It was a close race in the voting for who was going to be the 2019 Trenton Thunder Player of the Year. In the end, it went to the player that would end up being the MVP of the Eastern League, first baseman Chris Gittens. Gittens got 51 percent of the vote, edging out reliever Daniel Alvarez by 8 percent.
In 115 games at the Double-A level, Gittens had a slash line of .281/.393/.500 with a career-high 23 home runs and 77 RBIs. He ended up leading the Thunder in home runs (14 more than Isiah Gilliam), RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Plus, he was third on the team in hits with 112.
Gittens, who was the Yankees’ 12th Round pick in 2014, had a full season in Trenton after playing just 53 games there the year prior due to injury. In a system that is flooded with first base talent, it remains to be seen as to whether Gittens starts in Trenton next year or gets the promotion to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
Alvarez gave Gittens a run in the poll and for good reason as the 23-year-old right-hander joined Gittens as an Eastern League All-Star. In 47 appearances, Alvarez was 7-2 with a 2.29 ERA and had 21 saves in 24 chances. He had 76 strikeouts to 23 walks in 58.1 innings while holding the opposition to a .195 batting average.
This season, Alvarez skipped High-A Tampa to start with the Thunder and he ended the season on a dominant note. He had a 1.27 ERA in his final 17 appearances and converted all 11 of his save chances.
While Alvarez doubled his career-high in appearances in 2019 (23 in 2018), he is a reliever to watch in the Yankees system going forward. He did make an appearance with Scranton Wilkes-Barre, so don’t be surprised if he pitches there in 2020.
Two other players that got 2 percent of the vote were shortstop Kyle Holder and the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, right-hander Deivi Garcia. Holder had a slash line of .265/.336/.405 with 9 home runs and 40 RBIs in his first full year in Trenton (112).
As for Garcia, the Eastern-League All-Star went 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA over 11 starts before being promoted to Triple-A in July. He had 87 strikeouts to 26 walks in 53.2 innings of work while holding opponents to a .213 batting average