2015 Albuquerque Isotopes Most Improved: Angelys Nina
Feb 26, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies infielder A> Nina poses during photo day at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
As the Colorado Rockies’ affiliates end their seasons, we’re handing out player awards for 2015. Today, the Most Improved Award for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
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There may not be a path to the Colorado Rockies for Angelys Nina, but a successful 2015 playing predominantly second base for the Albuquerque Isotopes lands him our 2015 AAA Most Improved Award for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Despite being blocked at second base by DJ LeMahieu in Denver, and being looked over as the Rockies likely prefer to focus on top prospects Cristhian Adames and Trevor Story for future middle infield jobs, Nina had a career season for the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2015.
All he did was improve upon a sluggish 2014, hit above .300 starting at second base, and — hopefully — point out to the Rockies that they have yet another middle infield depth piece in 2016 should they need to recall the Dominican second baseman/utility infielder.
[ Related: Albuquerque Isotopes 2015 Season in Review ]
The numbers to back it up:
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He raised his average 20 points, and cut down on strikeouts by nearly 20 despite coming to the plate nearly 50 more times in 2015 compared to 2014. Nina also stole 18 bags in 2015, compared to just six in 2014, and knocked 5 triples this year (compared to three last season).
He did it all in a slightly less hitter-friendly environment in Albuquerque this summer compared to last year’s team in Colorado Springs (though don’t fool yourselves; both places greatly favor hitters). And, despite all the sabermetrics and second-level statistics, he still achieved the benchmark: he hit .300 in a full season.
What 2016 looks like:
Well, 2016 may look like much of the same for Nina, who is buried in the middle infield depth chart behind DJ LeMahieu, Cristhian Adames, Trevor Story, Daniel Descalso, and probably Rafael Ynoa (and, of course, that’s even assuming Jose Reyes doesn’t return to Denver next season). That is, there may just not be many opportunities for him in Denver in the future.
Nina will be a minor league free agent after 2015, considering he’s now been in the Rockies’ organization for nine years, dating back to 2007 when he played in the Dominican Summer League. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes elsewhere in affiliated ball as he searches for an opportunity to get to the Major Leagues. (That would parallel Rafael Ynoa, who came to the Rockies as a minor league free agent before 2014 after the Dodgers didn’t give him a shot to make the big leagues.)
Either way, Nina had a very nice, albeit very quiet, season for the Albuquerque Isotopes. And, in a hilarious twist, my girlfriend even got his autograph, so I guess that’s something!
[ Related: Albuquerque Isotopes 2015 Top Prospect: Trevor Story ]
Honorable mention: Jason Gurka.
Gurka came over to the Albuquerque Isotopes when the Colorado Rockies signed him as a minor league free agent in the winter, after he had worked through several minor league seasons in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization.
In 2014, Gurka got only two appearances in AAA in the Orioles’ system, and was 0-2 in those games, allowing seven runs on eight hits and a walk in 6.2 innings. He did well enough in AA with the Orioles that year after being demoted, but at 26 years old, the clock was certainly ticking on his big league hopes.
So when he came to the Rockies over the winter, they initially assigned him to the AA New Britain Rock Cats, where he was dominant (2.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, .205 batting average against, 3-0 in 14 games/23.1 innings) and earned his call-up to the Albuquerque Isotopes. Once in Albuquerque, he succeeded to the tune of 2-1, 3.38 in 21 games before eventually earning his call-up to Denver.