AZL Angels Pitcher of the Year

The encouraging news to Angels fans is the work being done down in Mesa where the Arizona Rookie League team sports a number of prospects that will continue to fill the pipeline for years to come.

The Angels rookie league club sported a number of names that will make waves over the next few years – but this award isn't necessarily about the best prospect, although it often encompasses several of the top names on a given team, it is about the player who had the best season at his respective affiliate.

Top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart had a successful debut in the Angels system, going 2-3 with a 3.68 ERA for the rookie league club. In 44 innings he struck out 52 while walking 24. He did not allow a single homer all year and held the opposition to a .245 average against.

A hard throwing right-hander, Adenhart had trouble with left-handed hitters. The southpaws at the plate hit .325 off him. The Angels limited Adehart's workload through the year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery but turned him loose in August. He made six starts that month before moving up to Orem and posted a 2.57 ERA over 28 innings.

Bradley Beck made it into 20 games for the Arizona League club and posted some incredible strikeout-to-walk numbers. His 32-to-4 ratio was augmented by a .225 average against for the year.

The left-hander did not allow an earned run over his first nine relief appearances and had an average against of just .180 over the first two months of the season. Beck, 20, pitched one inning in Triple-A at the end of the year, not allowing a run/

Left-hander Gustavo Espinoza led the Arizona Rookie League in strikeouts (78) en route to a 5-3 year with a 3.84 ERA. In 70.1 innings, the Venezuelan posted a WHIP of 1.28 (72 hits and 12 walks).

Another master of command, Espinoza made an appearance in Orem before winning his final start of the year in Cedar Rapids. But it was the work in Arizona that allowed the then 18-year old to prosper. In eight of his 12 starts he allowed two earned runs or less and the 71 times he faced the leadoff man, only 13 reached base, a .183 on base percentage.

Fifth round pick Thomas Mendoza simply finished second in the league in ERA at 1.55 and as an encore he went up to the California League and worked ten innings of scoreless ball to end the year.

He opened the year without allowing an earned run in 16 innings and allowed just one in his first 24.1 frames. In 52.1, Mendoza struck out 56 while walking just 13. He held the opposition to a .221 average against by with runners in scoring position, the opposition hit just .167, 7-for-42.

In what was a successful year for many of the pitchers on the AZL squad and certainly bodes well for the future, Mendoza outclassed the competition in 2005 in winning AZL Angels Pitcher of the Year. Considering he was a catcher who had barely seen the hill as a high schooler, Mendoza is looking like a steal for the Angels.

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