Encarnacion named Blue Jays' top player

Encarnacion named Blue Jays' top player

Encarnacion named Blue Jays' top player
TORONTO -- Edwin Encarnacion came away the big winner when the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced its selections for year-end awards on Wednesday afternoon.

Encarnacion was the unanimous winner for the Blue Jays' Player of the Year, and he also picked up honors for Most Improved Player.

Right-hander Casey Janssen earned the Pitcher of the Year award, while left-hander Aaron Loup was named the club's best rookie. The final recipient of the day was former third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who won the annual John Cerutti Award.

Encarnacion earned top honors thanks to his breakout season at the plate. He put up career numbers in every major offensive category while securing his spot in the heart of Toronto's lineup.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos spent much of the past three years talking up Encarnacion's abilities, but it wasn't until this season that the Dominican native put everything together.

Encarnacion finished fourth in the American League with 42 homers despite missing the final week of the season with a neck injury. He also tied for third in RBIs (110), third in OPS (.941), fifth in OBP (.384) and 10th in extra-base hits (66).

The results followed an offseason when Encarnacion rededicated himself to the game with an improved workout routine. He showed up to camp in noticeably better shape and overhauled his mechanics at the plate with the help of former Major Leaguer Luis Mercedes.

Encarnacion went from a one-handed finish to a two-handed finish in his follow-through. The idea was to stop him from pulling off the ball as much and improve his ability to hit to all fields.

The adjustment paid off and Encarnacion eventually became the focal point of Toronto's lineup when Jose Bautista went down with a wrist injury in late July. Along the way, Encarnacion was rewarded with a three-year, $29 million contract extension which will kick in at the start of Spring Training.

Janssen narrowly edged out right-hander Brandon Morrow for top pitching honors. Janssen received six first-place votes and a total of 31 points to Morrow's five first-place votes and 28 points.

The 31-year-old Janssen transitioned into the closer's role in May following an injury to Sergio Santos and the prolonged struggles of veteran right-hander Francisco Cordero. Janssen converted 22 of his 25 save opportunities and posted an impressive 2.54 ERA on the season.

Loup seemingly came out of nowhere this year to establish his place in Toronto's bullpen. Following a midseason callup, the 24-year-old went 0-2 with a 2.64 ERA while striking out 21 in 30 2/3 innings. He's expected to compete with fellow lefty Brett Cecil for a spot on next year's roster.

The John Cerutti Award is a fitting way for Butterfield's tenure in Toronto to end. The award is given to someone associated with the day-to-day workings of Blue Jays baseball who displays the goodwill, cooperation and character exemplified by the late left-hander.

Butterfield certainly fits that criteria. He originally joined the Blue Jays in 2002 and served under managers Carlos Tosca, John Gibbons, Cito Gaston and John Farrell. Butterfield is regarded as one of the best infield instructors in the game and became a fan favorite during his time in Toronto.

The 54-year-old parted ways with the organization at the end of the season. He joined Farrell's staff in Boston after the former Blue Jays manager was dealt to the Red Sox for infielder Mike Aviles.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.