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September 12, 2018 at 8:00 AM

SoxProspects.com Awards: Homegrown Player, Ex-Prospect, and Graduate and of the Year

SoxProspects.com award season continues after All-Star hitters were announced on Monday and were followed by All-Star pitchers on Tuesday. Today we cover three of the more widely known award winners, all of whom have graduated from their status as prospects.

Homegrown Player of the Year
Part of the reason the Red Sox farm system is not as elite as in past years is because so many players have recently been traded or graduated. In another year, outstanding performances from Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts or outfielder Andrew Benintendi might have put them in the running for this award with their impressive 2018 performances. However, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts (pictured, left) is not just the SoxProspects.com Homegrown Player of the Year this season, he is the best position player in all of baseball. 

His 2018 season did not come out of nowhere. Entering 2018, Betts was a career .292/.351/.488 hitter with two All-Star appearances and finishes in the top-20 in MVP voting each of the last three seasons. This season, Betts took what was an already impressive track record to the next level and, as of September 11th, he is hitting .342 (best in baseball) with a .433 OBP (second in baseball) and .633 slugging (second in baseball) with 42 doubles, 29 home runs, 116 runs, 71 RBI, and 27 stolen bases. 

It is not just his offense though - he is regarded as one of the best baserunners in baseball, and he continues to produce highlight-reel plays in the field. Defense is especially important for a right fielder for the Red Sox as Fenway Park boasts one of the largest and most difficult to play right fields in baseball. Even the advanced statistics cannot deny Betts' greatness this season with him leading all of baseball in positional player WAR according to both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference. That unrivaled five-tool production is why Mookie Betts was an easy choice for the SoxProspects.com Homegrown Player of the Year.

Ex-Prospect of the Year
After being selected by the Red Sox with the 45th pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, second baseman Jed  Lowrie (pictured, right) spent two and a half years in the Red Sox minor league system before making his Major League debut in 2008. During his time in the minors, he slowly began to elevate his stock, peaking at three on the SoxProspects.com rankings in mid-2008 and even won the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2007. In his Red Sox career, he was never able to achieve that same type of success, hitting .252/.324/.408 in 256 games over parts of four seasons before being traded to the Houston Astros as part of the deal for reliever Mark Melancon.

Now in his second stint with the Oakland Athletics, Lowrie is finally realizing some of the potential he showed as a prospect. Going into Tuesday night's game, the 34-year-old is hitting .274/.359/.464 with career highs in home runs (21) and RBI (89). He also made his first All-Star team after hitting .285 with 16 home runs over the first half. It's never too late to have a career year.

Graduate of the Year

Brian Johnson (pictured, left) has had his share of ups and downs in the six years since he was a first-round pick in 2012. Johnson entered a loaded system after being drafted and was ranked 13th on the SoxProspects.com rankings to end the year, relatively low for a first-round pick. However, he was behind the likes of current Red Sox Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley, Blake Swihart, and Brandon Workman. Dominating the minors never seemed to be a problem for the big lefty. Over his career, Johnson has cumulative ERAs below 3.20 at each level with a career 2.69 minor league ERA and 1.13 minor league WHIP. His most dominant year came in 2014 where he had a 2.13 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 132 strikeouts and 39 walks over 143 2/3 innings split between High-A and Double-A, ultimately winning the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.

Despite the early success, after making his debut in 2015 he has seen his share of struggles. One major hurdle was when he took time away from the game in 2016 to get treatment for anxiety. Despite it being three seasons since he debuted, he entered 2018 having not exhausted his SoxProspects.com eligibility, throwing only 31 1/3 innings with a 4.88 ERA. He has almost tripled that total this year, with 88 2/3 innings through Monday split between starting and relief. The results have not been completely dominant (4.36 ERA and 1.47 WHIP), but he has been willing to take the ball whenever needed, an important quality on a team that has seen its fair share of pitching injuries. He has always been a very smart player who is willing to give his all everytime out and has proven to be a nice asset in 2018 for the team with the best record in baseball.

Photo Credit: Mookie Betts by John Minchillo, Jed Lowrie by Nhat V. Meyer, and Brian Johnson by Mary Schwalm

Will Woodward is a Co-Owner and Senior Staff Writer for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPWill.