When the 2018 season was over it was tough to see how Alex Powers would top it the following year. He was coming off of a year in which he dominated in Double-A, posting a 2.34 ERA out of the bullpen for Pensacola. And yet the right-handed reliever did just that and it’s earned him the 2019 Cincinnati Reds Reliever of the Year Award.
Despite his dominance in 2018 with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Reds sent Alex Powers back to Double-A to begin his 2019 season. It went better than the previous year. Through 17 games and 22.0 innings he had allowed all of three runs, good for a 1.23 ERA. He also racked up 33 strikeouts. That performance earned the 27-year-old reliever a promotion to Triple-A.
When he joined the Louisville Bats he barely missed a beat. There was some time spent on the injured list when he was in Triple-A, but he made 23 appearances with the Bats to finish out the season. And in those games he allowed six runs in 27.1 innings. That was good for a 1.98 ERA. He would also pick up another 33 strikeouts.
Between his two stops on the season he combined for a 1.64 ERA in 40 games and 49.1 innings pitched. He allowed just 34 hits, picked up 8 saves, walked 18 batters, gave up 3 home runs, and he struck out 66 batters. Among relievers his ERA was the best in the organization by a wide margin. Only Andy Fisher also found his ERA under 2.00 on the season within the organization.
What separated Alex Powers from the others?
There were quite a few players in consideration here. Aside from Alex Powers you had very strong seasons by Connor Bennett, Andy Fisher, Joel Kuhnel, Matt Pidich, and Dauri Moreta. A guy like Tanner Cooper or Alec Byrd from the short-season leagues deserve a mention here, too.
So what was it that got Alex Powers the nod? Well, a big part of it was that he pitched in the upper levels of the minor leagues. That carried some weight over the guys who pitched in A-ball. But he also had the best ERA in the organization and it wasn’t really that close. Among the contenders for the award, only Connor Bennett had a better strikeout rate than Powers’ 33% (Bennett was at 36.2%). He kept the ball in the park, too – which is rather impressive given that he pitched in Triple-A for more than half of his season and that baseball was flying out like they were playing in little league stadiums.
It was a strong season for a lot of the guys mentioned as being contenders for this one. In most years you could argue for just about any of them to get the nod. But this year a 1.64 ERA is going to get it done when everything else that comes with it looks really good too. And that’s what Alex Powers brought to the table in 2019.