Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible wherever he appeared most. For the top prospect, we took into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: The jump to Double-A is the biggest hurdle in minor league baseball. Pitchers at this level generally can go to multiple pitches in any count, and having good command is just table stakes, not a guaranteed winning hand. The Texas League is generally neutral league, but the Mission's Nelson Wolff Stadium's swirling winds create a pitching-friendly environment.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Andrew Werner 3.23 ERA 89K, 25BB in 103 IP
As the 2012 season began, we expected a Missions' lefty to help the Padres rotation at some point. But that role was supposed to be played by highly-acclaimed prospect Robbie Erlin, not the undrafted free agent from the University of Indianapolis. Yet it was Andrew Werner, owner of a mid-80s sinker, who wound up joining the big league rotation in mid-August. The 25-year-old earned his way there with solid if not spectacular ratios, and a strong ability to induce ground balls.
Runner-up: LHP Robbie Erlin 2.92 ERA 72K, 14BB in 52.1 IP
Erlin was shut down for three months with elbow pain, but he was great when he was on the mound. Only his innings total kept him from taking Pitcher of the Year honors. The lefty posted a 72/14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 52 innings. While the walk rate was slightly higher than during his stellar 2011 campaign, those ratios are both exceptional and bode well for the 21-year-old. If he has a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, he will move to the top of a lot of prospect lists before the start of next season.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Andrew Werner
Werner's 4-8 mark is a great reason why there is more to evaluating a pitcher's performance than his won-lost record. He is the quintessential lefty who relies on keeping the ball down and changing speeds. His lack of big velocity is one reason he spent two years toiling in the independent Frontier League before the Padres signed him after a good performance at a Peoria, Illinois tryout camp.
In his second full year in the Padres' system, he demonstrated the type of value that many in the organization see; a pitcher who can take ball on a consistent basis, eat innings and keep the team in the game.
In 18 starts with the Missions he gave up three runs or less 15 times.
Runner-up: LPH Robbie Erlin
When healthy, Erlin was the best pitcher in San Antonio and arguably the whole system. But injuries and a very careful rehab program after an elbow strain limited him to only eleven starts. Erlin pounds the strike zone - for his career he has only given up fifty walks in 326.2 innings - so you are not going to see a great hits to innings pitched ratio with him; he simply throws too many strikes to have the big swing and miss statistics.
|Everyone likes Erlin's potential in 2013..|
What you will see from him throughout his career is that he just doesn't give up runs. In eleven starts he gave up only 17 earned runs. With runners in scoring position, the opposition hit only .212 against him. Despite being out from mid-May until mid-August he led the staff in every conceivable rate statistic and showed why he still may be the Padres' best pitching prospect going into 2013.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Andrew Werner
For me, Werner places first simply because of consistency. Only four pitchers had at least 100 innings in San Antonio, and Werner's ERA was more than a full point lower than any of the others. He also had the lowest WHIP of any starter. As David wrote, Werner is solid, but unspectacular. He is crafty and a good pitcher to have at the back-end of the rotation or in the wings in AAA to provide much needed depth to the big club.
Runner-up: Keyvius Sampson 8-11, 5.00 ERA, 122 K, 57 BB in 122.1 IP
I was brash enough to name Sampson my top prospect last year. At times he flashed his greatness, most recently in his second-to-last start when he went 7 scoreless innings, giving up only four hits and a walk while striking out six.
Sampson had the stuff, but struggled with location and adjusting to jumping a league. He led the team in innings pitched and the Texas League in strikeouts. For that reason it was pretty simple to pick Sampson over Erlin, who missed 60 percent of the season.
Others of note: Before we get to the others, Sampson elicited a greater division of opinion among the three of us than any other player in the system. As David noted in our discussions finishing with an ERA of 5.00 and more than four walks per nine innings of work is tough to be excited about.
|Sampson's 2012 season drew a wide variety of opinions.|
However Ben countered by pointing out his youth, overall numbers and upward trajectory of his performance. John tended to come down a little more on Ben's side noting that he was better in the second half with a 3.79 ERA compared to a 5.90 in the first, in large part because of a much-improved walk rate.
The biggest adjustment for Sampson was the uptick in competition. In Low-A, a pitcher can be effective simply by throwing to both sides of the plate. At Double-A, the pitches also need to move. Double-A hitters have learned how to wait for pitches in a certain zone instead of attempting to cover the whole plate. Sampson has a very straight, but deceptive four-seam fastball. How well he does in the future is going to depend on whether he can throw something with more movement; particularly either a two-seam fastball or a more consistent curve.
Big-bodied closer Jeremy McBryde works with a heavy fastball, striking out 65 over 53 innings. If he can get a little more movement on his pitches, he'll be a strong late-inning option out of the pen. Converted catcher Robert Lara was effective in middle relief with a 3.23 ERA in 53 innings and was able to pick up five wins against only one loss. He needs to improve upon his K/BB ratio of 48/31 but this was a good performance for only his second full season on the mound.
Six-foot-six 180 lbs. Jeff Ibarra is the quintessential lefty specialist with his twisting sidearm delivery and a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings pitched. As long as Jeff goes against lefties, a .128 batting average, he's pretty effective. It's just when he goes against right-handed hitters, who hit him at a .293 clip, there needs to be improvement.
MadFriars' 2012 Missions Pitcher of the Year: Andrew Werner
Top Prospect: LHP Robbie Erlin
As with most quality left-handed pitchers Erlin is known for his command and "craftiness". The difference is that he can also bring it. Erlin's four-seam fastball sits consistently in the low-90s and when combined with his plus changeup actually appears much faster. Throw in a good curve and slider and when he's on – and healthy - he could be one of the better Padres' pitching prospects in a long time.