Orioles minor league award winners not easy to call

Here is a good question: Which players are going to be named the Orioles’ minor league Player and Pitcher of the Year for 2011?

Unlike last year, when Joe Mahoney and Zach Britton were honored, the races for those awards are much more wide-open this season.

The Orioles are expected to announce the winners later today.

In alphabetical order, here are five candidates for player of the year and their stats for the season. All five players except for Miclat played for more than one team.

Buck Britton: .297/6/63
LJ Hoes: .285/9/71
Kyle Hudson: .296/0/23 with 41 steals
Greg Miclat: .280/2/24, 50-for-53 in steals
Jonathan Schoop: .290/13/71

As a 35th-round pick, it is an accomplishment for Britton to even make this list, but he deserves to be included. Hudson hit .297 with 26 steals in 68 Triple-A games and hit .339 his last 44 Norfolk games. Schoop improved as the year went on and hit .321 after August with Single-A Frederick. Hoes hit .305 with a .792 OPS at Double-A Bowie, and Miclat had that amazing caught-stealing percentage and played very solid defense for Bowie.

I will give a slight lean to Schoop over Hoes in my prediction for Player of the Year. Both were young for their leagues and got better as the season wore on. Schoop really elevated his game down the stretch for Frederick and played very solid defense at second base. At 19, he showed this year a glimpse of what could be a pretty amazing future.

Here are some candidates for pitcher of the year:

Mike Ballard: 10-7, 3.84 ERA in 159 1/3 innings
Tim Bascom: 10-4, 2.97 ERA in 136 1/3 innings
Bobby Bundy: 12-8, 3.51 ERA in 136 innings
Oliver Drake: 11-8, 3.32 ERA in 162 2/3 innings
Sean Gleason: 1-4, 4.47 ERA and 32 saves in 58 1/3 innings
Steve Johnson: 7-8, 4.20 ERA in 145 2/3 innings
Jake Pettit: 12-4, 3.38 in ERA 149 1/3 innings

This list does not even include Ryohei Tanaka, who went 10-5 with a 3.33 ERA, or David Walters, who had 30 saves, or Cole McCurry, who pitched to an 0.80 ERA at Bowie and a 4.15 at Triple-A.

My pick, which will probably come as a surprise for this award, is Bascom. In 130 1/3 innings at Bowie he pitched to an ERA of 3.11 with a batting average against of .230 and a 110-to-34 strikeout-to-walks ratio.

When Bowie made its charge toward the top of the Eastern League standings in July, Bascom went 4-0 with an ERA of 1.93 over five starts.

If the award is based on performance, and not who is the youngest, has the best fastball or is considered by scouts as the best prospect, I’ll go with Bascom, the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2007.

Pettit’s late-season performance with Frederick was eye-opening and he should also get strong consideration. Bundy was excellent at Frederick, but struggled in a few late-season outings at Bowie.

The race for pitcher of the year is a real tough one to call. You could make a strong case for several hurlers.

On another note, you may have seen that pitchers Steve Johnson and McCurry have been added to the roster of the Arizona Fall League’s Mesa Solar Sox.

The Orioles will have eight players on that team. Sean Gleason and Chorye Spoone join the above duo among the pitchers. The O’s are also sending catcher Brian Ward, first baseman Mahoney, outfielder Xavier Avery and infielder Hoes.

I say infielder because Hoes, who played a lot of outfield this year, is expected to make several starts on the dirt for Mesa.

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