This is part of a series of Friday columns we're calling the Toolshed, focusing on some of the more interesting prospect-centered storylines as the 2015 season develops. Have ideas, feedback or questions for Sam? Email him or tweet him @SamDykstraMiLB. (Note: All stats are as of Thursday.)
There was the Home Run Derby on Monday, the All-Star Game on Tuesday, the ESPYs and Jake Seiner's First-Half All-Risers Team on Wednesday and the Emmy nominations on Thursday. It's an awards week in sports and, in some way, the world at large. Here at MiLB.com, we have our version of awards called the MiLBYs, but those don't come out until the season comes to a close. That's no fun, so for this week in Toolshed, we consider who'd take home a midseason MiLBY, if such a thing existed.
Top Offensive Player
Kyle Schwarber, catcher, Double-A Tennessee/Triple-A Iowa (CHC)
First, a couple of words on who is here. Then, a few about the one who isn't.
Schwarber has hit everywhere he's been in 2015 thus. Literally everywhere. He put up a .320/.438/.579 line with 13 homers in 58 games at Double-A Tennessee and then got called up to the Majors for a six-game cameo with the Cubs, during which he went 8-for-22 (.364) with a homer, a triple and six RBIs. Upon moving to Triple-A Iowa, the 22-year-old catcher kept the hit train coming with a .333/.403/.633 line with three homers, a triple, seven doubles and 10 RBIs in 17 games. He also won the Futures Game MVP award last Sunday after hiitting a two-run triple for a victorious US side. Overall in the Minors this season, Schwarber, a left-handed slugger, has a .323/.430/.591 line with 16 homers, two triples, 17 doubles and 49 RBIs in 75 games. Just monstrous numbers, and numbers that have earned him a second call to the Majors this week. Beyond the fact that the production has come at two levels, it's the fact that Schwarber has dominated the Minors' top two levels that earns him this spot.
Which brings us to A.J. Reed. All things equal, Reed should probably run away with this designation. He leads the Minors in OBP (.445), slugging (.627), RBIs (83) and ranks in the top five in average (.342) and homers (23). But here's the kicker: it's all come in the California League, where hitting goes to thrive and pitching goes to die. You can only hit where they send you and Reed has certainly done that, but his numbers have to be taken with some grains of salt unless he can come close to matching them at Double-A Corpus Christi. Until then, the nod goes to Schwarber for his production across the top levels. But like the rest of these picks, that's subject to change as the summer continues.
Top Starting Pitcher
Blake Snell, left-hander, Class A Advanced Charlotte/Double-A Montgomery (TB)
When you start the season with 49 scoreless innings, you've got a pretty good leg up on the competition when it comes to awards. But Snell's season is more than just that incredibly impressive string of zeros. Even after that, he's allowed more than two earned runs in only one of his seven starts since the streak came to an end. Because of that, he leads full-season Minor Leaguers with a 1.28 ERA. The Rays left-hander has also struck out 99 in 84 2/3 innings, good enough for a career high 10.5 K/9. Though his 4.1 BB/9 hurts his candidacy some, it's not enough to overcome his title as the Minors' most dominant pitcher of the first half.
Top Relief Pitcher
Zac Curtis, left-hander, Class A Kane County (ARI)
Although the author of this column doesn't think that saves are the be-all-end-all stat when it comes to relief work, they're at least a good place to start. Curtis, a sixth-round pick by the D-backs out of Middle Tennessee in 2014, is tied for third in the Minors with 19 saves for Kane County. But he shines in other important stats as well, producing a 1.57 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 48 strikeouts and nine walks in 34 1/3 innings. That's 12.6 K/9 with just 2.4 BB/9. Midwest League opponents are hitting just .179 against the 5-foot-9 southpaw so far this season. Curtis was second in the NCAA in strikeouts (136) as a senior in 2014, so this level of dominance isn't all that surprising.
