DENVER -- Some awards are no surprise. After a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, a Fielding Bible Award, a Silver Slugger Award and a Sporting News National League All-Star selection, add another honor for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki -- MLB.com's Rockies Player of the Year.
Sometimes awards recognize a player whose consistency is a beacon for a team during a rough season. That's why right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt has been chosen as MLB.com's Rockies Pitcher of the Year.
Then again, there are honors that one doesn't see coming.
Awards were far from anyone's mind when the Rockies sent center fielder Dexter Fowler down to Triple-A Colorado Springs in June. But Fowler ended the year with career highs in batting average and on-base percentage, and earned the MLB.com Rockies Breakout Player of the Year award.
MLB.com writers and editors have selected awards in the three categories -- Player, Pitcher and Breakout Player -- for each of the 30 teams.
Since entering the Majors late in the 2006 season, Tulowitzki has emerged as the preeminent two-way shortstop in the game. He has earned Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards each of the past two seasons, and has been invited to the All-Star Game each of those years.
Betancourt, a key member of the Rockies' bullpen since being acquired from the Indians in 2009, went 2-0 with eight saves (after becoming the closer in August) and 22 holds. While his isn't a household name because he has spent most of his career as a setup man, he leads all relievers in the Majors in walk-to-strikeout ratio since the Rockies acquired him from the Indians on July 31, 2009.
If Fowler continues to perform the way he finished the 2011 season, he could play a huge role in improving the club in 2012.
Fowler, 25, began his fourth season with the club as the starting center fielder. But before suffering a midsection injury in early June, Fowler hit just .233 and struck out a whopping 66 times in 247 at-bats. The Rockies sent Fowler to Triple-A before he recovered from the injury, and he didn't play again for the Rockies until July 15.
Shortly after returning, the switch-hitting Fowler added a leg kick from the left side of the plate -- where many of the bad swings had occurred -- and found his timing. For the rest of the year, Fowler hit .288 and compiled a .381 on-base percentage. He finished the season at .266 with a .363 on-base percentage and a career-high 15 triples. His 10 triples after the break led the Majors. The kick also happened to work for him from the right side.
The pattern has been the same the past two years -- early struggles followed by a demotion, and then a strong finish. However, by making a key physical adjustment, Fowler might be in better position to carry his finish to 2011 into next season.
"I'll try to pick up where I left off," Fowler said late in the season. "I have a good foundation, and I'll try to pick up from there."
Interestingly, Fowler, who has always had tremendous speed but had not matured physically before arriving to the Majors, arrived at Spring Training with a better balance of speed and muscle. Teammates saw him and predicted that he could turn into one of the game's stars.
But the strikeouts piled up early, and the confidence waned. When his playing time became inconsistent, the demotion became inevitable.
"I just got into my own head," Fowler said. "I just needed to clear my mind. Confidence is big, and it had started wavering a little bit. I don't know why. That's baseball.
"Consistency is key. You always want to be in there all the time. But at the same time, if you're not performing, then you shouldn't be in there."
Fowler held onto his stroke even as the team fell out of contention. His next challenge will be to produce early, maintain and help the club contend. At no point did Fowler's defense suffer. A consistent offensive season could give him the name recognition that shouldn't, but often does, come into play when it comes to voting for a Gold Glove.
"That's what I'm striving to do," Fowler said. "I want to help the team in any way I can. All the awards and accolades just add to it."
The 2011 season was a big one for awards among the Rockies' Minor League system. The Modesto Nuts earned California League Organization of the Year honors for the second straight year after setting an attendance record -- and selling out a club-record 14 games -- for the fifth straight season. Mike Gorrasi, the Nuts' vice president and general manager, was named California League Executive of the Year, also for the second straight year.
And Modesto did pretty well on the field, too. Kent Matthes was named the California League Most Valuable Player after hitting .334 with 23 home runs and 95 RBIs in 93 games, and Nuts right-hander Chad Bettis earned California League Pitcher of the Year honors after going 12-5 with a 3.34 ERA.
Additionally, left-handed pitcher Edwar Cabrera, who pitched at Asheville and Modesto, earned the Rockies' Doug Million Award (which recognizes the organization's most outstanding Minor League performer). Modesto third baseman Nolan Arenado was named Rockies Minor League Player of the Year, Bettis was named Rockies Minor League Pitcher of the Year and Matthes was named Modesto Player of the Year.
Other Rockies players of the year are relief pitcher Jim Miller at Triple-A Colorado Springs, outfielder Tim Wheeler at Double-A Tulsa, outfielder Rafael Ortega at Asheville, right-handed pitcher Christian Bergman at Class-A Tri-City and shortstop Sam Mende at Rookie-level Casper.