Indians five-tool standout Gregory Polanco has been named the Tribe’s Most Valuable Player for the 2014 season. The 22-year-old outfielder received a custom-made ring, courtesy of Windsor Jewelry, in tonight’s pregame ceremony at Victory Field in honor of his achievement.
In addition, the Indians presented their annual awards for outstanding, season-long accomplishments, with this year’s recognition including Jaff Decker as the Best Defensive Outfielder, Brent Morel, Best Defensive Infielder, southpaw Andy Oliver, Henry Smock Relief Pitcher of the Year and right-hander Casey Sadler, Starting Pitcher of the Year.
Morel also capped the ceremony with his honoring as the Indians August Player of the Month, an award which featured a custom-made watch, courtesy of Windsor Jewelry.
Most Valuable Player
The Triple-A rookie Polanco embodied the award as the team’s Most Valuable Player, leading the Tribe to 41 of its 70 total victories and a 41-28 overall record while on the active roster. The phenom took home honors as the Tribe’s Player of the Month in April and later became the first player in team history to win two International League Batter of the Week titles in one season (April 14, May 19).
Prior to making his making his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Polanco hit safely in 45 of his 62 Triple-A games with 26 multi-knock efforts and the IL’s second-best batting average of .347. He also led the league in hits (86), extra-base hits (29), triples (5), total bases (134), runs (47) and RBI (49), and concluded his dominating stint having reaching base safely in all but 12 appearances.
Best Defensive Outfielder
Decker, awarded for his distinguished play in left and center field, appeared in 25 more contests and 173 more innings than any of his fellow Indians outfielders this season. The newcomer of the Pirates organization recorded a stellar .989 fielding percentage with just two errors in 178 total chances during his 97 games (778.0 innings) in the outfield.
The 24-year-old also matched his glovework with an equally impressive outfield arm, cutting down a team-high 15 runners on the basepaths. Decker unleashed laser throws with pinpoint accuracy to nail five opponents at second base, four at third and a team-best six runners attempting to score.
Best Defensive Infielder
Morel, awarded for his distinguished infield play as the team’s primary third baseman, routinely made highlight-reel plays at the hot corner while recording a .958 fielding percentage with 12 double plays. The versatile infielder opened the campaign with only one error in his first 42 games, and committed just nine total miscues in 212 total chances prior to his recall. Morel has continued his slick fielding at the major league level as well, where he played 42 1/3 innings of errorless ball at third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Entering the Tribe’s home finale, Morel ranks among the top 10 IL third basemen in each defensive category, including sixth in assists (157), seventh in total chances, tied for seventh in double plays and ninth in putouts (46).
Henry Smock Relief Pitcher of the Year
Oliver, the Henry Smock Relief Pitcher of the Year, leads the Indians and ranks ninth in the IL with 13 saves in 15 opportunities during his first season used exclusively in relief. The southpaw has been nearly unhittable throughout the campaign, and along with striking out 85 batters in 64 innings of work, ranks first among league relievers with a .158 batting average against and tied for second with an 11.95 strikeouts-per-nine ratio.
Overall, Oliver has gone 3-3 with 13 saves and a 2.39 ERA in 47 games. The newly-converted reliever has whiffed one or more batters in 38 of his 47 outings, recorded multiple strikeouts in 25 appearances and held opponents to one or fewer hits in all but seven of his 47 games. Oliver was rewarded for his standout efforts during the 2014 campaign with his first All-Star selection of his professional career.
Starting Pitcher of the Year
Sadler, the Tribe’s Starting Pitcher of the Year, went 11-4 with the fourth-lowest ERA in the league at 3.03 through his 21st and final start of the season. The righty hurler authored 14 quality starts and currently ranks among IL pitching leaders in WHIP (2nd, 1.19), fewest baserunners-per-nine (2nd, 10.97), lowest walks-per-nine (3rd, 1.66) and wins (T-4th).
The Indians’ staff ace took a no-decision in his 2014 debut before winning eight of nine decisions over his next 10 starts. He won a career-high five consecutive decisions during that span, and became the only pitcher in the league to earn his seventh victory in fewer than 10 appearances by June 16. Sadler has since followed the standout effort with both an IL All-Star selection and his major league debut with the Pirates on May 2.
August Player of the Month
In addition to the Tribe standouts receiving awards for their season-long excellence, Morel, who owns the IL’s fourth-best batting average in August, was also honored as the Tribe’s Player of the Month.
