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Low-A Great Lakes had fairly high expectations coming into the year, with a plethora of young, talented hitters and pitchers on the roster.
Unfortunately, trades and underperformance derailed the club’s season. There were few bright spots, specifically in the bullpen, but the offense also struggled and the Loons missed out on the playoffs.
Player of the Year – Paul Hoenecke
Great Lakes’ two best hitters this season, Kyle Farmer and Jesmuel Valentin, ended the year with different clubs. Farmer was promoted to the Cal League and struggled, while Valentin was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Roberto Hernandez trade.
That left Hoenecke, who led the team in doubles, home runs and OPS among players who finished the season with the Loons.
Hoenecke, who turned 24 in July, batted .247/.315/.425 in 128 games. He played mostly third base, where he committed 19 errors in 111 games. The lefty slugger improved his OPS by over .100 points from 2013, but is a bit old for the league.
The Midwest League favors pitchers and the Loons’ home park at Dow Diamond is no exception. It’s difficult for even the best hitting prospects to put up strong numbers. While Hoenecke didn’t blow the league away, he was one of the most consistent hitters in the Loons’ lineup.
Pitcher of the Year – Victor Araujo
Another pitcher, Jonathan Martinez, would have been the frontrunner for this title but he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Darwin Barney. That left some average performances in the rotation to choose from; instead, the bullpen deserves some recognition and it comes in the form of Araujo.
The 21-year-old Dominican native was a relative unknown coming into the season and doesn’t have stuff that will blow hitters away, but he somehow managed to put up a 1.32 ERA in 68 innings. His K/9 ratio was 9.8, his BB/9 was 2.00 and he allowed just 5.2 hits per nine innings. He also gave up just two home runs.
Even though Araujo struggled in a late season promotion to High-A Rancho Cucamonga, he left little doubt that he’s worth following and could end up in a Major League bullpen within a few years.
Next Page: Talented Pitching Prospects