The Florida Rookie League has announced their player awards for the inaugural 2017 season, and New York Minutemen B players ran away with both of them, it was announced today.
First, Justin Cusimano, the hot-hitting first baseman, who already played nearly 100 games at the rookie level over the past two years, only just qualifying under the FRL roster rules for this year, has won the Most Valuable Player award.
The right handed hitting Cusimano, who turns 23 on April 16, made the news frequently through the season, twice taking home Player of the Week, as well as being named Batter of the Month two times. He had Grand Slams twice during the season, and was the star batter in a 5-for-5 effort against the Boston Brawlers B team on February 6. His batting average over the season was .322, he led the FRL in home runs and RBIs with 23 and 51 respectively, but was held to just one hit through 14 at bats during 4 playoff games.
Cusimano beat out Brian Bonner of the Tampa-based Hamilton Crusaders B, and Nate Warner of the Key Largo-based Ohio Oxen B. Bonner hit .357 to lead the FRL, and also blasted a dozen homers during the year. Warner was a power house hitter for Ohio, with 14 home runs, 41 RBIs, and a .333 average.
Meanwhile, a New York Minutemen B pitcher also took home the Pitcher of the Year Award for the FRL. Right-hander Herb Steward had masterful control of his fastball and curveball, working in a changeup and cutter into his repertoire through 13 starts. He finished with a 6-1 record, and impressive 1.52 ERA, and 108 K’s over 82.2 innings. He contributed to a winning effort for one FRL post-season game, striking out 9 out of 25 batters he faced against Ohio.
Bill O’Toole of the Anchorage Aces B placed second in POTY voting and Brenton Beck of the Ohio Oxen B was third. O’Toole was 7-2 in 13 starts, allowing just 1.63 runs on average over a 9-inning game. Beck had an impressive year himself, with a 2.02 ERA and 6-2 record, taking down an average of 11 batters per 9-innings.