added 3/27/2008 by Scott Barzilla
The Spring season might not be over officially, but it might as well be. Today marks the final Grapefruit League game for your hometown nine. I thought it would be fun to give out some spring awards (good and bad) before the action becomes all too real. In each category we will have four awards: MVP, Cy Young, rookie, and newcomer.
The MVP shouldn't really be a surprise as Hunter Pence is making mincemeat of the competition in Florida. Pence hit .400 in Grapefruit League action and his 30 hits are more than any player in Florida. If he could only avoid sliding glass doors he could have had a few more hits early on. First baseman Lance Berkman came in a close second.
The Cy Young candidate for Spring is the easiest choice. Roy Oswalt didn't pitch great, but wins this one by default as every other starting candidate pitched like excrement. Wandy Rodriguez also had some good outings, so he will have to settle for second place.
The rookie of the spring is also a pretty easy decision. The Astros acquired Wesley Wright as a Rule V draftee from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Considering that he had never pitched above AA, he was definitely a long-shot to make the team. In turn, he put up the best ERA numbers of anyone in Astros camp. Of course, the total dearth of youth in the Astros system makes this a pretty easy decision to make.
The newcomer of the year is none other than Jose Cruz Jr. The sad thing is that most of us know this will not continue. There were a lot of good newcomers this year. Reggie Abercrombie, Michael Bourn, and David Newhan all looked very good at times. Abercrombie and Newhan apparently will lose out to the Spring leader in RBIs. I guess it is better to lose a job like that than to hit your weight.
Now, we shift over to the negative awards for the Spring. They will be called the LVP, Jim Clancy Award, rookie, and newcomer. Of course, March is a short time and the numbers don't count. We still hold out hope for all of these guys. In particular, the younger ones will hopefully learn from this experience.
The MIP goes to Ty Wigginton. Luckily for Wigginton, most of the attention has been focused on the mound. Wigginton coupled a low batting average with a team high eight errors. At that pace he will become the defensive version of Ryan Braun and offensive version of Morgan Ensberg. Wow, what a lovely combination that would be. Fortunately, the clock starts over on Monday.
The Jim Clancy Award goes to native Houstonian Woody Williams. The 12.00+ ERA isn't so much the issue as all of the dingers, hits, and walks he surrendered. He allowed a combined 2+ runners per inning or over 20 baserunners per nine innings. It will take another solid outing or a miracle for him to make the team. Doug Brocail put up similar numbers, but he did it over fewer innings.
The worst rookie doesn't really deserve the honor, but many had high hopes for Felipe Paulino when camp began. Now, they will have to wait until at least mid-season until he pitches again. The Astros farm system is already thin and having the best pitching prospect on the shelf isn't a nice way to start the season.
There weren't any truly bad newcomers, but Runelvys Hernandez has to be the winner here. Hernandez was just sent down and he didn't agree with the decision. He thought his 9+ ERA was good enough for ML action. I hate to break it to him, but being the opening day starter for Kansas City several years back doesn't exactly light up a resume. Hopefully, he will continue to pitch well in Round Rock and get another opportunity.
That's it until the final rosters are picked. Thank goodness the Spring games don't count. I'm sure some of the regulars would love to transport some of their numbers over, but the pitchers would just rather forget it all happened. At least there is excitement in the air. No one knows for sure exactly how it's going to go down and that's the way it should be.
Check out my blog at http://commons.chron.com/barzilla.