AFL MVP Cannon creates quite a clamor
First-base slugging prospect opened eyes with huge fall season
By Kevin Czerwinski / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The name Chip Cannon sounds as though it should belong to a private eye or a muscular cartoon character. Yet the moniker doesn't apply to someone from a Dashiell Hammett novel or a make-believe children's hero.
Rather, Chip Cannon is simply a slugger. And someday, he hopes his name will make it easy for headline writers to splash titles such as "Cannon blasts Oakland" and "Cannon shoots down Yankees" on the back pages of tabloids and broad sheets across North America.
If Cannon continues to play the way he did during the Arizona Fall League season, then it won't be difficult. He was the most dynamic offensive force on the star-studded circuit. On Tuesday, he was honored for his magnificent year when he was presented with the Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award in an awards ceremony at the Winter Meetings.
Cannon, 25, nearly became the first player to win the AFL Triple Crown, leading the league in home runs (11), RBIs (29), total bases (75), slugging percentage (.714) and OPS (1.188). He was second in on-base percentage (.474), tied for second in hits (37) and finished fourth with a .357 batting average.
"It's kind of cool to say you won the MVP of the Arizona Fall League," said Cannon, whose real first name is Rhame. "I don't know if it will carry me or give me more of a push. But everything can help."
Cannon was the only player on the circuit to reach double figures in home runs, easily outdistancing Ryan Braun (Scottsdale) and Michel Abreu (Mesa), each of whom had six. Buoyed by a pair of two-homer games, Cannon blasted seven homers over one eight-game stretch in midseason, sparking talk he might be able to equal Brandon Wood's record of 14 homers set in 2005 en route to the Desert Dogs' AFL crown.
Whether the honor gets him noticed by the brass in Toronto remains to be seen. Cannon, who came to the Blue Jays out of The Citadel in 2004, has been putting up some gaudy power numbers throughout his career, smacking 69 roundtrippers in two-and-a-half seasons as a pro.
Cannon, who was also named to the AFL's All-Prospect Team, collected 27 homers this season and drove in 69 for Double-A New Hampshire. He's hoping that he'll get an invite to Major League Spring Training in February but hasn't heard anything yet from the Blue Jays.
"I don't see myself in the Major Leagues out of spring," Cannon said. "I'm a little anxious to get going though. Whatever the club wants me to do, I have to respect that. I'm never satisfied, though. There's a lot more of me to give. I'm always trying to get more out of my game.
"This year was a learning experience for me. The first two months of the season it was chilly [in New Hampshire], and it was tough to get in a routine and stay in a groove. But once the weather got warmer, I enjoyed it."
Cannon says he made many strides at first base as well as at the plate this season so simply labeling him as a slugger would do him a disservice. He's gotten better defensively and plans on continuing to work hard through the winter in preparation for a possible audition in the spring.
Based on what he's done so far since coming out of college, it's not difficult to see that Cannon will continue to make strides next season, whether he's at Triple-A Syracuse, Toronto or part of another organization. His effort this season in Arizona is proof of that.
"I'm never satisfied," he said. "I feel like I have a lot more to give. I'm always trying to get more out of my game."
Others receiving MVP votes included Kevin Frandsen and Mark Reynolds (Scottsdale) and Kyle Yates and Ben Zobrist (Phoenix). Cannon became the fourth player to win the award, joining Eric Duncan (Grand Canyon, 2005), Chris Shelton (Grand Canyon, 2004), Jason Dubois (Mesa, 2003) and Ken Harvey (Scottsdale, 2002).
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.