Top Breakout Prospect
Alex Reyes, right-hander, Class A Advanced Palm Beach (STL)
When Jake wrote up his picks for best first-half risers Tuesday, he included Dodgers right-hander Jose De Leon as his right-handed starter on that list and for good reason. De Leon's 122 strikeouts in 89 innings lead the Minors this season, thanks to a mid-90s fastball and a deceptive delivery. But Reyes gets the nod here because of his consistency compared to De Leon, who has a 4.21 ERA in nine starts (51 1/3 innings) at Double-A Tulsa. Thanks to his fastball that can touch triple-digits and a 60-grade curveball, Reyes, who is currently on a rehab assignment following a shoulder injury in June, has actually averaged a strikeout more per nine innings (13.4 vs. 12.3) than De Leon's production in that department this season. That's not all. He's sported a 2.08 ERA in 12 starts (60 2/3 innings) in the Florida State League, and if you think that's aided by the pitching-friendly environments of the Florida State League, consider that it probably should be even lower given his 1.85 FIP and .370 BABIP. Reyes moved into the top 16 on both Baseball America's and Baseball Prospectus' midseason prospect rankings updates and should vault to a similar spot from No. 84 on MLB.com's preseason list.
Double-A Biloxi Shuckers (MIL), Southern League
What a long, strange trip it has been for the Brewers' Double-A affiliate in their first season as the Shuckers. Biloxi's MGM Park wasn't ready for baseball until June 6, forcing the team to go on a 54-game road trip through the first two months of the season. How did they respond to being the Minors version of Kerouac characters? They won the Southern League South Division first-half title with a 43-25 record. Top Brewers prospect Orlando Arcia (.315 average, .821 OPS, 24 doubles in 81 games), and pitchers Tyler Wagner (2.50 ERA in 93 2/3 innings) and Jorge Lopez (2.58 ERA in 90 2/3 innings) have been the standout performers.
Best Farm System
There are any number of ways you could slice the Astros' deserved spot here. You could look at the Major League ascensions of Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers and combine those with Reed and Domingo Santana (.314/.433/.570, 12 homers), Brett Phillips (.933 OPS, 15 homers, 13 steals), Tony Kemp (.333 average, 23 steals) and Joe Musgrove (2.05 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, four walks in 74 2/3 innings), and say that Astros prospects have done enough on an individual level to claim this section for their system. Or you could look at them collectively, and consider that Astros affiliates have a .570 winning percentage (286-216) this season, best in the Minors. The Twins, at No. 2, have a .555 winning percentage.
Game of the Year
Class A Short Season Batavia perfect game, June 24
There has been only perfect game in the Minors so far this season, and it came last month when Gabriel Castellanos, Brett Lilek and Steven Farnworth combined on the gem for Class A Short Season Batavia in a 1-0 win over Mahoning Valley. Castellanos deserves the lion's share of the credit after he threw seven of the nine innings, striking out 12 in the process. Since that time, the 21-year-old left-hander has struggled some -- he has given up 10 earned runs across his last three starts (11 1/3 innings) and owns a 4.91 ERA this summer -- as has the club. Batavia went 1-10 in June and is 8-16 on the season. But for one night, the Muckdogs were perfect.
Fisher drives in Cal League-record 12, May 30
Yes, this is the spot where we'll feature a Lancaster JetHawk individually. By going deep three times -- including two grand slams -- Derek Fisher broke a 61-year-old California League record with 12 RBIs for Lancaster in their 16-3 win over High Desert. There are many ways to put this into perspective. For one, Fisher has plated 61 runs over 76 games in the Minors this season, meaning nearly one-fifth of his RBIs came in one game alone. Second, when the previous record of 11 RBIs in a game was first set by Stockton's Robert Rivich on May 22, 1954, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a Cal League affiliate. Oh, and in case any of that wasn't enough to seal Fisher's spot here, the performance came in his Class A Advanced debut, something that drew the attention of Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.
Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.