Baseball America MiLB Player Of The Year Watch (May 21, 2024)


Image credit: Carson Williams (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

It may feel like Opening Day was just a few days ago, but we’re 45 games into the Triple-A season and 39 games into the Double-A/Class A seasons. That’s nearly one-third of the season in the books, which is long enough that it’s worth taking a first look at who is making a case to win Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award.

It’s very early, but at this time last year, Jackson Holliday had already earned one promotion and was making a case to be MiLB POY. So with the caveat that much will change between now and the end of the season, here’s a handicapping of who’s in a good position so far to win the MiLB POY award.

1. Carson Williams, SS, Rays

Team: Double-A Montgomery (Southern)

Stats: .346/.426/.631 34 R, 12 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 20 RBIs, 16 BB, 36 SO, 10 SB, 3 CS.

His Case: The differences between Triple-A, which plays with the major league ball, and the rest of the minors, which play with a less-lively baseball, are quite pronounced, which helps explain why Williams’ impressive season may be still a bit underrated. The Southern League is where hitting goes to die. The league’s overall stat line is .228/.307/.338, which is well below the .240/.335/.375 averages for the full-season minors as a whole. It’s in a different time zone from the .253/.348/.420 average for the average Triple-A International League hitter or the .267/.359/.444 average for a Pacific Coast League hitter. Williams leads his league in home runs, slugging percentage, extra-base hits, total bases and OPS, and he’s second in batting average and on-base percentage. When you consider that he’s also an excellent defender at shortstop, Williams’ first two months of the season have been exceptional.

2. James Wood, OF, Nationals

Team: Triple-A Rochester (International)

Stats: .353/.457/.564, 36 R, 12 2B, 7 HR, 27 RBIs, 31 BB, 36 SO, 10 SB, 1 CS.

His Case: Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award is not awarded to just the best season in the minors. It’s the best season in the minors by an elite prospect. We want the award to stand the test of time, with apologies for what that means to Erubiel Durazo (the last .400 hitter in the minors), Justin Yurchak and Jon Connolly. If you’re looking for the best season so far from an elite prospect, Wood truly stands out. He’s hitting for average, he’s getting on base, he’s hitting for power and he’s stealing bases. Wood isn’t leading the minors in any major category, but he’s doing almost everything well. What will likely keep him from winning the MiLB POY award is simple: he’s performing well enough that he’s unlikely to be in the minors for long enough to win the award.

3. Jacob Wilson, SS, A’s

Team: Double-A Midland (Texas)/Triple-A Las Vegas (Pacific Coast)

Stats: .438/.458/.652, 21 R, 15 2B, 3 HR, 22 RBIs, 3 BB, 12 SO, 2 SB, 1 CS.

His Case: We’re trying to take a snapshot of where we are eight weeks into the 2024 MiLB season. It’s reasonable to be skeptical as to whether Wilson can come close to keeping this up for the entire season, considering he’s currently hitting for a batting average not seen since Gary Redus was in the lowest level of the minors in 1978. But that’s what he’s done so far, and if he can come close to keeping this up, he has to be viewed as a MiLB POY favorite. Wilson’s bat-to-ball skills are special, especially when you consider he’s a shortstop who provides defensive value as well.

Others Of Note

Double-A Amarillo 1B Deyvison De Los Santos (D-backs): De Los Santos spent spring training trying to earn a spot on the Guardians’ roster as a Rule 5 pick. But when he was offered back to the D-backs, he responded by dominating the Texas League. De Los Santos is hitting .372/.426/.696. He leads the minors with 14 home runs and a 1.112 OPS. He’s among the minors leaders in batting average, slugging percentage and total bases. Working against De Los Santos is the fact that he’s repeating a level he first reached in 2022. He played 113 games for Amarillo last year, so to make a case, he’s going to need to keep producing like this after a promotion to Triple-A.

Triple-A Norfolk 3B/1B Coby Mayo (Orioles): Mayo’s 13 home runs rank second in the minors. If he keeps up that kind of power production and remains in the minors, he’s a candidate to keep an eye on. 

Albuquerque C Drew Romo (Rockies): Romo is a solid defender who is hitting .382/.394/.573, so he has to be mentioned. His 29-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio is a concern for whether he can maintain this, and the Isotopes play in one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball. Albuquerque is hitting .303/.382/.511 at Isotopes Park and opponents are hitting .328/.419/.609 there.

It’s almost impossible for a pitcher to win the MiLB POY award because pitching prospects rarely get to pile up the volume of innings needed to win the award, but Jonah Tong (Mets), Quinn Mathews (Cardinals), Jaden Hamm (Tigers) and Cade Povich (Orioles) have impressed early on.

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