Arkansas Hitter of the Year

Five players from the Arkansas Travelers earned hitter of the week honors during the 2005 season in the Texas League. And the Angels Double-A affiliate ended the year with a .281 average, tied for tops in the league. They also led the league in triples, homers and stolen bases – a nice mix of speed and power.

You may recall a threshold of games played this bozo placed on full season ball at 75 games and Howie Kendrick gets slighted for the second straight league, although he was displayed prominently in the Rancho Cucamonga Hitter of the Year selection.

Along with a 75-game bar came the exclusion of Kendry Morales – who would have been in the running had he played in one – yes, one – more regular season games.

I could have broke my own law and pumped up Morales incessantly in this space but years from now when I am staring out into the ocean I would know that I wronged the candidates who were in the league for a full slate of games. Heck, both earned promotions from High-A to Double-A and that holds far more weight than this silly award.

Alas, the decision had its own consequences for me as the choice on who should win became infinitely tougher.

There were other deserving candidates to mull over. Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, Reggie Willits and even Mike Napoli deserve recognition for their accomplishments.

Aybar batted .302, led the league in hits with 162, placed third in runs scored with 101, was second to teammate Tommy Murphy in triples with ten and ended the year second in the league in stolen bases with 49.

Aybar was one of only four players in the league to record a five-hit game and ended the year with 48 extra base hits to go with his 49 stolen bases. He did ground into 13 double plays – the highest total on the team.

Callaspo led the league with the lowest strikeout to plate appearance ratio, whiffing only once every 22.65 times he came to the plate, with the next closest competitor posting once every 14.29 plate appearances. He walked 28 times to 17 strikeouts in 89 games.

He also had a 22-game on base streak at home – tops in the league. The second baseman played in 89 games for Arkansas before being promoted to Salt Lake and hit .297 with eight doubles, ten homers and 49 RBI's.

Napoli led the Texas League in RBI's with 99, homers with 31, and walks with 88, and despite his posted .237 average he had an on base percentage of .372. Napoli homered once every 14.16 at bats, best in the league and flashed some speed, scoring 96 runs and stealing 12 bases in 16 attempts.

Napoli did, however, lead all Texas League catchers in errors and passed balls. At the same time, he threw out 47.2 of the baserunners attempting to steal against him.

Willits had a 19-game road on base streak, hit .304 for the year and placed second on the team with a .377 on base percentage. The centerfielder also hit .362 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

A switch-hitter, Willits batted .371 off lefties on the year and ended the year with 75 runs scored and 40 stolen bases in 54 attempts. His 54 walks placed second on the team.

For all his caught stealings, Aybar added a dimension to the team that was unparallel. He was a catalyst for the offense and is well deserving of Hitter of the Year for the Angels' Arkansas affiliate.

Just don't tell Howie Kendrick, and his 31-game on base streak, or Kendry Morales, and his 15-game hitting streak, where I live.

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