The Minor League Sports Report named their American Association Most Valuable Player on Friday, and the award goes to Brent Clevlen of the Wichita Wingnuts. While players such as Winnipeg’s Tyler Kuhn and Casey Haerther, Lincoln’s Ian Gac, and Laredo’s Nick Van Stratten received consideration, no one was more deserving than the Wichita Wingnuts player of the year.
Clevlen was among the league leaders in several offensive categories, demonstrating that he is a premium five-tool player. He led the league with a .372 average, which was aided immensely by the outstanding .457 average he had in the last month of the season. While Haerther was slumping slightly, Clevlen was getting hot and that catapulted him into the league lead, winning his first American Association batting crown.
The pure numbers find him in the top 10 in nearly every offensive category in the league. He was seventh in the league in runs scored (76), second in RBI (80) and fourth in home runs (20). He finished second in doubles (33), second in slugging percentage (.647) and second in on-base percentage (.447). For good measure he also stole 14 bases, walked 51 times and had 56 extra-base hits. Offensively he was just a machine.
He was also outstanding in the field, making just two errors this season while playing virtually every day in center field. He finished with a .991 fielding percentage and had 221 putouts, seventh best in the league.
For the Wingnuts’ center fielder, it was an amazing year, especially considering the dramatic increase in his numbers over last season. While he played exceptionally well last year, his numbers looked pedestrian in comparison to this year’s numbers. Last year he hit .322 with 14 home runs and 51 RBI in 70 games. Last year’s stats were an increase over his 2011 numbers with the team when he hit .310 with 10 homers and 32 RBI in 46 games.
Clevlen’s average fell just one percentage point short of the Wingnuts’ single season record for average set in 2008 by current Wichita manager Kevin Hooper. He did, however, set a club record for doubles in a season.
Clevlen has shown a real baseball intelligence to improve his game each season, and has proven he can learn to adjust to improve his game. The former Detroit Tigers outfielder has proven himself to be not only one of the most skilled players in the league, but also one of the brightest. He has been a true leader and was the natural selection for this award.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA