Apr 4, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of a pile of baseballs before the opening day baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Today, we hand out the award for Player of the Year for the New Britain Rock Cats, 2015’s AA Eastern League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
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The New Britain Rock Cats — well, more or less everybody in the Eastern League — didn’t hit much in 2015, so when we’re looking for a Player of the Year in a pitcher’s league, well, you sometimes have to get creative.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to stretch too far in finding Michael Tauchman, the Rock Cats’ right fielder who started 131 games and led New Britain in many statistical categories. Yes, there were some other deserving candidates in New Britain, but start to finish Tauchman had a solid, consistent season — another check mark in a thus far solid and consistent career.
For the reasons outlined below, Michael Tauchman is our 2015 Player of the Year for the New Britain Rock Cats.
The numbers to back it up:
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A few things stand out about Tauchman’s totals, not the least of which centers around his walk (47) and strikeout (69) totals for a full season high level minor leaguer. He has 113 career walks and only 1,067 career strikeouts in 1,095 career plate appearances in the minor leagues. Clearly his contact-friendly, patient approach in 2015 wasn’t a fluke.
On the downside, where Tauchman succeeds in patience and contact, he equally struggles in power. A 6’2″, 200 pound corner outfielder, Tauchman slugged just .381 in 2015 (just 3 home runs and 23 doubles in 507 at-bats). He did steal 25 bases, which is an interesting asset to have in a big corner outfielder. But obviously, a big league club is going to expect more power than what Tauchman has thus far shown (just 7 career home runs and 48 doubles in 255 minor league games).
What 2016 looks like:
Tauchman is on the way to AAA Albuquerque after a full, strong season in AA. It’ll be interesting to see how he can adjust to the Pacific Coast League, and if (when?) his power numbers will improve as he grows into his professional career.
Truth be told, at this point, it still might be difficult for him to break through in Denver next year or in 2017 if his power doesn’t significantly increase. The Rockies have too many power-hitting corner outfielders already in Colorado and/or quickly coming through the system to rely on a player with a minor league career .393 slugging percentage.
That being said, all he’s done in the minors is hit — and more generally, get on base — to the point where if it continues, he’ll be knocking down the door to Denver sooner than we realize.
Story is a guy we’ve discussed before, so here’s what you should read about that. He easily could’ve won a few awards for the New Britain Rock Cats, but we decided to jump him up to AAA Albuquerque for the purposes of this series, considering he finished the year there.
Murphy is similar to Story, in that he easily could’ve been recognized in New Britain this year, but considering his promotion to Albuquerque — and then Denver — he grew out of the level. (These are great things!)
Swanner had a year opposite Tauchman (high strikeouts, lower OBP, more home runs, less stolen bases and walks), but no less solid. The 24-year-old California high school product slugged 19 doubles and 17 home runs in 115 games, slugging .455 with a .799 OPS, despite striking out 126 times in 358 at-bats.