By George Farelli
Canadian Baseball Network
Baseball is all about symmetry.
How the foul lines go on forever and how the bases are equal distances apart.
And then there is outfielder Tyler O’Neill.
O’Neill played for coaches Jamie Bodaly and Doug Mathieson with the Langley Blaze as a high school.
This summer is wore a Blaze uniform again ... with the class-A Bakersfield Blaze in the Seattle Mariners farm system.
O’Neill is from Maple Ridge, BC, while Canada’s best position player, Larry Walker is from Maple Ridge.
And O’Neill led all Canuck hitters with 32 homers finishing second behind A.J. Reed, who hit 34 homers for class-A Lancaster and double-A Corpus Christi for most homers in the minors.
O’Neill was second despite the fact he missed two weeks helping Team Canada win gold at the Pan Am Games in Ajax.
Reed hit 34 homers in 622 plate appearances.
O’Neill had 32 home runs in 449 plate appearances.
The outfielder earns the Randy Echlin Memorial award as the Canadian Baseball Network’s top Canadian offensive minor leaguer this season. O’Neill bested London’s Jamie Romak who impressed at triple-A Reno earning a promotion to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Matt Hague, whose father was born in Toronto, which makes him World Baseball Classic eligible in 2017 in voting.
The best pitcher in the minors honors was shared by LHP Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) of the Philadelphia Phillies and LHP Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley, Alta.) of the Blue Jays.
Loewen finished second in ERA, third in saves and batted 1.000 accomplishing his goal: making it back to majors in Year II of his pitching comeback. After 40 games in the minors with double-A Reading and triple-A Lehigh Valley he was promoted to the Philadelphia Phillies appearing in 20 games.
Dawson won 12 games at class-A Lansing and three more at class-A Dunedin to lead in wins. He also led in strikeouts (120) and was third in innings pitched (127 2/3)
So, it’s a B.C. sweep of the top hitter and pitcher award of Canadians ... the best of the 93 Canucks in the minors this season.
Loewen and Dawson beat out RP Jasvir Rakkar (Brampton, Ont.) of the Cubs and LHP Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) who pitched in the Blue Jays system.
Previous winners in the past eight years to make the majors included a pair of two-time winners Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) and James Henderson (Calgary, Alta.). The other winners in the minors to make the majors include Oscar Taveras (Montreal, Que.), last year’s Echlin winner Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.), John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), Scott Mathieson and Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.).
The best of 57 playing either foreign ball or independent league ball were OF Jim Adducci (Burnaby, BC) of the Lotte Giants in Korea at the plate and RHP Karl Gelinas (Iberville, Que.) of the Quebec Capitales in the Can Am League.
Canadian Baseball Network offensive player of the year in the minors, Randy Echlin award _ OF Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC), drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft by Seattle Mariners scout Wayne Norton (Port Moody, BC) for a $650,000 US signing bonus.
O’Neill was the top high schooler in Canada selected and impressed at the Canada Cup at London’s historic Labatt’s Park drawing comparison to another BC bopper: Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC).
The outfielder had 21 doubles, 87 RBIs, while batting .260 with an .874 OPS.
He was a two-time Canadian Baseball Network Player of the Week ...
For Week XX he went 9-for-22 (.409) with four homers and nine RBIs.
For Week XVI he was 12-for-22 (.545) with five homers and 12 RBIs.
Romak, a former London Badger, drafted by Lonnie Greenberg, played 12 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015 hitting 27 home runs and with a career-best 100 RBIs at Reno and earning a DH spot on the league’s postseason All-Pacific Coast League all-star team. He signed with the Yokohama BayStars for the 2016 season.
Hague batted .338 with 11 home runs, 33 doubles and 92 RBIs. He led International League in hits for the third time in five years with 177 and had a .879 OPS-with the Buffalo Bisons this year on his way to winning the triple-A MVP award.
Hague’s contract has been sold to Japan’s Hanshin Tigers.
Canadian Baseball Network pitcher of the year (tie) _ LHP Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) and LHP Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley, Alta.) of the Blue Jays.
Loewen emerged as a dominant reliever for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, not allowing a run in 21 of his last 22 appearances.
A lot of players would have quit earlier after being demoted to double-A Reading.
A lot would have hung them up in July of 2008. A former No. 4 overall draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2002, his pitching career was seemingly over due to a stress fracture in his pitching elbow.
Some might have packed it in after quitting pitching, taking up hitting and making it to the majors in 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 as a September call up. He had six hits, including a homer against his old team the Orioles in 32 at-bats before his release. He didn’t quit after being released spending a year hitting in the New York Mets system and a year hitting in the minors with the Jays.
Unable to find a work to swing the bat for 2014 he went back to pitching despite the risk of further injury.
Loewen was offered a minor league deal by Philadelphia in April 2014. It was not a smooth transition, as control issues prompted a shift him to the bullpen for this season.
Loewen eventually was demoted to Double-A Reading, where his mechanics were altered by Rafael Chavez, the organization’s pitching coordinator. With new life on his fastball -- clocked at 95 mph -- he returned to Lehigh Valley in mid-June.
Loewen made it back to the majors as a pitcher in 2015 but struggled for the Phillies, though, posting a 6.98 ERA in 19 1/3 innings.
Turning down a chance to re-sign with the Phillies, he signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Dawson had wins for Lansing over the Fort Wayne TinCaps (three times), South Bend Cubs (twice), Bowling Green Hot Rods (twice), Peoria Cheifs, Great Lakes Loons, West Michigan Whitecaps, Lake County Captain and the Dayton Dragons.
He had seven quality starts.
At Dunedin he beat the Daytona Tortugas, the Clearwater Threshers and the Tampa Yankees.
