Tampa Bay Rays Prospect Blake Snell Claims BASEBALL AMERICA Minor League Player of the Year Award

Lefthander Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays organization is BASEBALL AMERICA’s 2015 Minor League Player of the Year, after leading the minor leagues in ERA. He becomes just the ninth pitcher in 35 years to claim the honor. Past winners of the award include Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and former World Series MVP Josh Beckett.

“Last year, Blake was just another pitching prospect, but he combined development strides with performance like no one else in the minors in 2015,” said John Manuel, editor in chief of Baseball America. “His season ranks with the best performances by a pitcher in the last decade, as he was stingy with runs and profligate with strikeouts.”

A supplemental first-round pick in 2011 out of a Washington high school, Snell vaulted from high Class A Charlotte to Double-A Montgomery and then to Triple-A Durham, where he finished the season. He’s the fourth Rays farmhand to win the award, joining outfielders Rocco Baldelli (2002) and Delmon Young (2005) and righthander Jeremy Hellickson (2011), who was the last pitcher to win the award. Snell is the first lefthanded pitcher to win the award since the Rockies’ Jeff Francis in 2004.

Snell, 22, opened the season with a 46-inning scoreless streak and went on to lead the minor leagues in ERA at 1.41, the lowest mark since Justin Verlander’s 1.29 ERA in 2005. Overall, Snell went 15-4, 1.41, striking out 163 in 134 innings. He allowed just 84 hits, limiting opponents to a .182 average (best in the minors among starters), and walked 53 while posting a 1.02 WHIP. He tied for fourth in the minors in wins and strikeouts and ranked ninth in WHIP.

“He’s very driven and he wants to be a No. 1 starter in the big leagues,” Durham pitching coach Kyle Snyder said. “There’s no question that’s his ceiling, and he’s confident he’ll reach it. Certain guys have confidence, but with certain guys, confidence can be a liability. That’s not the case with Blake.”

BA will present Snell’s award during its awards gala Dec. 8 at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.