The Orioles are expected to honor their minor league Player and Pitcher of the Year on Friday at Camden Yards. They haven’t announced the results yet, but the winner of at least one of the two big awards is no mystery.
The other, though, is a really tough call. Heck, it’s almost impossible to separate the primary two candidates for the organization’s annual minor league pitching award.
There’s no question that first baseman Trey Mancini runs away with the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award.
The 23-year-old Notre Dame product was a finalist for various Player of the Year awards throughout the minors.
So it makes sense that he wins the organization’s top prize for hitters after batting a combined .341 with a .375 on-base percentage, 21 homers and 43 doubles at High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.
But how about the Jim Palmer Award winner for the organization’s best pitcher?
It has to be a two-man race between two late-inning relievers that are currently with the big league club: Mychal Givens and Oliver Drake.
Drake, 28, has long been an organizational favorite for his perseverance, tenacity and a deadly split-fingered fastball.
The Navy product was close to unhittable at Triple-A Norfolk. In 44 innings, Drake allowed just four runs (a 0.82 ERA) on 23 hits and 16 walks (0.886 WHIP) while striking out an impressive 66 batters.
He has been pretty good with the Orioles, too, posting a 3.07 ERA with 16 strikeouts in his first 14 2/3 innings.
Normally, you’d hesitate to give a prospect award to someone who is 28. But Drake is such a tremendous story. Selected in the 43rd round out of Navy because most teams didn’t realize he was draft eligible after two years there, Drake was making a name for himself in the organization as a prospect before his career was derailed by shoulder surgery in 2012.
He made it all the way back, debuted in the majors this year and could be a key component in a revamped bullpen next season.
It’s hard to top his story.
But Givens’ story might be even better.
He was selected in the second round in 2009 as a shortstop out of high school in Tampa. But he never hit, batting .247 with six homers in parts of three minor league seasons.
Instead of flaming out and going away like countless draft busts throughout the game, Givens, who threw in the high 90s as a prep pitcher, switched to the mound to give his major league dream another shot. He had plenty of work to do to refine an unorthodox, sidearm delivery -- and he made it happen.
This was his third season as a pitcher, and it certainly qualifies as a breakout year. In 35 games at Bowie, he posted a 1.73 ERA, allowing 38 hits and walking 16 while striking out 79 batters in 57 1/3 innings. He saved 15 games as the Baysox closer.
In the majors, the 25-year-old has continued to succeed. He has already become a key late-inning choice for Orioles manager Buck Showalter. In his first 19 games as a big leaguer, Givens had a 2.02 ERA and a staggering 32-to-4 strikeout-to-walk total.
Both Givens and Drake were tremendous this season and both deserve the Jim Palmer prize. The Orioles can’t make a wrong call on either, and it’s possible they could share it.
Since the pitcher-only award was created in 1988, there has been only one time in which it was shared. That was back in 1993 when Garrett Stephenson and Armando Benitez were co-winners.