RP Jasvir Rakkar (Brampton, Ont.) of the Cubs farm system led in saves (16) and appearances (41) as well as being fifth in ERA (2.88).
Canadian Baseball Network offensive player of the year in foreign or independent ball _ Jim Adduci (Burnaby, BC) Lotte Giants in Korea.
In Korea, the gold standard for offensive players is membership into the 20-20 club (20 or more homers, 20 or more steals). A total of 39 players have reached the plateau, similar to 30-30 seasons, but not of them were with the Lotte.
Adduci ended the 34-yearr drought stealing second base in the second inning of a game against KT Wiz in Suwon, Gyeonggi, becoming the sixth foreign player to do so joining Jay Davis, Manny Martinez, Doug Clark, Yamaico Navarro and Eric Thames.
He finished with 28 homers and 24 steals while batting .314 with 106 RBIs. He was the only unanimous choice.
Adduci beat out OF Sebastien Boucher (Ottawa, Ont.) of the Ottawa Champions from the Can Am League and Brock Kjeldgaard (London, Ont.) with the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association.
Boucher batted .296 (second), with 98 hits (second), five homers (tied for fifth) and driving in 59 RBIs (fourth)
Kjeldgaard batted .291, with 14 homers (second), 95 hits (third) and knocking in 70 runs (second).
Canadian Baseball Network top pitcher of the year in foreign or independent ball _ RHP Karl Gelinas (Iberville, Que.) Quebec Capitales.
More of a sure thing than taxes is Gelinas dominating Can Am League hitters. He was the best there was in 2015 ... as he was the best pitcher in 2014 (8-6, 3.48 in 21 starts) and the best in 2013 (10-4, 2.98 in 15 starts).
Over the last three years he was a combined 28-13 with a 2.89 ERA in 52 starts.
This season he dominated with a 10-3 won-loss record, a 2.11 ERA in 16 starts as he walked 13 and struck out 88 in 111 innings.
In his ninth season with the Capitals, Gelinas was the most consistent starting capitals. Not only was he the only pitcher to reach the 10-win plateau, his ERA also maintained a 2.11 ERA, third best in the Capitales history behind Michel Laplante (2.06, 1999) and Jeff Duda (2.09, 2012). He has recorded eighth or more wins for the fifth straight years.
Gelinas is the leader for wins in the history of the Quebec organization with 59 and second in the history of the Can-Am behind Isaac Pavlik.
He bested Scott Richmond (North Vancouver, BC) and Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, BC) of Japan’s Yomiuri Giants,
Mathieson led in appearances (63), was third in ERA (2.62), seventh in innings (58 1/3), tied for sixth in wins (three), tied for third in saves (two) and fifth in strikeouts (55).
Richmond led in ERA (1.79), fifth in innings (65 1/3), was third in wins (six) and sixth in strikeouts (54).
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
(Starting in 2011 the award was named after the The Honourable Mr. Justice Randall Echlin, former head of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame selection committee and a life long fan of the game.)
2008 – Tim Smith (Toronto, Ont.) Rangers.
2009 — Tyson Gillies (Langley, BC) Mariners.
2010 — Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) Brewers
2011 – Taylor Green (Comox, BC) Brewers and Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) Jays.
2012 – Oscar Taveras (Montreal, Que.) Cardinals
2013 – Sean Jamieson (Simcoe, Ont.) Diamondbacks.
2014 - Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) Blue Jays.
2015 - Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) Mariners
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
2008 — Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) Braves.
2009 — James Henderson (Calgary, Alta.) Brewers and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) Brewers.
2010 — Scott Mathieson (Langley, BC) Phillies.
2011 – Mark Hardy (Campbell River, BC) Padres.
2012 – James Henderson (Calgary, Alta.) Brewers
2013 – Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) Twins
2014 - Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC) Nationals
2015 - Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) Phillies and Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley, Alta.) Blue Jays.
INDEPENDENT/FOREIGN LEAGUE PLAYERS
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
2008 — Drew Miller (Medicine Hat, Alta.) Calgary Vipers
2009 — Pete LaForest (Hull, Que.) Quebec Capitales and Colin Moro (Calgary, Alta.) Calgary Vipers.
2010 — Drew Miller (Medicine Hat, Alta.) Calgary Vipers.
2011 – Matt Rogelstad (Port Moody, BC) Edmonton Capitals.
2012 – Sebastien Boucher (Ottawa, Ont.) Quebec Capitales.
2013 – Jonathan Malo (Laval, Que.) Quebec Capitales.
2014 - Sebastien Boucher (Ottawa, Ont.) Quebec Capitales.
2015 - Jim Adduci (Burnaby, BC) Lotte Giants, Korea.
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
2008 — Michel Simard (Charlesbourg, Que.) Quebec Capitales.
2009 — Aaron Wideman (Mississauga, Ont.) New Jersey Jackals.
2010 – Aaron Cotter (Kitimat, BC) Sioux Falls Pheasants.
2011 – John Mariotti (Toronto, Ont.) Quebec Capitales
2012 – Jeff Duda (Surrey, BC) Quebec Capitales.
2013 – Karl Gelinas (Iberville, Que.) Quebec Capitales
2014 – Karl Gelinas (Iberville, Que.) Quebec Capitales
2015 – Karl Gelinas (Iberville, Que.) Quebec Capitales
Affliated award winners from
Organizations: Brewers 5, Blue Jays 3, Mariners 2, Phillies 2, Braves, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rangers, Nationals and Twins one each.
Provinces: BC 9, Ontario 5, Alberta 3, Quebec and Saskatchewan one each.
Indy winners from
Provinces: Quebec 7, BC 4, Ontario 3 and Alberta 2.