The Short Season A-level Milk League, which wrapped up play on August 17, and did not have a playoff, but previously announced the season champions as the Aurora Swashbucklers, has announced their player awards for 2017.
The top player was Aurora’s Carlos Lovato, a 22-year-old first baseman originally signed to the Chicago Pit Bulls organization as an amateur scouting discovery out of Puerto Rico. Blessed with the gift of speed, and a patient approach to hitting, Lovato finished his 5th season playing for Aurora with a slash line of .330/.403/.539, along with 4 homers, 47 RBIs and 21 steals in 27 attempts. He led the Milk League in runs, triples and RBIs.
The first baseman also took home a Platinum Stick award for his best-at-position offense. It has been a long road to develop for Lovato, who has been hoping to make the jump to a higher level within the Pit Bulls farm system since his successful 2015 season, when he hit .298 and bombed his first professional home runs in.
The Pitcher of the Year for the Milk League was the young reliever Juan Gonzales of the CFB Borden Black Bears, a Detroit Motorheads affiliate. The 20-year-old Venezuelan went 4-1 with a pair of saves over 16 appearances, but crafted an impressive league-leading 1.37 ERA as well as league-bests in WHIP (0.83) and Opponent Avg (.162).
Gonzales has had an interesting career already, having been initially signed as a scouting discovery in 2013 by Montreal, before being released three years later and then picked up by Dallas. He kept being placed at the Milk League level while developing, and then in May of 2017 left the Bull League to join the Bull Oceanic League, then in its offseason. Without playing any games, he re-entered the Bull League via the draft and was selected in the 13th round by Detroit.
Maybe now, after winning a pitching award, scouts and player development executives will take notice and he can finally rise out of the Short Season A level within the Motorheads system.
The Rookie of the Year award for the Milk League was given to Aurora’s Victor Cuellar, a very speedy second baseman who finished the year with at the top of the runs and stolen bases leader boards. He swiped 34 bases on his way to scoring a total of 47 runs, efforts that helped land him in a tie for 3rd on the WAR leader board, at 2.5. The Washington, DC-native was a minor league signing back in February.