The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 5, 1990-1999)
by Paul Semendinger
I originally ran this series a few years ago. As Spring Training dawns, I figured it was worth revisiting again.
My research for this project took me to the wonderful site Baseball Almanac where I was able to access the list of all the James P. Dawson winners in Yankees history. I also used Baseball-Reference for the players’ statistics.
In 1956, the Yankees began awarding the James P. Dawson Award to the best rookie in Spring Training.
I began to wonder how many of these players went on to successful careers with the Yankees or other teams.
Here I continue my examination of that important award and the players who earned it.
James P. Dawson was a longtime Yankees’ reporter with the New York Times. He served as the Chairman of the New York Chapter of the BBWAA.
It was very difficult to find an image of the award itself and it seems there is no actual trophy. Rather, it seems that the player is given a watch. Here is an auction from 2013 that highlights Johnny James’ watch. This photo shows Masahiro Tanaka being presented with a watch as well. In 2018, Miguel Andujar tweeted this photo of him earning his watch.
1990 – Alan Mills
When you go 1-for-6, it’s not good as a batter or a pitcher.
In his first year as a Yankee, the 1990 season, Alan Mills, went 1-5, 4.10. He walked 33 batters in 48 innings. His WHIP was 1.944. He pitched in 36 games, all out of the bullpen.
This was too bad, because Mills was somewhat highly regarded. It just didn’t work out.
In 1991, he pitched in only six games going 1-1, 4.41. He made two starts.
After the season, Mills was traded to the Orioles in a minor deal. Of course, as these things go, he then went on to go 10-4, 2.61 for the Orioles. Mills pitched for the Orioles, with less success (19-16, 4.25) until 1998. He then pitched for the Dodgers in 1999 and 200 before finishing his career with the Orioles.
All-Time WAR = 6.7
1991 – Hensley Meulens
I was a big fan of Bam Bam Meulens and had high hopes for him after seeing him play for the Albany-Colonie Yankees in Harrisburg against the Senators in 1989.
It just never worked out. Hensley Meulens played for the games as an up-and-down Major/Minor Leaguer from 1989 to 1993. In 159 games, he batted .221/12/46.
Meulens went on to play in Japan, Mexico, Korea, and he even played independent ball. In Japan in three seasons, he hit 77 homers helping him return to MLB ball with the Montreal Expos in 1997 where he batted .292 in 16 games. He then played in 7 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998.
Meulens was interview for the Yankees’ manager position after Joe Girardi was fired. (I was rooting for him again.)
All-Time WAR = -1.7
1992 – Gerald Williams
Gerald Williams was one of Derek Jerter’s best friends.
Williams seemed to be a five-tool player. He could hit, run, hit for power, field, and throw. At times, he seemed to have it all together, but it didn’t last long enoough.
From 1992 to 1996, Gerald Williams appeared in 313 games for the Yankees. He batted .243/18/83 as a Yankee before being traded in 1996 (at the deadline) to the Milwaukee Brewers in the trade that brought them Graeme Lloyd (who played a big role in the 1996 World Championship).
Williams would go on to play for the Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Yankees (again), the Florida Marlins, and the New York Mets.
He played 14 years in the big leagues and appeared in 1168 games. His overall stats were .255/85/365. It was solid career.
All-Time WAR = 6.5
1993 – Mike Humphreys
In 1991, Humphreys played in 25 games for the Yankees.
In 1992, he played in just four games.
In 1993, he got another 25 games.
He had exactly 100 plate appearances. In 85 at bats, he had 15 hits (.176).
On June 2, 1993, he hit his only big league home run (against Tom Kramer of the Cleveland Indians).
All-Time WAR = -0.4
1994 – Sterling Hitchcock
A left-handed pitcher with a funky delivery and lots of promise. I recall the Yankees passed on acquiring Randy Johnson because they didn’t want to part with Sterling Hitchcock.
Between 1992 and 1995 he went 16 -15 for the Yankees in 59 games (41 starts). Before the 1996, in a great trade for the Yankee, he was a big part of the package that brought the Yankees Tino Martinez (and Jeff Nelson) from the Seattle Mariners. Sterling Hitchcock then went 13-9, 5.35 for the Mariners before heading to the San Diego Padres, returning to the Yankees (2001-02), the St. Louis Cardinals, and then finishing his career with the Padres in 2004.
Overall, Hitchcock appeared in 281 games. He made 200 starts and went 74-76, 4.80.
All-Time WAR = 9.5
1995 – No Selection Made
1996 – Mark Hutton
A big right-handed relief pitcher – one in a long line of Yankee prospects with the “can’t miss” label.
Hutton didn’t reach his potential.
In 1996, he pitched in 12 games (2 starts) with a record of 0-2, 5.04. On July 31, he was traded to the Florida Marlins for David Weathers. Weathers would go on to pitch well in the post season in helping the Yankees win the World Series.
Hutton would go on to pitch for the Colorado Rockies and the Cincinnati Reds. His career was over after the 1998 season.
He pitched in 84 games accumulating an overall record of 9-7, 4.75.
All-Time WAR = 0.7
1997 – Jorge Posada
Hip Hip Jorge!
Jorge Posada went on to become a Yankees legend. He played 17 years as a Yankee. A “Core-Four” member. Posada won five Silver Slugger Awards, was an All-Star five times, and was an integral part of the most recent Yankees dynasty.
Posada his 20 or more homers seven times and finished his career with the following stats:
1,829 games, .273/275/1065
He ranks 18th all-time in WAR among MLB catchers, ahead of six catchers in the Hall-of-Fame.
All-Time WAR = 42.7 (ranks #3 all-time on this list)
1998 – Homer Bush
It is possible that no one had a better sounding baseball name…
Homer Bush brought energy and fun to the team. Between 1997 and 1998, Bush played in 55 games for the Yankees batting .378!
He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the deal that brought Roger Clemens to the Bronx. Bush would also play for the Florida Marlins. He returned to the Yankees for 9 games in 2004.
Overall he played in 409 games in the big leagues batting .285/11/115
All-Time WAR = 3.0
1999 – No Selection Made
Highest All-Time WAR of Players Highlighted (thus far) In This Series:
Willie Randolph 65.9
Roy White 46.8
Jorge Posada 42.7
Al Leiter 42.5
Don Mattingly 42.4
Jose Rijo 35.0
Tom Tresh 22.0
Bob Tewksbury 21.2
Norm Seibern 21.0
Tony Kubek 18.4
Jim Beattie 14.8