Snyder paces Cubs affiliates in 2010

Iowa slugger plated 106 runs, set career highs across board

Brad Snyder hit .308 with 25 homers in 132 PCL games. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | October 20, 2010 6:00 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

Even though none of the Chicago Cubs' five Minor League affiliates took home a title in 2010, the season will likely still be seen as a success. All but one team posted a winning record, Iowa tied for first place in the Pacific Coast League American Conference Northern Division and Tennessee made it to the Southern League Championship Series.

Cubs organizational All-Stars

Catcher -- Robinson Chirinos, Tennessee Smokies (77 games)/Iowa Cubs (15 games): The Venezuelan backstop slugged a career-best 18 homers and drove in 74 runs in 2010, more than any other catcher in the Cubs' system. The Midseason and Postseason Southern League All-Star hit .326 over two levels. He ended the season at Triple-A, where he batted .364 over the final three weeks of the regular season. Chirinos went deep in three consecutive games in April and July and delivered a five-RBI night against Chattanooga on July 15, when he went 3-for-3 with a homer, a double, a single, a sacrifice fly and was hit by pitch.

"He started catching a couple years ago. He's put learning to catch behind him, and he started to hit like we've never seen," said Cubs vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita.

"He's become a real good defensive catcher and he's learned how to swing the bat. We're certainly very happy with his progress."

First base -- Micah Hoffpauir, Iowa Cubs (118 games): Hoffpauir hit 22 homers and plated 95 runs in the middle of Iowa's powerful lineup. He set the franchise record for RBIs (378), hits (517) and doubles (121) and recorded a 22-game hitting streak from July 21-Aug. 15, during which he batted .427 (38-for-89). Hoffpauir's 95 RBIs ranked fourth in the Pacific Coast League and his performance after the All-Star break (.377, 12 homers in 138 at-bats) at first base earned him a callup to the Major Leagues in August.

"He's had a great year," Fleita said. "For the number of at-bats he's had to put up the RBIs, we're obviously very happy with him.

"He got off to a real slow start, but as the season went on he really picked it up and finished off strong."

Second base -- Tony Thomas, Tennessee Smokies (116 games): The former third-round Draft pick out of Florida State impressively combined power and speed in his second full year at Double-A. He ranked fourth in the Southern League in slugging percentage (.485) and third in triples (11), while setting career highs in RBIs (73) and runs (67) and tying his previous best with 11 homers. No other second baseman in the Cubs' Minor League system hit more longballs or plated more runs, and only Peoria's Logan Watkins topped his 15 stolen bases.

"He really had a solid year all the way around," Fleita said. "The only other significant improvement was his defensive play at second base."

Third base -- Marquez Smith, Iowa Cubs (91 games)/Tennessee Smokies (16 games): Smith led all third basemen among Cubs affiliates in batting average (.297), homers (20), slugging percentage (.556) and on-base percentage (.927) in 2010. The Florida native was hitting just .217 with one home run 25 games into the season when he was sent down to Double-A, but the change of scenery got him back on track. He slugged 16 longballs and 20 doubles in the final 66 Pacific Coast League games after he returned to the I-Cubs in June, and he launched 12 homers in August alone -- tied for the lead in all of professional baseball.

"He had a breakout year and had the opportunity to play at Triple-A for the first time," Fleita said. "Every month he got better. He finished off with a tremendous year in home runs and RBIs. A really good year."

Shortstop -- Hak-Ju Lee, Peoria Chiefs (122 games): Lee led all Cubs' Minor League shortstops in runs (85) and stolen bases (32) in his second season in pro ball. Building on his success in the short-season Northwest League in '09, Lee batted .282 with 22 doubles and 40 RBIs. The 19-year-old was selected as a Midwest League Midseason All-Star in June and then represented the World team at the Futures Game in July. In the week following the prospect showcase, Lee amassed a 5-for-5 outing and two four-hit games.

"He's only 19 years old and to be at the level he's at it was certainly a real challenge," Fleita said. "He obviously met the challenge and had a fantastic year. He showed speed, played good defense and he was a real fun guy to watch play."

Outfield -- Brad Snyder, Iowa Cubs (132 games): Big-hitting Snyder had an awesome year at the plate in 2010. He was one of only two Pacific Coast League hitters to drive in 100 or more runs (106) and he finished inside the top five in runs scored (97, third), extra-base hits (68, fourth) and doubles (37, fifth). The former first-rounder was named a Postseason All-Star and he set career highs in almost every statistical category. He hit .308 over 132 games, blasted 25 homers and swiped 19 bases, one off his personal best from 2006, before his September callup to the big club.

