Because we had so much fun in 2017, we wanted to go back and revisit some of our favorite moments and players from the season. As such, we'll be dishing out some honors. Today: the best pitcher of the season.
Rookie of the Year: Josh Ockimey
It's hard to exceed expectations when you open the year as a top-10 prospect in the system, especially after being named an All-Star two years running. Of course, if there's a player with the mental strength to do the hard things, it's probably Josh Ockimey, who never seems flustered or intimidated and plays the game with the maturity of a 20-year veteran rather than a 21-year-old.
After Ockimey had a breakout campaign with 18 homers for the Greenville Drive in 2016, prospect writers tagged him with high standards but noted his struggles against lefties and a major slide in the second half. Ockimey got out to a tremendous start with Salem. He hit an opposite-field homer on Opening Day, and continued his success through the season's first 10 games, batting .447 with three doubles and a triples as well as an amazing .521 on-base percentage and .658 slugging percentage. Ockimey also registered eight runs, eight RBI and eight walks in that time, earning the first Carolina League Player of the Week nod of the season.
Ockimey was a highlight machine early on for the Sox, batting .343 with three homers and 21 RBI in April (two of his homers coming in a single half of a doubleheader on April 21) before batting .305 with four homers and 25 RBI in May. He also posted outstanding walk numbers, drawing 32 free passes across the first two months of the season. Ock also drew praise for his improved defense, an offseason priority for him. He finished the first half with a .290 batting average and 50 RBI, and started at first base for the Northern Division in the Carolina League All-Star Game at Haley Toyota Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark.
June was rough for Ockimey, as he batted .212 with no homers and five RBI and seemed destined for another second-half swoon. However, he rebounded in July with a .253 average, four homers and 12 RBI. He had a fantastic moment on July 16, smacking a walk-off homer to lift Salem over the Carolina Mudcats 5-4 in 12 innings. Soon after, Ockimey's time with the Sox came to an end, as the Boston Red Sox promoted him to the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs. Ockimey batted .272 in 31 games with Portland, clubbing an additional three homers and driving in 11 runs in his first taste of Double-A.
On the season for Salem, Ockimey posted a .275 batting average with 11 homers and 63 RBI. He led the league with nine intentional walks drawn, finished second with a .388 on-base percentage, and had 66 walks for the fifth-best mark in the league. His 66 walks are tied with Che-Hsuan Lin's 2009 for the second-most in the Red Sox era. For his many accomplishments, Ockimey was recognized as one of the league's top players, earning a nod as the postseason CL All-Star at first base.
Ockimey will likely begin 2018 with Portland, and we won't be surprised if he continues to exceed expectations.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.