Syracuse outfielder named league's MVP, Rookie of the Year
August 26, 2014
The International League today announced its postseason All-Star Team and Award Winners as selected by the circuit's managers, coaches, media and club representatives. The 2014 IL Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year is the League's leading hitter, Syracuse's Steven Souza Jr., currently on a Major League rehab assignment after a promotion to the Washington Nationals. The League's winningest pitcher, Pawtucket's Anthony Ranaudo, has been elected as the IL's Most Valuable Pitcher. Souza's skipper, Billy Gardner Jr., is the International League Manager of the Year in his very first season at the Triple-A level.
Most Valuable Player & Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza Jr. (Syracuse)
25-year-old Steven Souza Jr. played in 622 games in the Minor Leagues before reaching the Triple-A level this season. The International League's Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year is on track to become the IL Batting Champion with a .354 average in 91 games played for the Chiefs. He also leads the circuit with a .435 on-base percentage and .601 slugging percentage to go along with a team-best 18 home runs and 24 stolen bases. Souza has been at the heart of a first place season in Syracuse, batting third in the team's lineup nearly all season. In July, Souza was elected by the League's fans, media, and managers to be a starting outfielder at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham, where he picked up a double and RBI in the IL's 7-3 victory. Souza made his Major League debut in April and was promoted twice more in May and in early August. The former third-round Draft choice from 2005 has played in 13 games so far for the Nationals before being sidelined by injury. Souza becomes the sixth Most Valuable Player in Syracuse history and the first since Chad Mottola in 2000. He's also the franchise's seventh IL Rookie of the Year and first since Shawn Green in 1994. Souza was elected an outfielder on the League's Postseason All-Star Team; the most recent Chiefs outfielder to earn that distinction was Corey Brown in 2012. Souza follows Rochester's Chris Colabello to give the League consecutive seasons with a player winning both the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards. Souza is the first-ever Syracuse player to win both honors in the same season.
Most Valuable Pitcher: Anthony Ranaudo (Pawtucket)
On the strength of his League-leading 14 wins and a 2.61 ERA over 24 starts, Pawtucket's Anthony Ranaudo has been named the 2014 International League Most Valuable Pitcher. Ranaudo is currently second in the League in ERA to Liam Hendriks of Buffalo, who is now pitching in the Pacific Coast League following a trade and won't accumulate enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Opposing batters are hitting just .223 against Ranaudo, the lowest average against any IL starter. The 6-foot-7 right-hander is in his rookie season at the Triple-A level after going 3-1 in six appearances last year in limited action for Pawtucket. He also made his Major League debut earlier this month, picking up a win for Boston against the Yankees on August 1 and another at Cincinnati on August 13 in his second career MLB start. Ranaudo was a "sandwich pick" for the Red Sox between the first and second rounds of the 2010 draft. He was the Double-A Eastern League's Pitcher of the Year last season. The 24-year-old Ranaudo becomes the seventh IL Most Valuable Pitcher in PawSox history and the first since Charlie Zink in 2008.
Manager of the Year: Billy Gardner Jr. (Syracuse)
In his 20th season as a Minor League skipper but his first at the Triple-A level as well as in the Nationals organization, Billy Gardner Jr. has been elected the International League Manager of the Year. He has the Syracuse Chiefs on the verge of the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1998. Syracuse struggled early and was in last place in the North Division as late as May 21, but the Chiefs ended up with the League's best record for both May and June as they surged to the top of a tight IL North Division race. The Chiefs have the League's second-most runs scored on offense and the second-fewest runs allowed by their pitching staff, which also leads the IL with 15 shutouts this season. Gardner becomes the fifth IL Manager of the Year from Syracuse, following Frank Verdi (1970), Vern Benson (1979), Doug Ault (1985), and Bob Bailor (1989). Gardner is the son of Billy Gardner Sr., who managed the Minnesota Twins from 1981-1985 and the Kansas City Royals for part of the 1987 campaign.
In addition to outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, 10 other players have been named to the International League Postseason All-Star Team. In all, seven IL clubs are represented on the All-Star Team, led by Syracuse with three All-Stars, the most for the Chiefs in 20 years.
All-Star Catcher: Josh Phegley (Charlotte)
Charlotte's Josh Phegley has been named to the IL's mid-season All-Star Team for the past three seasons, but now for the first time he is the League's Postseason All-Star catcher. Phegley was already one of the greats in Charlotte history prior to this season, having been chosen last year as part of the All-Time Knights Stadium Team as that facility closed. The 26-year-old is a veteran of 65 games in the Majors last season with the White Sox. Phegley is the first catcher from Charlotte ever named to the IL Postseason All-Star Team.
