The River City Rascals still have baseball to play and series to win, but a couple Rascals have already added some new hardware to their trophy case before the playoffs even begin. Catcher Mike Jurgella was named a Postseason All-Star, and pitcher Nick Kennedy won the Fran Riordan Citizenship Award.
Mike Jurgella played 50 of the 96 games for the Rascals at catcher with only one error. At the plate, he was equally impressive with a .302 average and .839 OPS. Jurgella made a huge leap in his second year in the Frontier League. Last season with the Evansville Otters, he only played in 11 games and hit just .179. While 24 years old is not exactly young in the baseball prospect world, that jump might get Jurgella some looks, especially at that position. Interestingly, Josh Ludy, the catcher Jurgella split time with, was selected to the mid-season All-Star game.
Nick Kennedy received the Fran Riordan Citizenship Award for his work with special needs students at Fort Zumwalt East. On the field, Kennedy was nearly as much of a role model. Kennedy, in essentially the setup role, threw 40 innings this season with a 2.90 ERA, the fourth best on the Rascals. 2016 was the fifth season with the Rascals for the University of Kentucky alum. The award is named for Fran Riordan a player and coach who spent 16 years and was inducted into the Frontier League Hall of Fame before he left the Florence Freedom in 2014 to manage in the A’s minor league system.
The case could easily be made that at least two other Rascals were snubbed by the combination of “general managers, coaching staffs, and local media in all of the Frontier League markets” who voted for the postseason awards. Closer Zac Treece and shortstop Josh Silver put together two of the best seasons in the Frontier League and yet received no notice for their achievements.
The only explanation for Treece’s lack of recognition on this list is the voting was done too early. During the Rascals 11-game winning streak, which ended two days before awards were announced, Treece recorded five saves. He ultimately ended the year one save behind the guy who was named the Postseason All-Star Relief Pitcher — 23-22. Randy McCurry’s Evansville Otters finished 6.5 games ahead of River City, so it could be voters rewarded the better team. However, the fact Treece had fewer chances makes his feat more impressive. Treece also wins by every number that isn’t saves: ERA (1.86 to 2.12), strikeouts (75 to 41), record (3-1 to 3-3), innings pitched (48.1 to 34.0), strikeouts per 9 (14.03 to 10.85), and possibly most amazingly, walks (15 to 16). I’m not sure what else voters could have asked Treece to do to earn their vote. He was the most dominant pitcher in the first half, so they sent him to the All-Star game. He was the most dominant pitcher all season and they didn’t name him the best relief pitcher. Go figure.
The argument against Josh Silver is stronger because he only played in 64 games. However, the reason he only played in 64 games is because Silver hit like Ted Williams for the first month of the season and earned a contract from the Chicago Cubs. The 26-year-old spent over a month with the Cubs’ Single-A affiliate, the South Bend Cubs. When he was signed, the shortstop was slashing .455/.506/.701 with a Barry Bonds-esque 1.207 OPS. Silver hit .250 in his first tour of affiliated ball and was released on July 20. When he came back to the Rascals at the end of July he did not hit at the same insane clip, but he was still able to finish up at .352/.426/.533 in 227 at bats. Santiago Chirino, the recipient of the shortstop spot on the All-Star team, hit .334 but was significantly worse in on-base and slugging ( .370, .407). However, Chirino did have nearly 400 at-bats and played in all 95 games for the CornBelters (1 game was rained out, hence the game missing from the standard 96). Personally, I think Silver would take the contract and shot with the Cubs, even if it didn’t go as well as he would have liked, over the All-Star selection.
The complete list of 2016 Postseason All-Stars and Awards are below.
1B – Aaron Dudley – Normal CornBelters (2015 winner)
2B – Josh Allen, Evansville Otters
3B – Steve Marino, Southern Illinois Miners
SS – Santiago Chirino, Normal CornBelters
C – Mike Jurgella, River City Rascals
DH – Craig Massey, Southern Illinois Miners
OF – Nolan Meadows, Normal CornBelters
OF – Shane Kennedy, Southern Illinois Miners
OF – Andrew Godbold – Florence Freedom
SP – Trevor Foss, Washington Wild Things
RP – Randy McCurry, Evansville Otters
Morgan Burkhart Award (MVP) – Josh Allen, Evansville Otters
Brian Tollberg Award (Pitcher of the Year) – Liam O’Sullivan, Joliet Slammers
Jason Simontacchi Award (Rookie of the Year) – Shane Kennedy, Southern Illinois Miners
Fran Riordan Award (Citizenship)-Nick Kennedy, River City Rascals
Roger Hanners Award (Manager of the Year) – Jeff Isom, Joliet Slammers
Darren Bush Award (Coach of the Year) – Randy Martz, Pitching Coach, Gateway Grizzlies
Trainer of the Year – Andrew Gates, Joliet Slammers
Clubbie of the Year (Sam Hartsfield Award) – Nick Creasey/Alex Schlemmer, Gateway Grizzlies
Robert Ford Award (Broadcaster) – Terry Bonadonna, Windy City ThunderBolts
Writer of the Year- Chris Dugan, Washington Observer- Reporter
Newspaper of the Year – Washington Observer- Reporter
Bob Wolfe Award (Executive of the Year) – Mike Lucas, Windy City ThunderBolts
Organization of the Year – Schaumburg Boomers
Umpire of the Year – Mike Fichter
Commissioner’s Awards of Excellence
Sam Hartsfield (Clubhouse manager, Evansville Otters)
Southern Illinois Miners (On-field Performance, Community Outreach)
Washington Wild Things (Corporate Sales, In-game Entertainment)
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