"Brad Snyder had one heck of a year," Fleita said. "He hit for power, RBIs, runs scored and he played all three outfield positions. He had a great year and he was rewarded by being called up to the Major Leagues."

Outfield -- Bryan LaHair, Iowa Cubs (125 games): LaHair continued his assault on the Pacific Coast League in 2010, albeit in a new uniform and some 1,800 miles east of Tacoma, where he had played since 2006. LaHair hit 25 homers in almost a blow-by-blow remake of his 2009 campaign, finishing with 81 RBIs, 71 runs, 30 doubles and a .308 average. The 27-year-old slugger also split time at first base, providing the Cubs with a versatile option in the infield and outfield. LaHair was the most intentionally walked hitter (nine) in Triple-A and his cumulative numbers may have been even higher had he not spent the majority of the year hitting in the No. 6 spot.

"All he did was keep knocking in runs," Fleita added. "He played a little bit of outfield and a little bit of first base and he's just a professional hitter.

"You know what you're going to get day in and day out."

Outfield -- Brandon Guyer, Tennessee Smokies (102 games): Despite two early trips to the disabled list in April and May, Guyer was one of the Southern League's most prolific hitters. His .588 slugging percentage topped the league and his .344 clip was second only to Carolina's Dave Seppelt. The right fielder, Tennessee's Player of the Year, also ranked inside the top five in doubles (39, third), extra-base hits (58, fourth) and on-base percentage (.398, fifth). The Postseason All-Star was one of only two Southern League hitters to blast double-digit homers (13) and steal 30 or more bases.

"No arguments here," Fleita said. "Guyer was probably as good as anyone in the game in the last two-and-a-half or three months of the season. He stole bases, he hit for power and he knocked in runs. He played great defense and he had one heck of a year."

Utility -- Russ Canzler, Tennessee Smokies (112 games): Canzler led the Smokies with 21 homers in 2010, slugging more than anyone in the Southern League except West Tenn's Carlos Peguero (23). The 24-year-old played the majority of the year at third base, but he also spent time at first base, in the outfield and as a designated hitter. In addition to posting his career high in homers, the former 20th-rounder in the the 2004 Draft also set season bests in runs (68), doubles (28), RBIs (66) and walks (46).

"He had a great year," Fleita said. "He plays first, third, all outfield positions and he had a heck of a year swinging the bat."

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Chris Archer, Tennessee Smokies (13 games)/Daytona Cubs (15 games): Archer went a combined 15-3 over two levels and his 15 wins, 149 strikeouts and 2.34 ERA were better than any starter in the Cubs organization. After going 7-1 with 82 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings in the Florida State League, Archer won eight games and posted a 1.80 ERA at Double-A Tennessee. Upon his promotion to the Southern League, the former fifth-rounder tossed 32 straight innings without allowing an earned run.

"What he did was hard to top," Fleita added. "He was the Pitcher of the Year in our organization."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Brooks Raley, Daytona Cubs (27 games): In his second year in pro ball -- his first in the full-season Florida State League -- Raley went 8-6 with a 3.50 ERA in a league-high 27 starts. The 6-foot-3 southpaw was 6-1 with a 1.87 ERA after the All-Star break in mid-June, and he allowed one run or fewer in nine of his final 10 starts of the year. After tossing just 10 2/3 innings in '09, the Texas A&M product threw 136 1/3 this year, striking out 97 and walking 43.

"Another guy first [full] year out of the Draft," Fleita said. "He was really, really tough on left-handers and he had a heck of a year. He's got a great arm."

Relief pitcher -- Jeff Beliveau, Daytona Cubs (40 games)/Peoria Chiefs (six games): After six appearances out of the bullpen in the Midwest League, Beliveau quickly got promoted to Daytona, where he was used in a variety of roles. The left-handed native of Rhode Island was solid in long relief and effective in a setup role. He converted two save situations after not picking up any in his first four attempts. Twenty-one of Beliveau's 40 appearances involved multiple innings and he finished the year with a 4-2 record and a 2.66 ERA over 64 1/3 innings.

"He's a swing-and-a-miss guy. They swung and missed at pretty much everything he threw up there. He had a ton of strikeouts and he's another guy who had a breakout year," Fleita said.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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