Jackson, Tenn. - The Jackson Generals made history Wednesday, as the team claimed each of the three major postseason awards in the Southern League. Tyler O'Neill was named the league's Most Valuable Player, Ryan Yarbrough was named Most Outstanding Pitcher and Daren Brown earned Manager of the Year honors. It is the first time since 1991 and only the third time in Southern League history one team has had the winner of all three awards.
O'Neill becomes the franchise's second-ever MVP, while Yarbrough and Brown give the Generals three winners in their respective categories. The 1991 Greenville Braves were the last team to sweep the three major awards, with Ryan Klesko winning MVP, Mark Wohlers taking home the Most Outstanding Pitcher award and Chris Chambliss winning Manager of the Year. The only other team in Sotuhern League history to accomplish the feat was the 1980 Nashville Sounds: MVP Steve Balboni, Most Outstanding Pitcher Andy McGaffigan and Manager of the Year Carl "Stump" Merrill.
Most Valuable Player: Tyler O'Neill
A spectacular 2016 for the slugging outfielder continues, as Tyler O'Neill was named the Southern League's Most Valuable Player. At the time of the announcement, O'Neill ranked among the top two in all three Triple Crown categories. His 100 RBI have already set a franchise record and he leads the league by 14 in that department, while his .296 average and 24 home runs are second in the circuit.
O'Neill also leads the league in on-base percentage (.378), slugging percentage (.519), extra-base hits (54) and total bases (247) with six games to go in the regular season. His 61 walks rank fifth in the league. The 21-year-old also has 12 steals in 14 tries and nine outfield assists on defense. He has played in 125 of the team's 133 games thus far. His 28-game on-base streak in April and May was the longest for a General since 2014, and he drove in a run in eight-straight games at one point in the First Half.
This is yet another honor for O'Neill, who was a Player of the Week, Player of the Month, Mid-Season All-Star and Postseason All-Star as well in the Southern League. In addition to his single-season RBI record, O'Neill tied a franchise-best with eight RBI in a game June 8 versus Pensacola. He capped off that effort with a walk-off grand slam. He becomes the second-ever MVP in franchise history, joining Cubs' prospect Richard Lewis in 2004 with the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Ryan Yarbrough
A day after being named to the Postseason All-Star Team, Yarbrough was honored with the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher Award. In 24 starts for the Generals through Wednesday, Yarbrough went 12-4 with a 2.92 ERA while allowing just 108 hits in 126.1 innings. He is tied for the league lead in victories with 12 while ranking second in ERA, WHIP (1.10) and opponents' average (.228) among starters. Out of his 24 outings, 13 have been quality starts.
Twice this season, Yarbrough was named Southern League Pitcher of the Week and he was a Mid-Season All-Star as well. He threw his first career complete game shutout in game two of a doubleheader April 30 versus Mobile, allowing just three hits over seven innings. That began a stretch of six victories in as many starts for the southpaw. In the month of May, he went 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 30 innings of work, surrendering just six earned runs over five starts.
Yarbrough cemented his status as the league's top hurler with four consecutive victories from July 23 to August 14. He pitched seven scoreless frames July 29 versus Jacksonville in an 11-1 win for the Generals before allowing just one hit and one walk over six innings in his next start at Montgomery. He has been especially cruel to lefties, holding them to a .186 average in 129 at-bats this year.
This is the third time in franchise history that a Jackson pitcher has won the award. Brandon Maurer was named Most Outstanding Pitcher for the Generals in 2012, while Cubs' farmhand and current Angels pitcher Ricky Nolasco won it with the Diamond Jaxx in 2005.
Manager of the Year: Daren Brown
In his first year with the Generals, Daren Brown earned Manager of the Year honors. Going into Wednesday's game, Jackson's 83 victories are one shy of tying a franchise record. The team already has the most wins in ten years since becoming a Mariners affiliate in 2007.
Brown is in his 16th season with the Mariners and his 13th as a Minor League Manager. In seven years at the helm of Triple-A Tacoma, Brown won a franchise-record 433 games. He helped lead the Rainiers to a PCL Championship in 2010, which is one of now five seasons he has lead a minor league team to a division title. He also has Major League experience, having served as Seattle's manager for 50 games in 2010 and the team's third base coach for almost all of 2013.
He led the Generals to a 46-24 record in the First Half, setting a franchise record for wins in a half. Eight Generals were named to the Mid-Season All-Star Team and three players were selected at Postseason All-Stars as well. The team leads the Southern League in batting and defense while ranking third in pitching.
This is the first time in the Mariners era that Jackson has had a Manager of the Year. Dave Trembley and Dave Bialas won the award in consecutive seasons as skippers of the Diamond Jaxx in 1999 and 2000. The 2000 team went on to win the franchise's lone Southern League title since moving to Jackson.