baseball of the season when it has really mattered most down the stretch. Happ raised his batting average to .331 this week, which is tied for sixth best in the league, and he is also tied for tenth overall in runs scored and third in on-base with a .435 percentage, due in part to his league-leading 23 walks. He has the complimentary power numbers as well, as he is currently sixth in RBIs, tied for seventh in home runs, leading the league with twelve doubles, and second in slugging with a .518 percentage. Don’t overlook his base running skill or speed in versatility in the field either. In fact, Happ and Jordan Tarsovich (VMI) are the only players in the league with a .300+ batting average, over 20 RBIs, and over five stolen bases. Happ is a true five-tool player and is hands down the Harwich MVP for the second year in a row. All that remains is whether or not he can take home that league MVP title.

A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech)

Infielder, Chatham Anglers

.331 BA, 31 R, 31 RBI, 6 HR, 5 SB

Just when you though Murray couldn’t get any better, he goes out and bats .526 with five RBIs this past week. Murray probably has the best stats in the whole league this summer. He raised his batting average up eighteen points, and is now tied with Happ and Tarsovich for sixth in the league in batting. He leads the East in runs scored and runs driven in, with 31 apiece, and trails only teammate Chris Shaw (Boston College) in home runs in the league. He also joins Happ in being the only two players in the league that are in the top five in both slugging and on-base percentage. While he may not have the speed and glove prestige of Happ and Newman, he has the edge on them at the plate. The big issues still remain in his MVP pursuit though. Chatham looks likely to make the playoffs, but by the skin of their teeth, and Shaw’s contributions (one more home run than Murray, better slugging percentage, equal RBIs) devalue those of Murray. It will be a close call for the Anglers slugger.

Kevin Newman (Arizona)

Infielder, Falmouth Commodores

.369 BA, 16 R, 19 RBI, 1 HR, 9 SB

 It is becoming a near lock that Newman will become the first ever two-time Thurman Munson Award winner when he finishes the season with the top batting average for the second year in a row on Sunday. He currently holds a 15-point lead over Richie Martin Jr. (Florida) for the batting title with only four games left. Besides batting, he is definitely behind other MVP candidates, but he’s no slouch. He’s in the top five in the West in RBIs and is in the top ten in the West in stolen bases. He’s also second in the league in on-base percentage and tenth in slugging percentage. On top of his offensive skill, he’s also a reliable and vital part of the Falmouth infield. Newman has a strong shot at MVP mostly because of his record setting achievement more than total production, but that doesn’t mean he’s not just as worthy.

Matt Hall (Missouri State)

Pitcher, Falmouth Commodores

42.2 IP, 3-1, 2.11 ERA, 47 K, 1.20 WHIP

Hall had a rough start this week and it has hurt his chances at Outstanding Pitcher. It’s plain and simple. He lost his perfect record and watched his ERA rise to above 2.00. He still has the most innings pitched and games started among the contenders and is tied for the league lead in strikeouts, but is that enough? There are two pitchers with 5-0 records and sub-2.00 ERAs. That might just make their sample size and all other statistics irrelevant, and Hall may end up missing out on the hardware he’s been leading the chase for all summer.

Justin Jacome (UC-Santa Barbera)

Pitcher, Y-D Red Sox

35 IP, 5-0, 1.28 ERA, 24 K, 1.14 WHIP

Jacome is one of the previously mentioned undefeated aces. As the year has gone on, he and Jordan Hillyer (Kennesaw St.) of Chatham have not only entered the Outstanding Pitcher conversation, but radically changed its landscape. Jacome leads all starters in ERA and is second in the league in wins. Those two stats may be dominant enough to disregard the fact that he is outside the top fifteen in the league in innings pitched and outside the top thirty in strikeouts. It also helps that he has added fuel to the fire of the Y-D Red Sox, who have been the hottest team in the league over the last month.

Kolton Mahoney (BYU)

Pitcher, Orleans Firebirds

37.1 IP, 3-2, 1.92 ERA, 47 K, 1.04 WHIP

Mahoney has quietly remained the most consistent elite pitcher on the Cape this season. He still has yet to have a bad start, despite having two losses. He has allowed more than two earned runs only once, and in that start he struck out 11 and got the win. He is currently fifth among starters in ERA, leads the league in strikeouts, and leads all starters in batting average against. No matter what the numbers say, Mahoney has been the hardest starting pitcher to face this season, and he’s done it in more innings than many other contenders. It would be hard not to give Mahoney a long look for Outstanding Pitcher.

Final MVP Prediction: Ian Happ, Harwich Mariners

When you dissect the actual title of Most Valuable Player, the race clears up. Happ, Murray, Newman, and others have all had outstanding seasons, and no one will argue about that. However, MVP is not the same as “best player”. Murray has put up the best overall numbers, and if that was what counted most, then he wins. Newman is on the verge of being the best average hitter in the history of the Cape Cod Baseball League, and if dominating one stat was what counted most, then he wins. A true MVP though, is the one who is the most vital to the success of his team. Harwich has been sitting in first or fighting for first in the East since the first week of the season, and currently have the top-scoring offense in the league, and they owe a lot to the performance of Happ. He has done more on his own than any other MVP contender. He leads the team in nearly every statistic and is almost as valuable in the field, where he is capable of playing many positions, and playing them competently. Murray had Chris Shaw to help him out in Chatham, while Newman has Conner Hale (LSU), who is the league-leader in RBIs. Both guys also have a pitcher who could very easily be named best in the league. Happ is the entire heart and soul of the Mariners, and I expect him to be the 2014 Pat Sorenti Award winner.

 

Final Outstanding Pitcher Prediction: Your guess is as good as mine…

Hate to leave you hanging here, but it’s just too close to call. If any of the contenders make another start before the end of the regular season, the results could drastically change the race. In 2013, the Anglers’ Lukas Schiraldi won the P.F.C Whitehouse Award almost entirely because he finished the season with the lowest ERA in the league. Schiraldi was outside the top ten in the league in innings pitched and strikeouts. If the 2014 voting goes the same way, Justin Jacome is your 2014 winner. However last year, Aaron Bummer of Harwich was second in ERA, first in wins, and in the top five in innings pitched and Justin Kamplain of Brewster was third in ERA and second in strikeouts. If the voting leans more towards better all-around stats like those two had last year, then Kolton Mahoney and Matt Hall, the league leaders in strikeouts, are better choices. Hall has had two more starts than any other contender, and Mahoney has been consistently hard to hit against. East All-Star starter Jordan Hillyer of Chatham could also be the choice as he is second in ERA, 5-0 like Jacome, and has better strikeout numbers. Don’t count out Harwich’s Michael Boyle (Radford) and Zack Erwin (Clemson) too, who have both operated behind the scenes, but have put up stellar numbers nonetheless and are the dark horse candidates.

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