The Cleveland Indians have suffered through a disappointing 2006 campaign. But fear not, Tribe fans, help is on the way.
The Carolina League announced its year-end All-Star Team on Thursday, and the two highest honors went to members of the Kinston Indians. Outfielder Jordan Brown was named the league's Most Valuable Player, while Chuck Lofgren took Pitcher of the Year honors. The duo's spectacular performance this season helped propel the playoff-bound Indians to an overall record of 81-53.
Brown, 22, leads the league in RBIs (87) and slugging percentage (.478) and is hitting .347 in the month of August. Lofgren's 16 wins are the most in the league by a wide margin, while his 2.42 ERA and 122 strikeouts rank second. The 20-year-old left-hander attended Junipero Serra High School, in California, which counts Barry Bonds and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady among its alumni.
Jim Pankovits of the Salem Avalanche was named Manager of the Year. The six-year Major League veteran led the Avalanche to a 14-game winning streak that clinched the second-half Southern Division pennant with a week to go in the season. Frederick's Trek Schuler was named Trainer of the Year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.
The All-Star infield is comprised of Winston-Salem first baseman Chris Kelly, second baseman Paco Figueroa of the Frederick Keys, Lynchburg shortstop Brian Bixler, Potomac third baseman Brandon Powell and utility man Van Pope of Myrtle Beach.
Kelly has slugged 18 homers and driven in 74 runs for the Warthogs, while Figueroa is hitting .282 and has stolen 19 bases. Bixler hit .303 for the Hillcats before earning a promotion to the Double-A Altoona Curve. Powell has slugged 14 homers and driven in 70 runs for the Nationals, while Pope leads the Pelicans in virtually every offensive category.
Brian Barton, the team's third Kinston player, joins Brown in the outfield along with Myrtle Beach's Carl Loadenthal and Salem's Beau Torbert. Barton, who was named as "utility outfielder," hit .308 and stole 26 bases before earning a promotion to the Double-A Akron Aeros in July. Loadenthal is hitting a league-leading .317, while Torbert's 138 hits ties him for the league lead.
At catcher is Salem's Lou Santangelo, whose .476 slugging percentage ranks second in the circuit. Selected as designated hitter was Jason Fransz of the Frederick Keys, who leads the league with 24 homers.
Joining Lofgren on the club's pitching staff is reliever Michael James of the Wilmington Blue Rocks. The 25-year-old struck out 50 batters in 48 2/3 innings, and his 24 saves are the most in the league.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com.