I said at the start of the season that I wasn't an expert in any way and didn't want to pass myself off as one. That said, I'm about to pass myself off as an expert. If you disagree with any of the below, please consider one of two things: a) it's quite possible that I am an idiot, and 2) it's quite possible you are an idiot.
Most Improved Player
The choices here are somewhat limited, but Jeff Baisley put up very solid numbers for Kane County this year. It is just his first full pro season, and he was in low-A despite being 23, but Baisley was one of the few offensive highlights for the system. After hitting .252/.362/.413 last season in Vancouver, he was considered a minor prospect at best. For the Cougs' this season he hit .298 with 22 home runs and a very impressive 110 RBI in 466 at-bats.
Most Improved Pitcher
I was somewhat liberal with the definition of improved on this one. Marcus McBeth had played in nearly 300 games entering the season, but most of them were in the outfield. After struggling at the plate for three seasons, McBeth made the transition to relief pitcher last year. In a short 2005 stint with Kane County, the 25 year-old right-hander gave up 11 runs in 19 2/3 innings, but struck out 21. This season for both Midland and Stockton he proved that his transition was more than an experiment. He was the anchor of the RockHounds' bullpen for most of the season, putting up a 2.48 ERA in 54 1/3 innings with 65 strikeouts and just 20 walks. And if he needs to bat, I guess he can't be any worse than Antonio Perez.
Most Disappointing Player
Unfortunately this category had far too many candidates. I wanted to pick somebody who actually had a chance to let us down with his performance, not just his injuries. That person was Cliff Pennington. Before he had time to blame injuries, he just plain sucked. In 21 April games he hit .103 with a double and 21 strikeouts. He bounced back a bit in May and June before being shut down with a hamstring injury, but finished his Stockton campaign with a .203 average and nine extra-base hits in 177 at-bats. Not what you expect from a number one draft pick and Baseball America's #3 prospect in the system.
Most Disappointing Pitcher
It's hard to call Jared Jansford disappointing, but it's honestly how I feel about it. He had some brilliant results for Kane County, but had less than half a strikeout per inning. When promoted to Stockton, he was torn up in his three starts, allowing at least five runs in each. If reports that he was limited to throwing just his fastball are true, it would explain much, but until he starts putting numbers up, it's hard to endorse him.
Most Intriguing 2006 Draft Pick
There were a few intriguing players in the 2006 draft, but the one who stood out was Matt Sulentic. In 144 at-bats for Vancouver, the outfielder hit .354 with 10 doubles and 14 walks. He struggled a bit after moving up to Stockton, but at 18 he has as much upside as any player we took in the draft. It would be fun to see him challenged in 2007.
Most Valuable Player
The player who contributed the most to his team is Hiram Bocachica, but he missed the first two months of the season and really isn't considered a prospect. For that reason, I go with Travis Buck. The 22 year-old outfielder was a doubles machine in Stockton. In his 11 games before being promoted to Midland, Buck hit 12 doubles and finished his Stockton season with a .349 average. He picked up where he left off by hitting five doubles in his first five games for the RockHounds. Scouting on him is that he will generate more power and should see some of his doubles turn into home runs, but we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. In 212 Midland at-bats he hit .302 average with 22 doubles and four home runs.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Jason Windsor went 17-2 between Midland and Stockton this season, and despite the emergence of Shane Komine, was probably the most valuable pitcher. For Sacramento he started by going 12-0 before finally getting tagged for eight runs and a loss. His K:BB ratio of 123:32 shows much promise for the future and even earned him some time in Oakland. Most reports say that his ceiling isn't as high as some of the pitchers in the past for Oakland, but he will almost certainly fit into the big club's future.