2007 Milwaukee Brewers Award Winners
by Brewerfan Staff
Expectations entering the 2007 season were mixed. Some considered the playoffs a must, others didn't know what to expect from a team that under-achieved the previous season. While the team did miss the playoffs, and suffered through some poor play in the middle of the year after holding a comfortable lead over the Cubs and Cardinals for more than half of the season, they also enjoyed several bright spots.
The team started and finished strong, going 24-10 to start the season and posting a 16-12 record to close out the final month, missing the playoffs by just two games to the Chicago Cubs. Four Brewers (Francisco Cordero, Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Ben Sheets) made the All-Star team, the first time that happened since 1983. Prince Fielder became the youngest player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 50 home runs. Ryan Braun made a huge impression putting up historical numbers as a rookie on his way to being named the league's rookie of the year. Yovani Gallardo was almost an equally impressive call-up and figures to be a part of the team's starting rotation for years to come. Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy started to live up to their hype after several shaky and injury riddled seasons. Corey Hart established himself as part of the heart of the Brewers order along with Fielder and Braun.
The bad started with missing the playoffs, especially when the team held such a commanding lead in the division at the All-Star break. Ben Sheets continued to find ways and different body parts to injure causing him to miss more time. The starting rotation couldn't go deeper than five innings placing more pressure on the bullpen, which eventually faded and completely imploded at times. The team had one of the worst defensive units in all of baseball, with many wishing the Brewers would do something about this rather than pointing to the team's youth and relative inexperience.
That said, it's time to hand out some postseason hardware. Before the season the Brewerfan.net staff took a stab at naming some preseason award winners while tackling five burning questions that would determine the outcome of the 2007 season. Please visit that story to review those predictions:
Now it is time to name the Brewerfan.net Award Winners for the 2007 season. The awards were determined by the collective decision of the Brewerfan.net staff.
Player of the Year: Prince Fielder
The first of three no-brainers, Fielder not only was the player of the year for the Brewers, but also was a candidate to be named the MVP of the National League. As noted above, he was named an All-Star at mid-season and became the youngest player ever to hit 50 home runs. Last year he had "future star" written all over him, and it took him less than a year to officially attain star status. His presence alone will help make the Brewers legitimate contenders in the NL Central.
Two staff members astutely picked Fielder (two others chose Bill Hall, one picked Rickie Weeks), with one incredibly accurate statement in particular: "The King in waiting is about to put up a 40 home run, 120 RBI season. He won't just be the Brewers MVP, he'll push for the league MVP."
Pitcher of the Year: Francisco Cordero
All but one staff member picked Ben Sheets to take home this award before the season started, with the other staffer astutely selecting Coco Cordero as his preseason pick for this honor.
Named an All-Star at the mid-season classic, Cordero's 44 saves were second best in the league, and when his slider was working, which was the case for most of the season, he was virtually unhittable. He gave up only 18 walks and four home runs in 66 appearances, showing that he rarely beat himself and was not prone to the big inning very often, also exhibited by him blowing only seven saves in 53 opportunities. Unfortunately Cordero decided to accept a contract with the division rival Cincinnati Reds.
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun
The biggest no-brainer selection entering the season, Braun's success led to him being named the National League's Rookie of the Year, edging out Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki in an incredibly close vote to join Pat Listach as the only other Milwaukee Brewer to receive this honor.
Braun's rookie season wasn't just good, it was one for the ages.
Jack Voigt Memorial Award (Unsung Hero): Carlos Villanueva
The one award that is open to the most discussion, each member of the Brewerfan.net staff picked a different player, and Villanueva received one of these votes, and I'm sure you could find a way to make an argument for three of the other four nominees (Derrick Turnbow, Claudio Vargas and Jim Skaalen).
Villanueva hit a few bumps in the road that caused the Brewers to send him down to AAA Nashville to work out a few kinks while also preparing his arm for him to be re-inserted into the big-league starting rotation when rosters expanded on September 1, but overall he was solid, getting some key outs in the bullpen being able to go longer than one inning at a time, and also taking the ball every five days as a member of the starting staff.
Impact Callup: Ryan Braun
All but one staff member chose Braun, with the rogue staffer picking Joe Thatcher, who might have won a similar award with the San Diego Padres.
Braun was already mentioned just above as the team's (and league's) rookie of the year, so we'll use this space to give Yovani Gallardo such much deserved love. In most years Gallardo would have been a no-brainer for this award, as he was incredibly impressive upon being called up less than a month after Braun while finishing the season with the big-league club, particularly through some tough times when it seemed as though Gallardo was the only starter than could find a way to win a game.
