Here we are, Labor Day Weekend, and with that, the end of the minor league season.
While roughly 170 towns across the US and Canada begin to wind down their seasons of baseball, it also is time for end-of-season awards.
The Carolina League has announced its 2014 year-end all-star team. Featured on this year’s squad are Salem Red Sox INF Reed Gragnani (Richmond) and 4 Potomac Nationals sluggers.
Gragnani, a former UVA player, is batting .298 (tied for 2nd in the league) with 53 RBIs in 98 games so far. (Only a recent 3-16 slump has made that average sink below .300.) The 2013 draft choice also made the Carolina League mid-season all-star team this year. He is a utility infielder who can play many positions, so this is a young prospect to watch. He will turn 24 this Friday. Gragnani is a big part of why the Salem Red Sox will be getting the chance to defend their 2013 Carolina League championship.
Meanwhile, while Gragnani has delighted fans in Virginia’s lower valley, Virginia’s Potomac Capital region is excited about the Potomac Nationals. Playing just 22 miles from homeplate at Nationals Park, the Potomac Nationals are headed to the playoffs for the fifth time in seven years, and will host the entire first round of the postseason. Their success in 2014 was a wonderful team effort, but 4 Potomac sluggers led the way.
1B Shawn Pleffner is batting .298 (tied for second in the league!) with 44 RBIs in 95 games so far, is tied for 13th in the Carolina League in hits, and was a mid-season Carolina League all-star.
SS Stephen Perez is batting .258 thus far, but is tied for 10th in the league in hits and is 5th in the league with 69 runs scored. Like Pleffner, Perez was also a mid-season Carolina League all-star.
2B Tony Renda is batting .304, tops in the Carolina League, and is 4th in the league with 73 runs scored. Not a power bat, Renda still finds any way he can to help the team win, as evidenced by his 4th-best-in-the-league .377 OB%.
DH Oscar Tejeda batted .270 with 16 homers and 65 RBIs in 94 games with Potomac this year. His .270 average is 8th and his 65 RBIs are tied for 6th. Those numbers are impressive by themselves, but when you add in the fact that Tejeda was promoted to AA Harrisburg on July 28th, that makes a statement about this 24-yr old slugger.
While Potomac has had to deal with a slew of promotions of key players, they still have kept the focus on winning on the field. Pleffner, Perez, and Renda have helped lead the charge with their bats all season, but Potomac could not have won both halves under crazy circumstances without the leadership on Manager Tripp Keister, the 2014 Carolina League manager of the Year.