DURHAM, NC - Durham Bulls LHP Blake Snell has been named the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year, beating out a field of four other finalists. Snell joins OF Andruw Jones (1996), LHP David Price (2008) and RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2010) as Bulls who have won the award.
Tampa Bay's top pitching prospect - and the No. 44 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com - split the 2015 season between Advanced-A Charlotte, Double-A Montgomery and Durham. In 25 appearances this season (23 starts), the 22-year-old combined to go 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA, the lowest ERA of any minor league pitcher (minimum 115 innings pitched) since Justin Verlander posted a 1.29 ERA in 2005. In addition, his 1.41 cumulative ERA is the best in Tampa Bay's minor league history (minimum 130 innings pitched), besting the previous mark of 1.77 set in 2013 by RHP Dylan Floro.
After joining the Bulls on July 24, the southpaw proceeded to go 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA in nine starts. From his Triple-A debut through the end of the season, Snell led the International League with a .187 opponent's average, and ranked second on the circuit in wins (6), ERA (1.83) and strikeouts (57). Over his nine starts with Durham he allowed one earned run or fewer eight times, while finishing the season by going unbeaten over his final six starts.
The Shoreline, Wash. native opened the season at the Advanced-A level, but was promoted after four appearances (two starts) and 21.0 scoreless innings. Upon his promotion to Montgomery at the end of April, Snell dealt 25.0 scoreless frames, opening the 2015 campaign on a 46.0 inning scoreless streak. Combined between all three levels, Snell led all full-season minor league pitchers in opponent's average (.182), ranked tied for third in wins (15) and strikeouts (163) and ranked ninth in WHIP (1.02). Of his 23 starts between all three teams in 2015, the 52nd overall pick in the 2011 draft allowed one earned run or fewer 19 times, while holding his opponent scoreless eight times.
Tampa Bay's 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Snell's selection as the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year adds to his list of 2015 accolades which include Southern League Midseason and Postseason All-Star selections for his time with Double-A Montgomery, as well as his selection to the US Futures Team. Additionally, Snell is one of two finalists for Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award.
Snell was selected through a combination of online fan voting and USA Today staff voters. Other finalists for the award were Trey Mancini (Baltimore), AJ Reed (Houston), Michael Fulmer (Detroit) and Adam Brett Walker (Minnesota).