According to multiple sources, the Cubs have named Logan Watkins as their Minor League Player of the year and Nicholas Struck as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Normally I don't concern myself with awards but I think this year it's more significant. It's a reflection of what the new front office values.
I don't mean any disrespect toward Justin Bour or Greg Rohan, they both had very good, productive seasons and each has a shot of being a big league ballplayer, but neither is a great defender and neither contributes much beyond his bat.
Logan Watkins not only had a good season, but he represented the type of player the organization wants to see -- a player who gets on base, runs the bases well, and plays good defense. On the strength of an excellent 13% walk rate, Watkins put up a superb .383 OBP this year. Watkins wasn't just a walk machine, however. He hit a respectable .281 and a career-high .422 slugging percentage. His ISO of .141 also represented a career high. Watkins offensive contributions weren't just limited to his numbers at the plate, he has good speed and perhaps more importantly, knows how to use it, stealing 28 bases in just 35 attempts. The 28 stolen bases represented -- you guessed it -- a career high.
That brings me to my next point, which is that Watkins continued to make adjustments as he moves up the chain. Not only did he hold serve as he moved up, he actually got better. That speaks to his mental makeup and his ability to adapt his game to better competition.
Looking at Nick Struck, we see some similar qualities in that he has the strong mental makeup needed to continually keep improving. Like Watkins, he seems to get better as he moves up and he has command of the strike zone. Struck walked just 2.5 hitters per 9 innings this season en route to a 14-10, 3.18 season. Struck also showed some ability to miss bats, striking out 7.1 batters per 9 innings. That is a testament to his aggressive approach on the mound. We've seen some Cubs pitchers nibble around the plate despite having upper 90s fastballs. Struck, meanwhile, goes right after hitters, attacking the zone despite average stuff across the board.
Both players are due to be added to the 40 man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. I consider Watkins a lock and I'd be very surprised if Struck wasn't added as well. The team needs pitchers that can give you innings and fill the strike zone. That is exactly what Struck can provide as someone who is likely to be somewhere on the Cubs 8 or 9 man rotation depth chart.
Congrats to both on a well-deserved honor.
And kudos to the Cubs organization for being consistent with their organizational philosphy.