WEYMOUTH, Mass. (August 24, 2022) -- The Futures League has announced its annual major award recipients for the recently completed 2022 season.
Following a vote of the all eight field managers earlier this month, Commissioner Joe Paolucci announced the winners and presented awards throughout the final week of the summer season. Five finalists were recognized for both the Most Valuable Player and Pitcher of the Year awards prior to these selections being made.
In addition, the All-Futures League First and Second Teams will be announced soon, recognizing the league’s top players at their respective positions.
Below is a complete list of the Futures League’s on-field award winners.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Gavin Noriega, Worcester Bravehearts, Bryant University
A two-time Futures League All-Star, Noriega was a catalyst for Worcester’s offense as he finished the season with the second-leading average in the league (.364) and 33 RBI while playing in a league-high 54 games. No player in the circuit had more hits (72) or a higher on-base percentage (.453) than Noriega, while his 21 doubles tied the single-season league record that had stood since 2016. Noriega also added two triples and a home run to his resume, helping his OPS balloon to a Bravehearts team-best .958. Noriega, who began his career at Marist College and will be transferring for the 2023 season, is the third-ever Worcester player and second in three years to earn MVP honors following now-New York Yankees prospect Ben Rice in 2020.
PITCHER OF THE YEAR & TOP PRO PITCHING PROSPECT
Sean Matson, Vermont Lake Monsters, Harvard University
Matson went 5-2 with a 1.61 ERA and a league-leading 68 strikeouts in 44.2 innings, becoming Vermont’s second straight Futures League Pitcher of the Year (Patrick Harrington in 2021). The rising Harvard sophomore allowed well under one hit per inning (33), eight earned runs and five walks across his nine starts for the Lake Monsters. The two-time Futures League Pitcher of the Month didn’t allow an earned run in five outings and won each of his last two. Matson was drafted first overall for the Futures League All-Star Game and earned Most Outstanding Pitcher honors after his scoreless starting appearance. He is the first-ever honoree of the Pitcher of the Year and Top Pro Pitching Prospect honors in the same summer.
RELIEF PITCHER OF THE YEAR
George Goldstein, Vermont Lake Monsters, Middlebury College
Goldstein was a workhorse all summer long for the first-place Lake Monsters, appearing in a league-record 27 games and posting a 4-1 record with 11 saves, a 2.81 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 32 innings. During the regular season, he limited opponents to a .230 average, worked multiple innings for three of his four victories, and pitched scoreless ball in 20 of his 27 outings, including 12 of 13 in June and six of eight to end the year. Goldstein logged four more saves and appeared in five more games than any other Futures League pitcher by season’s end. The Westport, Conn., native was named NESCAC Pitcher of the Year for league champion Middlebury this past spring.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Joel Lara, New Britain Bees, Franklin Pierce University
The speedy Lara was a stalwart in center field for New Britain, impacting the 48 games in which he played in a variety of ways. While making just two errors, Lara led all outfielders with 114 total chances and 109 putouts, logged three outfield assists and contributed to two double plays. Earlier this summer, Lara etched his name in the record books as the league’s single-season and career stolen bases leader; his 54 steals this summer were a whopping 30 more than the next closest player. The Boston native is a third-year Futures League veteran and was also the Bees’ recipient of the Adam Keenan Sportsmanship & Scholarship Award this year.
TOP PRO PROSPECT
Chris Maldonado, Norwich Sea Unicorns, Vanderbilt University
Maldonado was a hit machine and displayed his talents all across the stat sheet for the Sea Unicorns. The rising Vanderbilt freshman infielder from Short Hills, N.J., led Norwich with a .393 average while posting five doubles, a triple, a home run, 19 RBI and 15 runs scored this summer. Maldonado recorded hits in 17 of his 25 games, multiple hits in 11 of them, and finished the summer on a six-game hitting streak that included a 5-for-5 effort with four RBI in the August 7 finale. He almost exactly as much as he struck out (14 walks, 15 strikeouts) to help produce a .996 OPS. Maldonado, who is the third-ever Vanderbilt prospect to win this Futures League award, played at least five games at all three infield positions, but he most often settled at the third base spot.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Pete Wilk, Vermont Lake Monsters
After sharing the 2021 honor with then-Pittsfield (now New Britain) skipper Matt Gedman, Wilk has become the first-ever skipper to repeat as Manager of the Year. The longtime former Georgetown University head coach has led Vermont to two highly successful seasons to begin the organization’s Futures League era, breaking the single-season record for wins (44) that was set last year before coming within one game of another postseason championship. Wilk’s Lake Monsters posted the league’s best ERA (3.78) and most strikeouts (632) thanks in large part to Pitcher of the Year Sean Matson and Relief Pitcher of the Year George Goldstein, while their 424 runs scored and 34 home runs as a team also topped the charts.
Kade Foulke, Brockton Rox, Galveston College
The Commissioner’s Award is given annually to a player for his commitment to his team, the Futures League and the game of baseball. Kade Foulke is an incoming freshman at Galveston College in Texas. Throughout the 2022 season, Foulke has accepted a great deal of responsibility by dealing with the media on a daily basis, representing the Futures League and the Brockton Rox organization with class and dignity. His ability to navigate multiple distractions while still performing on the field at a high level has shown incredible professionalism. On the mound, the left-hander compiled 34 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.
“It has been a privilege having Kade represent the Futures League, and we wish him nothing but the best as he progresses in his career,” Paolucci said.
For the latest Futures League news and information throughout the year, visit thefuturesleague.com and follow the league’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.