All-Star First Baseman: Andy Wilkins (Charlotte)
25-year-old Andy Wilkins has a League-best 29 home runs and 84 RBIs, going a long way toward proving he is ready to make his Major League debut. He was hitting below .200 for the season's first two months, but since June 1 he's hit .354 to raise his season average to .294. Wilkins became the first Knight to win consecutive Player of the Week Awards in late July shortly before being named the IL Player of the Month. Wilkins is Charlotte's first Postseason All-Star first baseman since Ross Gload in 2003.
All-Star Second Baseman: Jose Pirela (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre)
Jose Pirela of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders is fourth in the League with a .308 batting average this season while leading the circuit with 85 runs scored, 159 hits and 11 triples. The 24-year-old rookie was the League's starting second baseman at July's Triple-A All-Star Game, though he's also seen time at first base, shortstop and outfield as his team's most versatile player. Pirela was the IL Player of the Month in June. He is the first IL Postseason All-Star second baseman from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since Kevin Russo in 2009.
All-Star Shortstop: Emmanuel Burriss (Syracuse)
Syracuse's Emmanuel Burriss is the League's All-Star shortstop. He is among the top players in the IL in batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored and triples, while also striking out fewer times per plate appearance than any hitter in the League. The 29-year-old is a veteran of 282 games in the big leagues with the Giants between 2008-2012. He signed with the Nationals as a free agent this past December. Burriss follows Zach Walters to give the Chiefs two straight seasons claiming IL Postseason All-Star shortstop honors.
All-Star Third Baseman: Brandon Laird (Syracuse)
The All-Star third baseman is Syracuse's Brandon Laird, who is one of just two players in the League with 80 RBIs. The 26-year-old is in his first season in the Nationals organization after being acquired in a March trade. He has played 53 games in the majors since 2011 with the Yankees and Astros. His older brother Gerald is a catcher for the Atlanta Braves. The last Syracuse third baseman on the IL Postseason All-Star Team was Carlos Rivero in 2012.
All-Star Outfielder: Ezequiel Carrera (Toledo)
Though he's been with the Detroit Tigers for the entire month of August, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera still comfortably leads the International League with 43 stolen bases this season. He's also fourth in the League in on-base percentage and fifth in batting average. The 27-year-old was elected to the IL's mid-season All-Star Team in July. Toledo has now had an outfielder on the League's Postseason All-Star Team in consecutive seasons, with Carrera following Nick Castellanos from a year ago.
All-Star Outfielder: Kevin Pillar (Buffalo)
25-year-old Kevin Pillar is an IL All-Star outfielder. He is third in the League with a .323 batting average. He leads the circuit with 39 doubles and is also in the top five in both slugging percentage and stolen bases. Pillar has twice been named IL Batter of the Week, once in early May and again in early August. He has played in 62 games with the Toronto Blue Jays since last season. Pillar is the first outfielder from Buffalo named to the IL Postseason All-Star Team since Ben Francisco in 2007.
All-Star Designated Hitter: Mike Hessman (Toledo)
Mike Hessman returned to the Toledo Mud Hens this season and set the International League's all-time career home run record, surpassing Ollie Carnegie on June 30 with his 259th long ball in the IL. For 2014, the 36-year-old Hessman is second in the League with 28 home runs. He is now a three-time IL Postseason All-Star, becoming just the 12th player in League history to do so. Hessman was also Toledo's most recent third baseman to become an IL Postseason All-Star (2008).
All-Star Relief Pitcher: Bobby Korecky (Buffalo)
Right-handed closer Bobby Korecky of Buffalo has been named the IL's All-Star relief pitcher for 2014. The 34-year-old is tied for the League lead with 20 saves. He's allowed just 45 hits in 61 innings while striking out 59, posting an ERA of 2.07. Korecky has pitched in 24 big league games during his career with the Twins, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. He has over 175 saves in the Minor Leagues. Korecky is the first Buffalo pitcher named to the IL Postseason All-Star Team since Walt Craddock was the All-Star LHP in 1957.
All-Star Utility Player: Phil Gosselin (Gwinnett)
The final All-Star spot goes to Gwinnett's Phil Gosselin, who has been selected as the International League's top utility player for 2014. The 25-year-old Gosselin, currently with Atlanta, received votes as a second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, outfielder and designated hitter after seeing time at each position this season. Also a mid-season All-Star, he is currently second in the League with a .344 batting average. He is the first Braves farmhand selected as the All-Star Utility Player since Randall Simon of Richmond in 1997.
2014 International League Postseason All-Stars
Steven Souza Jr.*
Billy Gardner Jr.
* Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year
† Most Valuable Pitcher