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Gillaspie, Honeywell among Rays minor league award winners

The Rays handed out some postseason prospect awards Friday

It's not long until Casey Gillaspie will be batting in the middle of Tampa Bay's lineup
It's not long until Casey Gillaspie will be batting in the middle of Tampa Bay's lineup
Jim Donten

Friday, the Rays named all of their minor league award winners for the 2016 season. That group of players is highlighted by first baseman Casey GIllaspie and righty Brent Honeywell, who were named the team's hitter of the year and pitcher of the year, respectively.

Gillaspie led all Rays minor leaguers with 18 home runs, and his .866 OPS led all full-season players. The switch-hitter and former first-round pick got off to a nice start with Double-A Montgomery to earn a promotion to Triple-A Durham, where he hit even better. With the Bulls, he posted a .909 OPS and bashed 22 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, in 47 games.

Despite missing time with arm tenderness, Honeywell had a very good season with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Montgomery. His 2.34 ERA led all Rays minor leaguers who pitched more than 100 innings, and his 1.03 WHIP was second among those pitchers. He struck out 117 and walked just 25 in 115 1/3 innings.

In addition to those awards, the Rays named outfielder Jake Fraley the baserunner of the year, catcher Nick Ciuffo the defensive player of the year, and righty Joe Serrapica the reliever of the year.

Fraley only played in 55 games after being selected in June's draft, but he still led the organization with 33 steals in 42 attempts, for a 78.6 success rate. He was successful on his final 13 attempts of the season, and his seven triples were tied for the New York-Penn League lead.

Ciuffo's defensive prowess is obvious in observers' eyes (BP $) and in stats. He threw out 27 of 46 attempted base stealers.

After being drafted in the 24th round from Fordham in June, Serrapica did not allow a run in 22 1/3 innings, although he did take the loss when Hudson Valley hosted the NYPL All-Star Game. He struck out 28 and allowed just 13 hits and five walks. His eight saves tied for fifth among Rays minor leaguers.

Outfielder Zac Law was named the Erik Walker Community Champion. This award, which recognizes the player who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement, is named for Erik Walker, who died following the 2006 season after his only year in professional baseball, when he was a star reliever for Hudson Valley.

Each Rays affiliate nominates one player for this honor, and the Rays Baseball Foundation will donate $2,500 to a charity of Law's choice.

Also announced were each affiliate's MVP winners.

Durham's Austin Pruitt was third among Rays minor leaguers with 149 strikeouts. That placed the righty second in the International League, and he was also fourth in innings and WHIP. He had a 3.76 ERA and was credited with the win in the Triple-A All-Star Game.

First baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers was named Montgomery's MVP. The Southern League All-Star, just 20 years old, was one of the youngest players in the league. His 14 home runs led the Biscuits, and among Southern League hitters, he was second in walks and fifth in on-base percentage. For the season, he batted .274 with a .789 OPS.

Righty Greg Harris took home Charlotte's MVP honors. He led the Florida State League with 134 strikeouts, and his 3.12 ERA was sixth. His 150 innings, which included a spot appearance with Durham to finish the season, were a career high.

Bowling Green's MVP was utility player Michael Russell. He took the field at six different positions for the Hot Rods and contributed at the plate and on the bases. He was fifth in the Midwest League in steals with 29, fourth on Bowling Green with a .293 average and third with a .381 OBP. He slugged eight home runs and posted a .830 OPS.

Lefty Travis Ott was Hudson Valley's MVP. He started the NYPL All-Star Game, and with good reason. He was 6-0 for the season with a tiny 1.06 ERA. He did not allow an earned run through his first 27 2/3 innings. He struck out 61 in 59 1/3 innings.

Outfielder Eleardo Cabrera was named Princeton's MVP. The Appalachian League All-Star led the league in hits and was second in total bases. Among Princeton hitters, his .311 was fifth, his .375 OBP was third and .466 slugging percentage was sixth. He was tied for the team lead with seven dingers.

The GCL Rays MVP was outfielder Jesus Sanchez. Entering the season as the team's 31st prospect according to Baseball America, Sanchez broke out with a strong season in both the Gulf Coast League and Appy League. He was 11th in the GCL with a .323 average, and his .872 OPS was 10th. He led the league with eight triples.

Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez and outfielder Sabriel Polanco were the MVPs of the organization's two Dominican Summer League affiliates. Hernandez, a Colombian native, was signed in the same period the Rays added Adrian Rondon and Jesus Sanchez. He batted .340, good for sixth in the DSL, with a .891 OPS. Polanco was the DSL Rays 2 star as the only player to slug over .400. He had a .812 OPS.

These players will be honored in ceremony before Friday's game against Boston, and they will be available to sign autographs down the right field line from 5:30 to 6:15.