SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Grant Desme, the Oakland outfield prospect who led the Arizona Fall League with 11 homers, has been chosen as the recipient of the league's Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award. Desme began the five-week season on a tear, drilling 10 of his home runs before the end of October, and maintained a consistent level of play that saw him also lead the AFL with 72 total bases while ranking second in RBIs (27) and runs scored (30). Desme was presented with his MVP Award prior to Saturday afternoon's AFL championship game, in which he started in left field for Phoenix against the Peoria Javelinas.
And, on cue, he offered a glimpse of why the league's managers and coaches considered him worthy of the award, drilling a long home run in the fourth that tied a game his Desert Dogs would eventually drop, 5-4. "This is a great honor, and it means a lot to me, to be so acknowledged with all the outstanding talent in this league," said Desme, who excelled against higher competition than he had previously met in his brief professional career. "Grant Desme performed far beyond his experience during his six weeks in Arizona this fall," AFL director Steve Cobb said in making the presentation. "For a young man who has yet to face Double-A and Triple-A competition, his success against an array of the game's top prospects was remarkable." Desme, 23, had split the 2009 Minor League season between Class A Kane County of the Midwest League and High-A Stockton of the California League, combining at the two stops for 31 homers and 40 stolen bases -- ranking as the Minors' lone 30-40 man. Other players receiving MVP votes from league managers and coaches were shortstop Starlin Castro (Mesa-Cubs), outfielder Chris Heisey (Peoria Saguaros-Reds), infielder Brandon Laird (Surprise-Yankees), outfielder Jose Tabata (Scottsdale-Pirates) and outfielder Casper Wells (Peoria Javelinas-Tigers). The MVP award, honoring 1952 National League Rookie of the Year Joe Black of the Brooklyn Dodgers, has been presented since the 2002 season. Past recipients include Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson (2008), Eric Duncan (2005) and Chris Shelton (2004). The newest inductee into that honor roll was grateful for the experience -- and for the short weeks of rest to come. "It's been a lot of fun," Desme said of the AFL. "This was a good opportunity to get better. "Now I'm going to have a chance to relax a little bit, but it will be a quick turnaround. Next year will be here soon."