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November 23, 2010 at 10:14 AM

Can Dustin Ackley buck the Arizona Fall League MVP curse? The bar has been set pretty low

UPDATE 11:21 A.M.: The Mariners have signed RHP Yusmeiro Petit, LHP Chris Seddon and OF Mike Wilson to minor league deals.
Some news breaking today is that the Tigers have signed catcher Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50 million deal. Martinez was one of those free agents who seemed to make sense for the Mariners if they were willing to open their wallets a bit. Not this time.
One of the readers commenting on the previous post asked to see a list of all winners of the Joe Black Award for Arizona Fall League MVP. There’s a Brad Pitt joke in there someplace, but I’ll let you make it. As you know, Dustin Ackley just won the award this year and that could bode well for his future.
But combing the list of past Joe Black winners, it quickly becomes obvious that — other than Tommy Hanson in 2008 — being named AFL MVP was the highlight of a lot of careers rather than a springboard.
A lot of you don’t realize the M’s had another Joe Black MVP winner in their midst just last season. That’s right, the M’s had Chris Shelton (Photo Credit: AP) with them for part of 2009. Shelton won the award back in 2004, got off to a great start with the Tigers, then saw his career sputter.
Here is the full list of winners since the AFL began naming an MVP in 2002.
2010 — Dustin Ackley (Mariners), 2B, Peoria Javelinas
2009 — Grant Desme (Athletics), OF, Phoenix Desert Dogs
2008 — Tommy Hanson (Braves), RHP, Mesa Solar Sox
2007 — Sam Fuld (Cubs), OF, Mesa Solar Sox
2006 — Chip Cannon (Blue Jays), 1B, Phoenix Desert Dogs
2005 — Eric Duncan (Yankees), 3B, Grand Canyon Rafters
2004 — Chris Shelton (Tigers), DH, Grand Canyon Rafters
2003 — Jason Dubois (Cubs), OF, Mesa Solar Sox
2002 — Ken Harvey (Royals), 1B, Scottsdale Scorpions

The first winner on the list, Ken Harvey, played 271 games with the Royals from 2001-2005, posting a .733 on-base-plus-slugging percentage as a first baseman. Kind of what Casey Kotchman has done at the plate the past three years. He was last seen playing for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independant leagues, hoping for a promotion to the King Crabs. Nah, I made that last part up. About the King Crabs. He did play for the Blue Crabs. We’ll file that one as a “miss” on the Joe Black scale.
The 2003 MVP, left fielder Jason Dubois, played 86 games for the Cubs and Indians in 2004-2005, seeing pinch-hit duty for much of it and posting a .729 OPS. He’s been bouncing around Class AAA, last with the Iowa Cubs in 2010. So, far, another “miss”.
We told you about Shelton, our third “miss” on the list, from 2004.
In 2005, Eric Duncan , a former first-round pick by the Yankees — and their highest-rated prospect that year — won the AFL MVP. He’s been mired in the minors since, posting a .633 OPS in four AAA seasons. Last year, he played in AA for the Braves and got his OPS up to .719. But he’s not quite MLB material. Another “miss”.
On to Chip Cannon of the Blue Jays, the 2006 MVP. I left Toronto that year for Seattle, so I didn’t get to see or hear much of anything about Cannon. The folks still back in Toronto haven’t heard much about him either, since he played only 80 games at the AAA level, then moved on to the Rays, where he played only eight games in AA in 2009. A definite “miss” there.
In 2007, we had Sam Fuld of the Cubs winning the AFL MVP. The outfielder has appeared in 98 games, posting a .711 OPS for the Cubbies so far. If making the majors qualifies as a “hit” he’d be a hit. But teams are looking for more out of their AFL MVPs — witness Shelton — and thus far, Fuld is looking like he’ll fall on the “miss” side of the ledger as more of a bit player at age 29.
We get our first real “hit” with pitcher Tommy Hanson of the Braves, the 2008 AFL MVP, who has completed two MLB seasons with Atlanta. Hanson is 21-15 with a 3.16 ERA so far in the bigs as a starter. He’s running a nearly 3-1 K/BB ratio. That’s a true “hit” for any team, especially for a 22nd-round pick.
Grant Desme of the A’s won the MVP in the AFL last year. He then promptly retired to join the priesthood. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.
So, there you have it — other than Hanson in 2008, Ackley doesn’t have a whole lot to surpass in order to be remembered as possibly the best Joe Black Award winner ever. Wish him luck. Based on this list, he might need it.



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