Another summer of professional baseball in Jackson has come and gone. Despite a losing record for the second straight year, this club will be remembered for some pretty entertaining moments and some numbers that are pretty astonishing. I thought what better way to wrap up a season with some accolades and putting some of those great performances into perspective.
First off, attendance wise in 2014, Jackson drew a total of 135,248 fans in 67 openings, which was 16,046 more than last season. It was the highest total attendance since 2008 and thanks in part to a new playing surface, the 67 home dates was the most in seven years.
Offensive Player of the Year and MVP: Jackson’s successes in 2014 were led in large part by Patrick Kivlehan. He was named a Southern League postseason All-Star and ranked seventh in the league in average (.300) and fourth in slugging (.485). Kivlehan played in 138 of 139 games overall this season between Single-A and Double-A and hit .295, with 32 doubles, nine triples, 20 home runs and 103 RBI’s. Kivlehan played first, third, and all three outfield positions. His favorite player growing up in New York was David Wright and he may end up being just as good.
Honorable Mentions: Ketel Marte was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma on August 10, but still earned postseason All-Star honors in the league. Marte hit .302, with 27 doubles for Jackson and improved those numbers in Tacoma batting .313. The 20-year-old shortstop has a bright future.
Although D.J. Peterson just played just half a season in Jackson, you can’t deny the big numbers. Like another former Seattle first round pick, Mike Zunino in 2012, Peterson blasted 13 home runs in a short period of time, 58 games, and collected 38 RBI’s. Peterson wrapped up his second pro season, batting .297, with 31 doubles, 31 home runs and 111 RBI’s in 123 games with Single-A High Desert and Jackson. Peterson is one of just five minor league players this season to record at least 30 home runs, while driving in at least 100 runs. Peterson finished with one more RBI this season than Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant.
Starting Pitcher of the Year: The Seattle Mariners picked up a steal with their 17th round pick during the 2013 draft in lefty Tyler Olson. The Gonzaga product finished the season with a club-record five wins in August and became the first pitcher in franchise history to record 10 wins in a season since J.R. Mathes accomplished it in 2006 when the Diamond Jaxx were affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. In six August starts, Olson was 5-1, with a 1.18 ERA, allowing just five earned runs in 38.0 innings. He struck out 30 and walked just seven in August. Overall, Olson was 10-7, with a 3.52 ERA in 2014.
Reliever of the Year: There was not a Stephen Pryor, Yoervis Medina, Steve Delabar or Carter Capps on this club, but, Stephen Shackleford led the team with 44 appearances and went 6-2, with a 3.11 ERA. Shackeford struck out 70 over 63.2 innings and had a 1.64 ERA over his last 13 outings.
Breakout Player: If you keep up with prospect rankings, outfielder Jordy Lara was nowhere to be found back in March. Well, the 23-year-old Dominican led the Mariners minor league system with a .337 average, as well as 40 doubles, 26 home runs and 104 RBI’s split between High Desert and Jackson. Not bad.
Honorable Mentions: Dan Paolini will not get any headlines or prospect statuses, but he closed the season with back-to-back four-hit performances (no other Jackson player and two four hit games) and finished tied for fourth in the league with 34 doubles. He hit just .165 with no home runs in 31 Double-A games in 2013, but rebounded by hitting .268, with 13 home runs and 65 RBI’s in 2014. Also, outfielder Leon Landry rebounded from a lackluster 2013 campaign to lead the Generals with 25 stolen bases and made numerous spectacular catches in centerfield.
Most likely to begin the season in Seattle next season: The past two years a Jackson starter has broken camp the next year with the Mariners starting rotation. It was righty Brandon Maurer in 2013 and lefty Roenis Elias this year. Olson definitely will get a look in 2015 spring training and certainly Peterson, Kivlehan, Marte and even pitcher Trevor Miller will have a shot.
Moment of the Year: There were some really nice moments in 2014, but honestly the moment freshest on the mind could be the best. The Generals closed the season on September 1 at Montgomery with a 13-6 win in which Peterson hit two home runs and Jackson had 20 hits in a game for the first time since August, 2009. Retiring pitcher Moises Hernandez (Felix’s older brother) got the win. Hernandez got a water cooler shower and it was just a fantastic way to end a season.
Names to watch out for in 2015? Yes, the Generals open the season on April 9, 2015 at Jacksonville and it’s never too early to look ahead. Outfielder Jabari Henry hit .291, with 30 home runs and 95 RBI’s for Single-A High Desert in 2014. Also, outfielder Gabby Guerrero, the nephew of former MLB slugger Vladimir Guerrero hit .307, with 18 homers and 96 RBI’s for High Desert this season.