Minor League Impact Player: Manny Parra
Three members of the staff picked Will Inman to have the biggest impact this season, and he may have finished with this award had he finished the season as a member of the Brewers organization. Angel Salome and Cole Gillespie receive one vote a piece, both of whom had good but not great seasons.
Parra gets the nod not only for stepping up and making a huge impact at both the AA and AAA (where he tossed a perfect game against Round Rock), but also made an impression at the big-league level in limited use. The organization likely is going to take it nice and easy with Parra, as they did towards the end of the season to make sure he wasn't piling too many innings onto his previously shaky throwing shoulder, but Parra's emergence has given the team yet another arm to look forward to with increased expectations heading into the 2008 season.
Minor League Breakout Player: Taylor Green
Five Brewerfan staff members took a stab at the team's 2007 sleeper to emerge, and each one came up with a different name, none of which were Taylor Green. That of course defines a sleeper, but Green's year was so good it prompted him to be named the organization's player of the year. A draft and follow signee that was drafted in the 25th round in the 2005 draft, the left-handed hitting Green was moved from second to third base before the season. He played the entire year with the West Virginia Power hitting .327/.406/.516 with 29 doubles, 14 home runs and 86 RBI. While he's short in stature and in tools, he receives high praise for his work ethic and overall character attributes. Green was also considered for the organization's Impact Player listed just above.
Five burning questions, a review:
Question #1: Name something that will surprise fans about a member of the Brewers starting rotation, good or bad, in 2007.
This was a fun topic, with each staff member picking a different surprise. Among the astute predictions were that the starting rotation would enjoy relatively good health, Dave Bush would lead the team in wins, that Suppan's overall performance would be a little disappointing and that Suppan would not remain undefeated at Miller Park.
Question #2: Will the bullpen find a way to stabilize itself, or will the team need to shuffle the arms regularly to try and find a good and productive fit?
Two staff members felt the bullpen would be the team's biggest weakness, with two others feeling that the Brewers had enough parts to make the bullpen work. One other was confident in a few of the team's late inning arms, but overall wasn't convinced that the team had what it would take to be successful over the long haul.
Without a doubt the bullpen was the team's biggest weakness, and is the biggest area of concern heading into 2008.
Question #3: Ryan Braun participating at the big-league level doesn't seem to be a matter of if but when. When do you see him taking his place with the big-league club?
The staff guessed from mid-May to mid-June, and Braun saw action in his first big-league game on May 25th on the road versus the San Diego Padres. By his third game he was batting third.
Question #4: What player needs to step up the most for the Brewers to enjoy a successful season in 2007?
Three staffers chose Rickie Weeks as the player that most needed to step up and start fulfilling his lofty potential. That pick seems to be particularly astute, as the Brewers offense really started to click when Weeks returned from a temporary demotion to AAA Nashville. The difference was Weeks' batting eye and an increase in power, as he got on base 44% of the time over the final two months of the season, swiping 15 bags in 15 attempts and hit nine of his 16 dingers during the month of September. That type of table-setting set the tempo for the rest of the offense and allowed the Brewers to finish the season strong.
One staff member chose Prince Fielder, who had an MVP-type of season, with another picking J.J. Hardy, who had a breakout season of his own by being named an All-Star.
Question #5: Will the Milwaukee Brewers not only find a way to put together a winning season, but will they make the postseason for the first time since 1982?
Sadly the Brewers did not make the playoffs, missing the postseason by two games to the hated Chicago Cubs. While many national writers picked the Brewers as somewhat of a darkhorse to win the NL Central crown, Brewerfan's staff was split on whether or not 2007 would be the year that the team would end their 25-year drought.
While the staff was split on the playoff chances, we are all in agreement that things continue to look bigger and better for the organization in the coming years. 2008 for sure it's playoffs or bust.
Annual bonus question: Who will be number one on the Power 50 at the end of the season?
Manny Parra is obviously the answer, with Matt LaPorta expected to be named the team's top prospect according to Baseball America. Two members of the staff picked Gallardo to be at the top, not expecting him to pitch 50 innings at the big-league level for him to graduate off of the list. Will Inman got two more votes, but he of course was traded along with Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison for Scott Linebrink. Angel Salome received the last vote, and he was poised to take over the top spot if it weren't for receiving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for taking a performance-enhancing drug.
Parra is more than deserving of the honor, as he has always shown a knack for pitching with the ability to dial up his fastball to the mid-90s, but the system definitely has been thinned after numerous graduations, the Linebrink trade and a pair of suspensions (Salome, Jeremy Jeffress).
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