Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Former Sea Dog Wins ROY

Former Portland Sea Dog shortstop Hanley Ramirez was named National League Rookie of the Year following a stellar season with the Florida Marlins. Ramirez edged out Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Ramirez won the award by proving himself to be a prototypical leadoff hitter: 292/353/480-17-59, 51 steals and 119 runs scored. Ramirez' power numbers were bolstered with 46 doubles and 11 triples.

Ramirez was one of an unprecedented six Marlins to receive votes for the award. Ramirez was one of three members of the 2005 Sea Dogs to receive votes this year. Teammate Anibal Sanchez (10-3, 2.83 in 17 starts) received one third place vote in the NL race. Boston's Jonathan Papelbon (4-2, 0.92, 35 saves) finished second to Justin Verlander in the AL voting, however his late season injury squashed any real chance for Paps to win.

Ramirez' terrific season comes as a bit of a surprise to me. For years he was the #1 prospect for the Red Sox, but he had a so-so season (by which I mean, he didn't have a breakout year) with the Sea Dogs in 2005, and was passed on the prospect list by several players, and he was subsequently traded in the Josh Beckett deal. I wrote many times in this blog that I thought Hanley was still going to be a top-notch big leaguer, despite the fact that his star had lost luster. That said, I thought that the jump from AA to the major leagues would lead to some struggles this year. Not so, as Hanley overcame a midseason slump to have, by some measures, an historic rookie year.

The ROY vote also reaffirms the strength the level of play in the Eastern League. Along with Ramirez, Papelbon and Sanchez, several other players receiving ballots were in the league last season. I saw Papelbon face off against third-place finisher Francisco Liriano of the Twins last June, in what would prove to be one of the worst games either pitched all that season. (You'll notice that I was no better that day, referring to Liriano as "Felipe." Whoops!). Verlander also passed through the EL in 2005, playing a handful of games for Erie, though I don't recall him pitching against the Sea Dogs. And Baltimore's Nick Markakis, who finished 7th in the AL, spent a month in Bowie, though again I don't believe he played against the Sea Dogs. (I could probably check this, but I choose not to at the moment.) On the National League side, Zimmerman spent a chunk of 2005 with the Harrisburg Senators before tearing off to Washington. San Francisco's Matt Cain, the 5th place finisher in the NL, gets an honorable mention, as he was with Norwich in 2004.

So congratulations to Hanley Ramirez and the other former Sea Dogs and EL players who did so well in the Rookie of the Year voting. And remember the quality of play in the league when you are considering whether to go to the ballpark next summer. You might just have a chance to see the 2008 Rookie of the Year playing in person!