The Raptors had more clout than usual, especially at the end of the season, when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first and second rounders joined the club for Ogden’s playoff run. They couldn’t bring home the trophy, but had some standout performances and a few surprises.
Player of the Year – Julian Leon
The Dodgers have a dearth of catching prospects, which makes Leon a very intriguing player given his tools and upside. Signed shortly after the international signing period opened in 2012, Leon went to the Arizona League in 2013 and held his own as a 17 year old, OPSing .739 with three homers in 26 games. No one expected him to take such a huge leap forward in 2014.
In 63 games with the Raptors this year, Leon batted .332/.420/.565 with 14 doubles and 12 home runs. He also drew more than his fair share of walks and kept his strikeout rate at about 20 percent. Defensively, he moves well behind the plate, showing surprising athleticism given his stocky build, and threw out 30 percent of attempted basestealers.
He’s obviously a long way from the majors and the Pioneer league is notorious for inflating hitters’ numbers, but Leon’s tools are legit and his secondary skills are advanced for a teenager. He could be the Dodgers’ catcher of the future, but it’s not the near future.
Pitcher of the Year – Jose De Leon
A Puerto Rican native who was drafted out of Southern University in the 24th round of the 2013 draft, De Leon held his own in the Arizona League last year before a promotion to Ogden derailed his campaign. He posted an ERA of 12.10 in five games. Like Leon, De Leon made an amazing turnaround in 2014.
The right-hander only pitched 54.1 innings with the Raptors, but was the most dominant pitcher in the league. He struck out 77 batters while posting a 2.65 ERA. After a late season promotion to Great Lakes, he struck out 42 more batters in just 22.2 innings.
De Leon picked gained some steam on his fastball from last season and now throws his breaking ball and changeup for strikes. He showed that he has nothing to prove in the low minors and could be moved aggressively next season, perhaps to Double-A. He’s only 22, so it would be a challenge, but he should be up for it.
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