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Hoskins, Cozens, and Lively Named Paul Owens Award Winners

Two winners not enough this year as 3 Phillies prospects bring home the award.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Each year the Phillies hand out the Paul Owens Award to the top hitter and pitcher in the organization for that year. This does not mean best prospect, but that certainly factors into the decision. The award also tends to go to upper minors players, with the one recent notable exception being J.P. Crawford's 2014 that was split between Lakewood and Clearwater. This year the Phillies split the hitter award between Reading sluggers Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens. The pitcher award went to Ben Lively who led the minors with 18 wins, the most for a minor league pitcher in a number of years.

The only real doubt on the hitting side was whether it would be one of the two sluggers or both of them. Offensively Cozens hit more home runs (40 to 38) and also stole a large pile more bases than Hoskins. Hoskins walked more beating Cozens by 27 points of OBP, and he also struck out a significantly fewer number of times. In Cozens' favor he played the outfield, mostly in right field but he also played some games in center, while Hoskins was stuck at first base. Scouts and fans are just as split on the pair. It is clear Cozens has more power, more speed, and more positional value. His ceiling is higher than Hoskins and just overall his profile is just more exciting. Those in favor of Hoskins cite Cozens' strikeout rate and the non-existent list of successful major leaguers who struck out over 30% of the time in the minors, but also the significant improvements in approach that Hoskins made in the second half of the year (he walked more than he struck out in August and September). They sum it all up as just thinking that Hoskins has a better chance to hit. Either way it is a debate without a real loser, and both are deserving of the honor.

On a side note, the Paul Owens Award is won a disproportionately large number of times by a Reading hitter. This seems to be because they aren't promoted to the majors midseason and are in the upper minors in a prominent place in the system. Also that ballpark is just bonkers.

On the pitching side, Ben Lively is the compromise candidate. His 18-5 record is probably the biggest thing in favor of him, but he did get to pitch for Reading and Lehigh Valley this year. He was second in innings pitched among minor leaguers (170.2 innings). He was second in strikeouts behind Lakewood RHP Jose Taveras, but Taveras had an ERA half a run higher, 33 fewer innings, and 10 less wins. Lively is not the best pitching prospect in the system, by a significant margin. His ERA was 11th among stateside pitchers that were primarily starters. The problem was the lack of a true competitor. Jake Thompson was on pace to win the award and then he had to go and get promoted to the major leagues. The best year easily was put up by Sixto Sanchez, but it was also only 54 innings and in the GCL. The most dominant pitchers down the stretch were probably Lakewood's Alberto Tirado and Franklyn Kilome. Tirado didn't actually make starts until the second half after failing as a reliever, and Kilome was just flat out awful for a month.

That leaves Lively as the last man standing, and that is not to take away from his year statistically. Split between AA and AAA his line was:

18-5, 2.69 ERA, 170.2 IP, 118 H, 11 HR, 42 BB (2.2/9), 139 K (7.3/9)

That is a very good pitching performance from a guy who was a borderline Top 10 prospect when the Phillies acquired him from the Reds for Marlon Byrd. Lively's profile is as unexciting as his awards case. He is a collection of just kind of decent things wrapped up in deception. His fastball is a straight pitch at 88-92, he mixes in a changeup, curveball, and slider. The changeup is a fringe average pitch, the curveball is a bit loopy, and the slider has gone from an above average pitch to something that is more of a back seat offering. Lively has some deception in his delivery which makes it difficult for righties to pick up the ball, but also leads to some larger platoon splits. Some people see all of this and see a back end starter or a reliever, others don't see how it works in the majors. It seems like the Phillies will give him a chance to replicate his performance in the majors at some point, but he will need to perform because there are a lot of exciting arms on the way. Either way he is better than Luis Garcia winning the award.