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Three Dragons named All-Stars

Whitecaps' Hernandez earns Midwest League MVP honors
August 28, 2007
Dayton Dragons infielders Chris Valaika, Justin Turner and Juan Francisco were among 13 players named Tuesday to the Midwest League postseason All-Star Team.

The trio, which helped the Dragons capture the first-half Eastern Division title, are joined by two members each of the West Michigan Whitecaps, South Bend Silver Hawks and Beloit Snappers. The Great Lakes Loons, Lansing Lugnuts, Burlington Bees and Cedar Rapids Kernels all have one player on the team.

Valaika is no stranger to postseason honors. Last year, he was named Most Valuable Player after putting together a Pioneer League-record 32-game hitting streak. The 22-year-old shortstop spent only three months in the Midwest League before a promotion to the Southern League, batting .307 with 20 doubles, 10 homers, 56 RBIs and 38 runs scored in 39 games.

Turner is tied for second in the Midwest League with 142 hits and ranks fifth with a .308 batting average. In 116 games, the 22-year-old second baseman has 25 doubles, four triples, 10 homers and 59 RBIs.

Francisco leads the league with 23 homers, helped by a three-homer, seven-RBI game on Aug. 19 against Lansing. The 20-year-old third baseman is third with 85 RBIs while hitting .268. He also tops the circuit with 152 strikeouts in 128 games.

West Michigan's Gorkys Hernandez, one of three All-Star outfielders, was named Most Valuable Player. In his first professional season, the 20-year-old Venezuelan leads the league with 52 stolen bases, is third with 75 runs scored and tied for seventh with a .289 batting average. He is the first Whitecap to earn MVP honors since Robert Fick in 1997.

Catcher James Skelton, West Michigan's other All-Star, leads the league with a .401 slugging percentage and is second in batting. He has five homers and 47 RBIs in 94 games.

Silver Hawks first baseman Brad Miller is second in the league with 21 homers and 86 RBIs, batting .259 in 128 games. South Bend teammate Gerardo Parra, a 20-year-old outfielder, is the league's leading hitter at .320 and ranks second with 142 hits, despite a promotion to Class A Advanced Visalia earlier this month.

Pitchers Jeff Manship and Rob Delaney are the Snappers' representatives. Manship, the right-handed starter, was dominant during his three-month stay in the league. He went 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA and .185 opponents' batting average before moving up to Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Delaney, the right-handed reliever, joined Manship in the Florida State League in early July after going 1-0 with 28 saves and a 0.77 ERA in 36 games.

Michael Thompson of the Bees is the All-Star designated hitter. He's fourth in the league with 19 homers and has 53 RBIs, despite hitting .223 in 101 games.

The other All-Star outfielder is Lansing's Travis Snider, who leads the league with 89 RBIs and a .516 slugging percentage, shares the top spot with 54 extra-base hits, ranks second with 33 doubles and fourth with a .309 average.

Loons left-hander Clayton Kershaw was named Prospect of the Year after going 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA and 134 strikeouts over 97 1/3 innings in 20 starts. The 19-year-old was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville earlier this month, pitched in the All-Star Futures Game in July and got the win for the Eastern Division in the Midwest League All-Star Game.

Cedar Rapids' Barret Browning, who is 7-4 with eight saves and a 2.97 ERA in 46 games, was selected by the league's 14 managers as the left-handed reliever.

Tom Brookens became the second straight Whitecap to be named Manager of the Year, following in the footsteps of Matt Walbeck. In his first season, Brookens has guided West Michigan to the league's best overall record (79-53). The Whitecaps secured their fourth consecutive playoff spot by winning a first-half Wild Card berth.

Daren Smith is a staff writer for