The Mariners announced their annual Minor League Awards Thursday, naming Chris Taylor (High Desert/Jackson) Player of the Year, RHP Taijuan Walker (Jackson/Tacoma/Seattle) Pitcher of the Year and RHP Carson Smith (Jackson) Relief Pitcher of the Year. The Mariners also selected Abraham Almonte (Jackson/Tacoma/Seattle) the winner of the Heart and Soul award.
All will be saluted Saturday at Safeco Field prior to Seattle’s contest against the Oakland Athletics.
Taylor, 23, batted .314 with 100 runs scored, 28 doubles, 11 triples, eight home runs, 60 RBIs, 84 walks and 38 stolen bases in 134 games combined between Jackson and High Desert. He led all Mariner farmhands with 108 runs scored, while ranking third among all minor league players. He also led Mariners minor leaguers in hits while ranking second with 38 stolen bases.
A native of Virginia Beach, VA., Taylor, attended the University of Virginia from 2010-12 and was Seattle’s fifth-round selection in the 2012 MLB draft.
Walker, 21, split the season between AA Jackson and AAA Tacoma, going a combined 9-10 with a 2.93 ERA while averaging 10.19 strikeouts per 9.0 innings pitched. He was promoted to Tacoma from Jackson and made his AAA debut June 25 vs. Fresno at Cheney Stadium. Walker went 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 11 starts with the Rainiers prior to being selected by Seattle Aug. 30.
Walker recorded a win in his debut Aug. 30 at Houston and went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts. Walker pitched in the All-Star Futures Game and was selected as a Southern League All-Star. Walker was originally selected by Seattle in the supplemental first round (43rd overall) in the 2010 June draft.
Smith, 23, went 1-3 with 15 saves and a 1.80 ERA (10 ER, 50.0 IP) in 44 relief appearances with the Generals. He also allowed only one earned run over his final 28.2 innings, including tossing a season-high 16.2 scoreless innings to close out the season. Smith was the Mariners eighth-round selection in the 2011 amateur draft.
Almonte, 24, was called up by the Mariners Aug. 30 and made his debut that night against the Astros. He has reached base safely in each of his 18 games with an at-bat, batting .279 (19×68) with 10 runs scored. Almonte combined to hit .300 with AA Jackson and AAA Tacoma. His minor league highlight came May 29 at Colorado Springs and became the first Rainiers player to collect six hits in a game since Jerry Owens Aug. 25, 2009 at Fresno.
Almonte was also one of two Mariners farmhands this season to hit for the cycle, joining infielder Carlos Triunfel when he accomplished the feat April 27 at Chattanooga with Jackson.
The Mariners acquired Almonte from New York (AL) Feb. 13, 2013 in exchange for RHP Shawn Kelley.
The Mariners are off Thursday and begin a season-ending, three-game series with the Oakland Athletics Friday at 7:10 p.m.