As part of their Fan Appreciation Week celebration at Sahlen Field, the Buffalo Bisons tonight announced the winners of their 2022 team awards, including OF Nathan Lukes being named the team’s Stan Barron Most Valuable Player for his consistency throughout the course of the year.
One of the most dominant pitchers in all of Triple-A Baseball in 2022, RHP Casey Lawrence was named the Herd’s Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher. Lawrence has been in the top 10 among qualified pitchers all season long in several categories and was rewarded with a promotion to Toronto in the process.
UTL Otto Lopez returned to Buffalo this season and dazzled in front of Sahlen Field crowds night after night, earning him the Jimmy Griffin Hometown Hero Award. A long and arduous journey in and out of affiliated baseball the last several years that culminated in his first ever Major League call-up earned LHP Matt Gage the Judge Michael Dillon Comeback Player of the Year award.
RHP Shaun Anderson was named the team’s Joe De Sa Most Inspirational Player for his work on and off the field, no matter the assignment given to the pitcher. And for his efforts at Sahlen Field and in the community, OF Chavez Young was named the Fremo Vallone Community Service Award winner for the 2022 season.
City of Buffalo-native, Sean Simms, a season ticket holder for more than 20 years who has not missed a game this season and is a ballpark fixture in section 110, was named the Joe Byron Fan of the Year.
Stan Barron Most Valuable Player – OF Nathan Lukes
Nathan Lukes became a veteran leader of the Bisons right from the start of the season, leading on the field by example both at the plate and in the field. The 28-year-old was signed as a free agent last November after helping lead the Durham Bulls to the Triple-A East championship in 2021 and has appeared in more than 100 games for the Bisons this season.
Lukes has been at or near the top of all offensive categories for Buffalo this season among qualified batters. He was the first to reach 100 hits on the season, in addition to his team best marks for total bases (181), runs scored (59), extra-base hits (37), home runs (11) and RBI (61) among other categories. He was also 20 of 23 stealing bases for an 87% success rate.
The veteran has started at all three outfield positions this season, making just two errors in 202 total chances. An everyday player nearly wire-to-wire, Lukes has made 99 starts in the outfield with a majority coming in center field, 57.
Lukes provided one of the most memorable moments in the 2022 season when he hit an inside-the-park grand slam against the Rochester Red Wings on June 4 at Frontier Field. It is believed to be the first in the modern era of the franchise.
Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher – RHP Casey Lawrence
Back for his sixth season with the Herd, veteran starter Casey Lawrence has had a career season that culminated in a return to the Big Leagues. The righty picked up in the 2022 season right where he left of last year for Buffalo, winning each of his first three starts to go 3-1 with a 2.82ERA in the month of April.
The McSherrytown, PA product won five straight starts from May 17-June 10 to become the first pitcher in professional baseball to win eight games. That stretch included a complete game, one-hit seven inning shutout in game two of a doubleheader against the Red Wings. That dominant performance helped Lawrence earn International League Pitcher of the Week honors, one of four Bisons pitchers to receive the honor.
Lawrence had his contract selected by the Toronto Blue Jays on May 4 and made his first Major League appearance in four years a day later. He has been up and down a handful of times, pitching in parts of five different games for Toronto this season.
On the season, the right hander is 9-5 with a 2.79 ERA in a team-best 23 starts. His ERA is a half-run lower than any other pitcher in Triple-A baseball and he also leads the International League with a 0.89 WHIP. His .206 average against is the second-lowest among all IL qualified pitchers. He also leads the Bisons with 106 strikeouts on season.
Jimmy Griffin Hometown Hero Award – UTL Otto Lopez
Otto Lopez returned to the Bisons after starting the year on the injured list and began immediately producing for the team. He has been consistent at the plate no matter the location this season but has added several of his power numbers in the comforts of Sahlen Field.
All three of Lopez’s home runs and each of his six triples have come in Downtown Buffalo this season to go along with a .298 batting average with seven doubles, 16 RBIs, and nine stolen bases in 45 home games. He is slashing .358/.466/.824 in front of the home fans this season, as well.
Lopez was riding a 17-game home hitting streak from July 27-September 8, entering the final homestand of the season. The second-year Triple-A utilityman hit .439, 29-66, over that stretch with eight multi-hit games including a 4-4 day at the plate with a pair of home runs and three RBIs on July 29 against the Worcester Red Sox.
Joe De Sa Most Inspirational Player – RHP Shaun Anderson
Shaun Anderson opened the 2022 season in the starting rotation for the Buffalo Bisons and eventually would become a relied upon member of the team’s bullpen that would open games regularly multiple times a series.
The 6-foot 6-inch righty made his Herd debut on April 8 against the Iowa Cubs in the second game of a doubleheader. He shutout the I-Cubs on just three hits across six innings. His next victory would come on June 15 in three innings of relief against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Anderson logged six innings of scoreless relief that week with 10 strikeouts to earn the IL’s Pitcher of the Week honors.
Anderson also had his contract selected by the Toronto Blue Jays and made his first appearance in the Major Leagues this season that night against the Boston Red Sox. He has allowed just 11 earned runs across 50.0 innings pitched since June, good for a 1.98 ERA over that stretch.
On the season, Anderson is 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 34 games and 15 starts. He has more strikeouts (75) than hits allowed (73) in 83.2 innings of work.
Judge Michael Dillon Comeback Player of the Year – LHP Matt Gage
Another one of the stalwarts out of the Bisons’ bullpen this season, Matt Gage has been the team’s closer since the start of the season. The left hander allowed just one unearned run in his first 10 outings for Buffalo this season.
Gage has been a perfect 12 for 12 in save opportunities this season. The Johnstown, NY native had his contract selected by the Blue Jays on June 6, marking the first time in his career that he was promoted to the Big Leagues. He made his Major League debut that night against the Kansas City Royals, pitching a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in relief for the Blue Jays.
The lefty has made 11 relief appearances for Toronto this season, in addition to 39 for the Herd. Gage has pitched in several different leagues throughout his professional career, including for Sugarland in the Independent Atlantic League in 2018 and in the Mexican League in 2019. He returned to affiliated baseball last season in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization before signing a minor league deal with the Blue Jays this past winter.
Bisons OF Chavez Young could frequently be seen interacting with fans young and old before, during, and after games at Sahlen Field. His passion and energy could be seen and felt every time he came to the ballpark.
Additionally, Young regularly volunteered to help grow the game in Western New York as part of Play Ball Weekend in Buffalo and was sharing smiles with young fans as part of the annual Challenger Baseball Game that was held at the Downtown Ballpark this year.
Injuries ended Young’s season early, but his impact was felt in his time with the Herd making him this season’s community service award winner. In 65 games with the Herd, Young hit .234 with five home runs, 21 RBI and 20 stolen bases (in just 21 attempts).