Thursday, September 21, 2017

BBM 2017 Summer Awards: Playoff MVP

Tijuana OF Cyle Hankerd
Although he had a largely forgettable series in the Mexican League North Division championships against Monterrey, there were also enough big games over three postseason sets for Cyle Hankerd of newly-crowned LMB pennant winners Tijuana to earn BBM's Playoff Most Valuable Player Award.

The former USC All-Pac 12 pick and Arizona Diamondbacks minor leaguer batted .309 in 16 playoff games for the Toros, leading all LMB players in the postseason with 19 RBIs and tying teammate Corey Brown for most playoff homers with five.  Hankerd also scored 13 runs to tie another TJ teammate, Roberto Lopez, for second in that category behind Brown's 17 counters.  All this despite a five-game dry spell in the Toros' LMB North finals against Monterrey during which he suffered through an 0-for-14 stretch.  But, oh, those games when the hits were flowing!

First, there was Tijuana's opening round series against a pesky Aguascalientes team.  Hankerd went 7-for-19 (.368) in six games against Rieleros pitchers, collecting three RBIs in both Game One and Game Four while socking a solo homer in Game Three.  His performance in the August 24 opening game of the Monterrey series was rock-solid as the 32-year-old Californian belted a two-run homer off Sultanes starter Javier Solano in the fourth inning and lined a run-scoring single off reliever Isaac Jimenez during a wild seven-run seventh.  Although Hankerd's offensive well ran dry the rest of that series, it was the Serie del Rey against defending champion Puebla when he really turned up the heat.

Hankerd went 3-for-5 in Game One on September 5 with a pair of singles and a double, scoring one run and driving in another.  One night later, he lofted a two-run homer off Pericos starter Jaime Lugo in the third to break a scoreless tie in the Bulls' 5-3 win.  After the series shifted to Puebla, he was 2-for-3 with a double, a run and one ribbie on September 8 in TJ's 4-0 Game Three win to put manager Pedro Mere's team one win away from a sweep.  Hankerd went hitless on September 9 as the Pericos kept their flickering hopes alive with a 6-3 win before homering twice and driving in four runs in the Toros' pennant-clinching 15-3 rout to finish the Serie del Rey with a .444 average and three homers in five games.

Tijuana's title capped off a strong season for Hankerd, who hit .321 with 17 homers and 69 RBIs over 94 games in the regular season, which ended a little early for him when he was drilled by a pitch from Monterrey closer Wirfin Obispo in the August 4 opener of a home series with the Sultanes, the 15th time Hankerd was plunked over 94 games (he was on the receiving end of eight more HBPs in the postseason).

Hankerd is no stranger to postseason heroics, having stroked a game-winning walkoff single in the bottom of the tenth for Mazatlan in the Venados' Mexican Pacific League pennant-clinching 4-3 win over Mexicali on January 25 of last year.  Playing third base for the Mexican champions, Hankerd then hit .294 with a homer and played error-free ball over six games as the Venados ran the table for the Caribbean Series title.

After signing with Arizona out of Southern Cal in 2006, Hankerd started his pro career off with a bang, winning the Class A Northwest League's Most Valuable Player award that summer by hitting .384 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 54 games for Yakima.  That began an ascent up the D-Backs chain that included a 2007 season in Visalia of the Class A California League, where he hit .285 with 8 homers and three years at AA Mobile of the Southern League, hitting in the .250-.260 range with about a half-dozen homers a year while representing the BayBears in the 2009 SL All-Star Game.  He also had a seven-game cup of coffee in AAA Reno of the Pacific Coast League during an injury-plagued 2010, hitting an even .400 with 5 ribbies over 7 games, but was released in early 2011.

Hankerd spent much of the 2011 season with Amarillo of the independent American Association, knocking AA pitchers around for a .355 average with 10 homers and 55 RBIs over 70 games before he signed with Philadelphia in August and spent the rest of the campaign with Clearwater of the Class A Florida State League and hitting .248 in 31 games.  After two relatively undistinguished years bouncing between indy ball and both the White Sox and Dodgers organizations, Hankerd made his Mexican League debut in 2014 with Yucatan, hitting .284 with four homers for the Leones.  He then moved over to Mexico City in 2015 and hit .384 with 22 homers in just 58 games for the Diablos Rojos while also spending time with Southern Maryland of the independent Atlantic League (.354/9/20 in 33 games).  Hankerd spent all of the 2016 schedule back in Mexico City and hit .322 with 16 homers for the Diablos in 104 contests before moving to Tijuana this year.  He's also played the last two winters for Mazatlan in the MexPac, turning in a .301 average for the Venados in their 2015-16 CS title season before going .280/10/32 last winter.

BBM PLAYOFF MVP AWARD WINNERS
Winter 2010-11  Iker Franco, Obregon
Summer 2011    Pablo Ortega, Quintana Roo
Winter 2015-16  Danny Rodriguez, Mexicali
Summer 2016    Mauricio Lara, Puebla
Winter 2016-17  Danny Rodriguez, Mexicali
Summer 2017   Cyle Hankerd, Tijuana