Morel batted .355 (27-for-76) with hits in 16 of 19 contests, nine multi-knock efforts and an 11-game hit streak through action of Aug. 29. Prior to his recall to Pittsburgh today, the red-hot infielder totaled five doubles, a triple, one homer, 11 runs scored and 16 RBI over 19 games during the final full month of the regular season.
Imagine hundreds of thousands of people coming to your house and critiquing your lawn. Dream or nightmare? For Indianapolis Indians Head Groundskeeper Joey Stevenson and his staff, it’s reality.
Joey and his crew work day-in day-out to maintain what many in professional baseball consider among the very the best playing surfaces in the game. Their efforts have once again paid off as Victory Field has been recognized for the third time in the last four years with Stevenson being awarded the International League’s Sports Turf Manager of the Year.
As of Aug. 27, only four opportunities remain to come experience the International League’s best playing surface. Whether you’re a green thumb or stick to house plants, one can’t help but appreciate the meticulous effort put into Indiana’s premier natural grass baseball diamond.
Stevenson, who also won the award in 2011 and 2012, gives credit to his crew for helping making Victory Field the best. “It’s a testament to Assistant Groundskeeper Joey Gerking and our entire crew,” remarked Stevenson. “My team puts in long hours, hard work, and are especially dedicated to our craft and love of the game.”
With the award, Stevenson joins Toledo’s Jake Tyler (3) and former Indians’ groundskeeper Mike Boekholder (5) as the only International League Sports Turf Managers to be honored at least three times in the 23-year history of the award.
The award is voted on by field managers and pitching coaches throughout the IL, and they once again took notice of the Big League aura that Victory Field boasts. “Victory Field is a big league playing surface,” said Indianapolis Indians Manager Dean Treanor. “Joey and his crew work their tails off at all hours of the day. He’s a big league groundskeeper and he does a big league job.”
In addition to the 72 Tribe home games each season, Victory Field also hosts a variety of outside events including the Indiana Baseball State Finals, the City/County Championships and Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit and Run competition. Through it all, Stevenson and his crew help keep Victory Field looking like every day is Opening Day.
“Joey Stevenson’s care of the Victory Field playing surface has made it second to none,” said Indianapolis Indians Vice President and General Manager Cal Burleson. “He does an excellent job of leading his grounds crew through some very challenging activities and is totally deserving of this award.”
The award automatically places Stevenson in contention for the Triple-A classification’s Sports Turf Manager of the Year Award (which he received in 2011 and 2012) as selected by the Sports Turf Managers Association and presented annually at the Baseball Winter Meetings.
Top prospect and Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Gregory Polanco is set to rejoin the Indianapolis Indians during the Tribe’s final homestand of the regular season from Tuesday, Aug. 26 – Saturday, Aug. 30. The five-tool farmhand dominated the International League throughout his original stint with the Indians, earning the Tribe’s Player of the Month Award in April and later becoming the first player in team history to win two IL Batter of the Week awards in the same season (April 14, May 19).
“He’s the kind of player you like to cheer for,” Indians hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo said. “He’s a classy kid and a gentleman, the kind you want to root for, and you could see that in his teammates.”
At the time of his recall to the big leagues on June 10, Polanco’s unmatched performance featured leading all International League batters in:
- Runs (47)
- RBI (49)
- Triples (5)
- Hits (86)
- Extra-Base Hits (29)
- Total Bases (134)
The Tribe’s electrifying outfielder also ranked second in the IL with a .346 batting average after hitting safely in 45 of 62 Triple-A games with 26 multi-knock efforts, reaching base in 50 of 62 appearances and scoring or driving in a run in 45 of 62 contests.
“I would say he’s both physically and mentally ready for the challenge,” Indians manager Dean Treanor said after the initial news of Polanco’s promotion to Pittsburgh. “He wants this challenge.”
Polanco then burst onto the major league scene by tallying hits in each of his first 11 games to establish Pittsburgh’s franchise record for the longest hitting streak to begin a career. He eclipsed Roberto Clemente’s seven-game streak and shattered the previous mark of an eight-game streak set by Spencer Adams in 1923.
“Some young players are out for stardom. He’s not out for stardom. He’s out to be a master craftsman,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said earlier this season. “(The hitting streak) is special…It gives you goose bumps anytime you hear a ‘Not since Clemente,’ that gets your attention.”
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