Hickory Team Award Predictions

Judson Buie
Judson Buie 7 Min Read

The 2024 Hickory Crawdads are loaded with exceptional talent and top Rangers’ prospects, but who will be the best of the best this season? Below are my predictions for team MVP, Cy Young, Most Improved Player, home run leader, stolen base leader, and strikeout leader. Disclaimer: I am only predicting players that I think will be with the Crawdads for the majority of the season, so there may be some key players missing from the predictions.

Team MVP: Anthony Gutierrez

The obvious prediction here is Sebastian Walcott, at just 18 years old, Walcott is already the Rangers’ No. 3 prospect and No. 67 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB. The only concern for Walcott being the team MVP, I just do not see him staying in Hickory for long enough to earn the title. Walcott transcended three levels of the minor leagues last season and if Wyatt Langford is any indication of how the Rangers will be treating top prospects who perform, it may not be long before we see Walcott playing in Arlington.

My pick for team MVP is Anthony Gutierrez, the 19 year-old outfielder ranks as the Rangers No. 7 prospect. Gutierrez trained at the Amaury Nina Academy in the Dominican Republic that also produced MLB talent in the likes of Rafael Devers and Eloy Jimenez, but Gutierrez possesses two key talents that neither Devers or Jimenez do, 55 grade speed and 55 grade fielding. While Gutierrez does not project to be the same caliber of hitter as those that passed through the Amaury Nina Academy before him, expect his power numbers to increase as he continues to grow into his frame. Gutierrez already has a professional approach with a great eye for the zone leading to only 78 K and 26 BB in 313 AB in 2023 across rookie ball and Down East. 

Cy Young: Mitch Bratt

Much like MVP, the easy choice is Brock Porter, but similar to Walcott, I do not expect Porter to be in Hickory long enough to earn the title. For the team Cy Young award, pick your poison between Mitch Bratt (No. 20) and Aidan Curry (No. 19). I am extremely excited to see how both Curry and Bratt perform this season, but my official pick for the award is Mitch Bratt. Bratt spent all of last season in Hickory where he pitched to the tune of a 3.45 ERA in 61.0 innings pitched with 73 K, 17 BB, and a 1.26 WHIP. The lefty hurler has exceptional command of the strike zone leading to very few walks, while also generating a 27.7% strikeout rate last season. Bratt keeps the ball on the ground limiting the long ball as he only gave up 6 home runs in his 61 IP last season generating a 1.23 GB/FB rate with a 41.2% ground ball rate. I believe both Bratt and Curry will have a stellar 2024, but I have Bratt edging out Curry for the team Cy Young due specifically to the experience at the higher level. 

Most Improved Player: Winston Santos

Winston. Santos. Remember the name. Santos struggled mightily in 2023 with a 6.29 ERA and only 88 K in 98.1 IP. Since then, Santos spent a large majority of the off-season working out at the Rangers’ biomechanics lab and has increased his fastball velocity from low 90s’ to hitting 99 MPH while also developing a natural cutting action. How this will play in live games is yet to be seen, but if Santos is able to add 7 MPH to his fastball, that helps the rest of his pitch mix, especially if he is able to tunnel his 55 grade change up with his new and improved fastball. Santos is certainly an intriguing prospect and will be one to watch with his new shiny fastball as he takes the mound on Opening Day.

Team Leaders

Home Runs: Yosy Galan

Abimelec Ortiz led all of the South Atlantic League in home runs in 2023 with 26, could the Crawdads have another league leader in home runs on their hands? Short answer, absolutely. Yosy Galan could be an absolute menace for opposing pitchers. Fangraphs has Ortiz graded at 35/50 hit, 35/60 game power, and 55/60 raw power tools (current/potential), Galan is graded at 20/30 hit, 35/60 game power, and 70/80 raw power. Galan will strike out at a much higher rate than Ortiz, but he has every bit of the same power, if not more. Do not be surprised to see Galan hit 25+ home runs in 2024 after hitting 18 in 2023 and 20 in 2022.

Stolen Bases: Cameron Cauley

I am surprised it has taken me this long to mention Cauley’s name as I am a HUGE fan of his game. With a 70 grade speed on MLB and 80/80 speed on Fangraphs, Cauley can flat out fly. If Cauley can continue to develop at the plate to reduce his 30.1% strikeout rate in Hickory last season and increase his 11.6% walk rate, Cauley could very easily steal north of 50 bags a season. 

Strikeouts: Aidan Curry

The previously mentioned Curry is strikeout machine. Generating 99 K in 82.0 IP good for a 30.8% strikeout rate in 2023 for Down East, Curry looks primed to stay true to that form in 2024 for Hickory. Curry only threw 6.1 innings for Hickory in 2023 for a combined 88.1 IP and 104 strikeouts last season, if Curry can get to 95 IP this season, he very well could top 115 strikeouts.

About

Covering the Texas Rangers farm system since 2019. Credentialed media with the Frisco RoughRiders.

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