Seattle Mariners Executive Vice President & General Manager of Baseball Operations Jack Zduriencik and Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn announced today the Mariners Minor League Awards.
Infielder Chris Taylor (High Desert/Jackson) was named Player of the Year, while right-hander Taijuan Walker (Jackson/Tacoma/Seattle) was named the Starting Pitcher of the Year. Right-handed pitcher Carson Smith (Jackson) was named Relief Pitcher of the Year and outfielder Abraham Almonte (Jackson/Tacoma/Seattle) received the Heart and Soul Award for his exemplary play and leadership.
Taylor, Walker, Smith and Almonte will be honored in a pre-game ceremony at Safeco Field prior to the Mariners game vs. the Athletics on Saturday, September 28.
Taylor, 23, hit .314 (165x525) with 100 runs scored, 28 doubles, 11 triples, 8 home runs, 60 RBI, 84 walks and 38 stolen bases in 134 games combined between Jackson and High Desert. He led all Mariners farmhands with 108 runs scored, while ranking 3rd amongst all minor league players. He also led all Mariners minor leaguers in hits (T8th-most in the minor leagues), while ranking 2nd with 38 stolen bases. Taylor was one of three minor league players this season to hit over .300 with at least 100 runs scored, 45 extra-base hits, 30 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of at least .400, joining Byron Buxton-Cedar Rapids/Ft. Meyers (.334, 109 R, 49 EBH, 55 SB, .424 OBP) and George Springer-Corpus Christi/Oklahoma City (.303, 106 R, 68 EBH, 45 SB, .411 OBP). Taylor began the season with High Desert and reached base safely in 29 straight games, which was the 8th-longest in the California League this season. He was promoted to Double-A Jackson on June 29 and reached base safely via a hit or walk in 59 of 67 games. Taylor, a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, attended University of Virginia from 2010-12 and was the Mariners 5th round selection in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Walker, 21, split the season between AA Jackson and AAA Tacoma, going a combined to go 9-10 with a 2.93 ERA (46 ER, 141.1 IP) and averaged 10.19 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched (160 strikeouts) over 25 starts. He was promoted to Tacoma from Jackson and made his Triple-A debut on June 25 vs. Fresno at Cheney Stadium. Walker recorded the win vs. the Grizzlies, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 4 in 6.0 innings in his Triple-A debut. Overall went 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA (23 ER, 57.1 IP) in 11 starts with Tacoma prior to being selected by Seattle on Aug. 30. He recorded a win in his Major League debut on Aug. 30 at Houston and went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 3 starts with the Mariners. Walker pitched in the All-Star Futures Game and was selected as a Southern League All-Star this season. In four minor league seasons he has combined to go 23-26 with a 3.49 ERA and recorded 400 strikeouts (9.69 K/9.0 IP). He was originally selected by Seattle in the supplemental first round (43rd overall) in the 2010 June Amateur Draft.
Smith, 23, went 1-3 with 15 saves and a 1.80 ERA (10 ER, 50.0 IP) in 44 relief appearances with the Generals. After allowing five runs over his first six appearances to start the season, Smith allowed only five earned runs over his last 38 games. During this stretch he went 1-1 with 12 saves and a 1.01 ERA (5 ER, 44.2 IP). He also allowed only 1 earned run over his final 28.2 innings (22 G/0.35 ERA), including tossing a season-high 16.2 scoreless innings to close out the season, July 23-Sept. 2. Smith limited opponents to a .183 average (33x180), while walking 17 and striking out 71. He struck out at least one batter in 39 of 44 games, including recording 21 multi-strikeout performances. He was the Mariners 8th round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas State University. Smith is 6-4 with a 2.41 ERA (30 ER, 112.0 IP), while striking out 148 in 93 relief appearances in his two-year minor league career.
Almonte, 24, was called up by the Mariners on August 30 and made his Major League debut that night vs. the Houston Astros. He has reached base safely in each of his first 18 career games with an at-bat, batting .279 (19x68) with 10 runs scored, 4 doubles, 2 home runs and 9 RBI. Almonte combined to bat .300 (132x440) with 23 doubles, 6 triples, 15 home runs, 68 RBI and 26 stolen bases in 123 games with AA Jackson and AAA Tacoma. In 94 games with the Rainiers, Almonte hit .314 (106x338) with 17 doubles, 5 triples, 11 home runs, 50 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He ranked 4th in the PCL in on-base percentage (.403), 10th in slugging percentage (.491) and 15th in stolen bases (20) following his Triple-A debut on May 13. Almonte recorded 6 singles on May 29 at Colorado Springs and became the first Rainiers player to collect 6 hits in a single game since Jerry Owens on August 25, 2009 at Fresno. He was one of only 10 minor league players to record at 6 hits in a game this season. Almonte was also one of two Mariners farmhand this season to hit for the cycle, joining infielder Carlos Triunfel when he accomplished the feat on April 27 at Chattanooga with Jackson. Almonte was acquired by Seattle from New York (AL) on Feb. 13, 2013 in exchange for RHP Shawn Kelley. The native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2005.