Welcome to a bit of a new year-end feature here at South Side Sox, postseason affiliate All-Star teams. In 2018, we introduced the MVP concept to the Minor League Updates, but didn’t do anything with the data. This year, I compiled the MVP votes for each affiliate game, ranked performances in order of value (on a day when seven affiliates played, Luis Robert going 3-for-3 with six RBIs would earn seven points, Tate Blackman going 1-for-4 with a double would earn one), and came up with our minor league All-Star teams.
Obviously, these All-Stars are subjective and based merely on individual MVP awards and not all-around season performance; thus players who were very hot and cold have an unfair advantage over the slow and steady performers. Still, with a few oddball exceptions, the results seem pretty true to form.
MVP voters this season at South Side Sox and South Side Hit Pen include Brett Ballantini, Darren Black, Julie Brady, Leonard Gore, Joe Resis, WSM, Tiffany Wintz and Year of the Hamster. Four days of results in July are missing, as Sox on 35th deleted our Minor League Updates after the site had been scolded for both censoring and “rebranding”/lifting our work, so this final tally is about 2% incomplete.
2019 Birmingham Barons All-Stars (MVP votes in parenthesis)
Catcher Yermín Mercedes (14)
First Base Gavin Sheets (31)
Second Base Ti’quan Forbes (18)
Third Base Derek Tomscha (14)
Shortstop Laz Rivera (28)
Left Field Blake Rutherford (33)
Center Field Luis Robert (39)
Right Field Luis González (27)
Designated Hitter Joel Booker (25)
Utility Player Tanner Banks (48)
Right-Handed Pitcher Blake Battenfield (32)
Left-Handed Pitcher Matt Tomshaw (68)
Points leader missing the cut John Parke (38)
It was a disappointing year in Birmingham, all around. Few prospects stood out offensively beyond the drive-bys of Robert and Nick Madrigal, and the standings reflected it. Fair or not, some of the gloss may have worn off of Omar Vizquel’s ascendance up the managerial ranks.
As usual, there’s a little bit of monkeying around with positions to get the most deserving players on the squad, so Forbes flips from his customary third base to second in order to get johnny-come-lately Tomscha his due at the hot corner.
Look at the pitching, though! Battenfield is the top righthander both at Winston-Salem and now Birmingham, while the southpaws are crawling over themselves to get on the squad: Tomshaw, Banks, Parke (consider that the injured Bernardo Flores, perhaps the brightest southpaw prospect of all, was another lefthander firing for the Barons).
2019 Birmingham Player of the Year: Matt Tomshaw
No matter, what a year in Birmingham for Tomshaw. But for once, a Player of the Year designation doesn’t ensure future success. Tomshaw is an anomaly on these lists, a minor league veteran, 30 years old. Also distressing (or in today’s game, telling re: the live ball) is that the southpaw didn’t cut right through Triple-A Charlotte; twice, Tomshaw got the call, and twice, his numbers took a hit. That’s understandable for a 22-year-old, but for a nine-year vet, the hourglass is starting to run light.
But overall, Tomshaw was fabulous (a 2.90 ERA and 1.075 WHIP for the full season, and a 2.40 ERA and .947 WHIP in 21 games at Birmingham). Another positive note it that Tomshaw did a similar Birmingham-Charlotte split in 2018 and had significantly worse results. So we may have a late bloomer on our hands in the system!