11/20/2004 6:04 PM ET
Notes: Shelton wins AFL MVP
Tigers' prospect an offensive force in Arizona
By Jim Street / MLB.com
|Chris Shelton led the AFL in five offensive categories and won the batting title. (Duane Burleson/AP)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A rule kept Chris Shelton in the Major Leagues last season, but his bat could be his ticket to future success with the Tigers.
Almost a year after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, Shelton was named Saturday as the winner of the Arizona Fall League's Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award.
The Grand Canyon Raptors catcher/first baseman won the league batting championship with a .404 average, led the AFL in RBIs (33), hits (46), on-base percentage (.470) and slugging percentage (.667).
"It's always an honor when you get an award like this around this group of talent," Shelton said. "It's pretty special."
After spending the 2004 season as a seldom-used reserve on the Tigers' 25-man roster, Shelton said he looked forward to playing in the AFL because he needed some at-bats.
"The Tigers had to keep me on their roster (because of the Rule 5 Draft rule) and I only got 45 at-bats," he said. "I got another 60 or so on a rehab assignment, but I came here with the idea of having good at-bats and play as hard as I could."
He did all of that and more and the 24-year-old said he couldn't explain the impressive numbers he accumulated.
"I didn't play a whole lot during the season," he said. "I don't want to say I was more fresh than other players, but I really needed to be here and was really looking forward to it.
"Something just happened for me. I saw the ball real well here, got a lot of pitches to hit and I didn't miss them. Maybe I put some pressure on the Tigers to keep me around next year," he smiled.
Shelton returned to his home in Salt Lake City after Saturday's AFL Championship game and will take some time off before getting ready for Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla.
"I want to have a good camp and see what happens," he said. "If the Tigers send me to (Triple-A) Toledo, I'll go there, play as well as I can and force the issue a little bit."
Shelton becomes the third player to win the MVP Award that honors the memory of Black -- the 1952 National League Rookie of the Year with the Brooklyn Dodgers and first African-American player to win a World Series game -- who passed away on May 17, 2002.
Remembering Stenson: Two days after being selected as the first recipient of the Dernell Stenson AFL Sportsmanship Award, Royals minor league third baseman Mark Teahen recalled watching the late Reds player compete in the
The award is named after the former Reds prospect, who was murdered last November while in the midst of a terrific AFL season.
"I didn't know that much about him, but I happened to be here when (Stenson was killed)," Teahen said Saturday after being presented a plaque from AFL Executive Director Steve Cobb. "I was living with a guy who was playing in the Fall League so I got to see Dernell play a few times.
"He definitely stood out. He hit the ball all over the field and also went about his business the right way."
Teahen, who batted .385 and drove in 25 runs for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, said being the first winner of the Stenson Award makes it even more special.
"Hopefully, it starts a long lineup of players who go about playing the game the right way," he said. "Even if you are struggling, respecting the game and being a good teammate are important."
Teahen was one of six finalists for the Stenson Award. The other five nominees were: Curtis Granderson (Detroit), Grand Canyon Rafters; Ben Johnson (San Diego), Peoria Javelinas; Pedro Lopez (White Sox), Mesa Solar Sox; Freddy Sanchez (Pittsburgh), Peoria Saguaros; Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee), Scottsdale Scorpions.
Getting offensive: The 2004 season proved to be the AFL's biggest
offensive campaign in the league's 13-year history. Clubs combined to score
nearly a run more per game in 2004 than in any other season. The league batting
average, at .292, smashed the previous high of .285 set last season. Teams
averaged over 12 runs per game, eclipsing 11-plus runs per contest set in 2003.
AFL teams averaged over 20 hits per game and boasted a .444 slugging percentage,
both tops in league history.
Jim Street is a reporter MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.