In a deep pool of candidates, El Paso Chihuahuas infielder Ty France emerged at the top, narrowly beating out Albuquerque Isotopes outfielder Sam Hilliard , to earn the Pacific Coast League's 2019 Rookie of the Year. France joins outfielder Alex Dickerson (2015) and infielder Carlos Asuaje (2016) as the players in El Paso's short history to win the award.
France, who was tabbed by Baseball America as San Diego's No. 28 prospect entering the season, had been the Chihuahuas everyday third baseman prior to his promotion to the Padres. In 76 games with the Chihuahuas, France hit .399 (118-for-296), with 118 hits and 27 home runs. His .399 average would have set a new modern era PCL record (.384, Jose Martinez, Omaha, 2015) and would have been the highest batting average since Ox Eckhardt also hit .399 in 1935, but France did not meet the 2.7 at-bats per team game minimum to qualify. The all-time PCL record is also held by Eckhardt, which he set in 1933 with a .414 batting average.
Video: El Paso's France rips three-run blast
The Downey, Calif., native did not hit below .359 for a 30-day period that he was in Triple-A, and his batting average for the season never fell below .303. His average dipped to .303 just eight games into the 2019 season on April 11, and never went below .351 from that point on. Frances's most prolific offensive month came in June, when he hit .359 (28-for-78) with 10 home runs and 27 RBI while posting a 1.272 OPS in just 21 games.
France adds another accolade to a growing list for his play this season, as the 25-year-old was named both a mid- and postseason All-Star. France, who started at third base for the PCL in the Triple-A All-Star Game, was the All-Star MVP after hitting a solo home run in the PCL's victory over the International League. France was also named PCL Player of the Week twice during the 2019 season (April 21 and June 16).
Video: Chihuahuas' France bashes All-Star blast
The Padres 34th round selection of the 2015 draft out of San Diego State University began the season with the Chihuahuas and hit.418 (33-for-79) with nine home runs and 28 RBI in 19 games before making his Major League debut on April 26 against the Washington Nationals. In his only at-bat of the game in his debut, France notched his first Major League hit off Nationals relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough as a pinch-hitter.
In his minor league career, the seventh-year professional has played in 534 career games, hitting .294 (575-for-1957) with 69 home runs and 352 RBI. He has been a mid-season All-Star each of the last three seasons including back-to-back midsummer classic nominations in 2017 and 2018 with the San Antonio Missions, then in the Double-A Texas League.
Since 1998, the PCL's field managers, media representatives and broadcasters have voted for the best first-year Triple-A player. Along with France and Hilliard, a total of 10 players, from eight different teams, received vote(s). France joins the likes of Felix Hernandez (2005), Howie Kendrick (2006), Adam Eaton (2012) and last year's recipient, Josh Fuentes, to have won this award.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.