Suns shine for SL postseason All-Stars

Late-blooming Villanueva honored for dominant season

Elih Villanueva led the Southern League in ERA at 2.17 and shutouts with three. (Scott Jontes/MiLB.com)

By Brendon Desrochers / MLB.com | September 1, 2010 9:01 AM

The Jacksonville Suns shined on Wednesday when the Southern League selected four members of the South Division first-half champs to the postseason All-Star team. Third baseman Matt Dominguez, shortstop Osvaldo Martinez, utility man Vinny Rottino and right-handed pitcher Elih Villanueva give the roster a North Florida feel.

Top hot-corner prospect Dominguez is tied for the league lead in games played, and he's added 14 home runs and 76 RBIs. Scouts are nearly unanimous on Dominguez's ability to pick it in the field as well.

Shortstop Martinez is tied for the league lead in runs scored (86), tied for third in hits (149) and in the top 10 in batting (.302). Rottino, who has caught and played left field, right field and first base this season, is just ahead of Martinez in the batting charts at .304.

Villanueva, who turned 24 in July, emerged as a dominant starting pitcher this season. He leads the Southern League with a 2.17 ERA and is second with 14 wins. He's shown terrific endurance, topping the circuit in innings pitched (174), complete games (four) and shutouts (three).

The Florida State product's top competition for best Southern League pitcher has come primarily from Carolina's Tom Cochran. The lefty is second in ERA (2.69) and is also in the top five in WHIP (1.24) and batting average against (.237), though Villanueva tops both lists.

The league's Most Outstanding Pitcher award, however, did not go to Villanueva or Cochran but Jacksonville's Tom Koehler. Koehler leads all Southern Leaguers with 16 wins and finished third with a 2.71 ERA. He is second in the league with 139 strikeouts.

The other pitcher on the postseason All-Star team is Montgomery reliever Matt Gorgen. The Biscuit is second in the league in saves with 20 and has a 1.72 ERA in 40 relief appearances. He's currently on Montgomery's disabled list.

Three Tennessee Smokies were named to the team. Robinson Chirinos is the catcher, and Tony Campana and Brandon Guyer make up half of the outfield -- Campana also gets the nod as the top hustler. Guyer is second in the Southern League in both batting (.335) and slugging (.573). Campana, the smallest player in the Southern League, is second in stolen bases (44) and hits (150).

The parts of the offensive lineup not made up of Smokies or Suns is formidable as well. First baseman Johan Limonta of West Tenn is in the SL's top five in RBIs (81), doubles (39), slugging (.481), extra-base hits (55) and total bases (225). Huntsville second baseman Brett Lawrie leads the league in hits (151), extra-base hits (58) and triples (15).

In the outfield, Mobile's Collin Cowgill is tied with Martinez for the league lead in runs scored (86) and is second in total bases (230) and third in RBIs (83). Fellow outfielder David Sappelt may have been the league's outstanding player before being promoted from Carolina to Louisville in mid-August. He leads the league in batting (.361) and on-base percentage (.416) and is third in slugging (.548).

Chattanooga designated hitter Corey Smith rounds out the team. He sits second in the Southern League in RBIs with 86, despite a stint on the disabled list.

There were a few notable players who failed to make the Southern League's final cut. Jacksonville's Mike Stanton was promoted to Florida on June 6, yet he is tied for second in the league in home runs with 21, and his on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.729) would lead the league if he qualified. The league's home-run leader, Carlos Peguero, and RBI leader, Alex Liddi -- both of West Tenn -- also did not make the roster.

Tennessee's Bill Dancy gets the nod as the league's top manager after leading the Smokies to Northern Division titles in both halves and to the league's best overall record.

The complete roster and list of awards are below.

2010 Southern League Postseason All-Star Team
POS PLAYER TEAM
Catcher Robinson Chirinos Tennessee
First Base Johan Limonta West Tenn
Second Base Brett Lawrie Huntsville
Third Base Matt Dominguez Jacksonville
Shortstop Osvaldo Martinez Jacksonville
Outfield Tony Campana Tennessee
Outfield Collin Cowgill Mobile
Outfield Brandon Guyer Tennessee
Outfield Dave Sappelt Carolina
Designated Hitter Corey Smith Chattanooga
Utility Man Vinny Rottino Jacksonville
Best Hustler Tony Campana Tennessee
Right-handed Pitcher Elih Villanueva Jacksonville
Left-handed Pitcher Tom Cochran Carolina
Relief Pitcher Matt Gorgen Montgomery

Most Valuable Player: Dave Sappelt, Carolina
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Tom Koehler, Jacksonville
Manager of the Year: Bill Dancy, Tennessee
Athletic Trainer of the Year: Dustin Luepker, Jacksonville
Groundskeeper of the Year: Ed Attalla, Jacksonville
Best Visiting Clubhouse Attendant: Destin Smith, Mississippi

Brendon Desrochers is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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