Yesterday we crowned Brian O’Grady as our Cincinnati Reds Minor League Player of the Year for the 2019 season. Today we are handing out the award for the Cincinnati Reds Hitter of the Year for the 2019 season and it’s going to Jose Acosta.
Is it rare to hand the hitter of the year award to a player from rookie ball? Yes it is. But what Jose Acosta did in 2019 was awfully rare, too. The 19-year-old switch hitter began his season with the Dominican Summer League Reds. From the start of June through August 13th that’s where he stayed, playing in 43 games. On the 13th, in what would be his final day playing for the DSL Reds in the regular season he went 3-3 with 2 walks. That raised his average to .403. It raised his on-base percentage to .503. And is raised his slugging percentage to .611.
Two days later he was in the starting lineup for the Arizona League Reds. He barely skipped a beat. He played in 10 games the rest of the season before the AZL season ended. Jose Acosta had 2 hits in 7 of those 10 games. Ultimately he would hit .370/.396/.478 in those 10 games. That gave him a line of .395/.481/.579 on the season between his two stops. He fell just one hit shy of hitting .400 for the entire season.
If that weren’t impressive enough, the third baseman also stole 26 bases and was caught just once during the year. Let’s note that he played all of 53 games between his two stops in rookie-ball this year. He also walked 31 times and struck out just 42 times.
But if you want to see something just crazy, sit down and get ready. As a right-handed hitter this season he went 26-49 with 6 walks and just 3 strikeouts. For those who didn’t have a calculator handy, that’s a .531 average. He also slugged .776 thanks to 5 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run. It’s not often that the weak side for a switch hitter posts a .349/.451/.514 line from that side, but when you hit .531 from the other side…. well, that will do it.
As was written about at the end of the season, Jose Acosta’s .395 average for the year is the best in the organization at any level since 1978 when Gary Redus hit .462 for the Billings Mustangs. No one else has hit higher than .382 dating back to at least 1970 in the Reds farm system.
What separated Jose Acosta from the others?
With Brian O’Grady being named the Player of the Year he was ineligible for this award. That left Aristides Aquino and Jose Acosta as the two players being considered for the spot. There’s something to be said about doing it in the upper minor leagues versus doing it at the complex levels. The competition is absolutely tougher at those levels further up the chain.
With that said, Jose Acosta’s OPS in the Dominican Summer League was 418 points better than the league average. For as good as Aristides Aquino was this year for Louisville, his OPS was only 205 points better than the league average in the International League. That’s not even HALF of the 418 points better than the league average that Acosta was. When we also add in the 26 steals it just makes things even more clear in his favor. And yes, I know this is the HITTER of the year award – but it’s just easier to call it that than the “offensive player of the year” award. Steals count.
In most seasons in recent memory, Aristides Aquino would have gotten the nod here. But this year simply isn’t it. Jose Acosta put together the best offensive season from a player at the complex levels since I’ve been covering the farm system, which dates back to 2006.