Level: The San Diego Padres High-A affiliate in the California League is mainly comprised of second and third year players. While Lake Elsinore is a pitcher's park by Cal League standards, that's more a reflection of how many stadiums on the circuit bear more resemblance to an X-box game than a baseball stadium.
Player of the Year: 1B/DH Tommy Medica .330/.406/.623
The University of Santa Clara's Tommy Medica, 24, was drafted in the fourteenth round of the 2010 draft as a bit of a flyer; a good hitting catcher who was struggling to get fully healthy. Two shoulder surgeries later he is still not back to catching, but he and his bat showed up for the Storm in 2012.
Despite not joining the team until mid-May, Medica finished fourth in the league in batting average, first in doubles with 37 and slugging percentage. He had a good glove at first with a .988 fielding percentage but if his shoulder strength improves by next spring enough to catch, he will really be someone to watch.
Runner-up: CF Rico Noel .270/.357/.305
Noel, 23, played in all but six of the Storm's 140 games, nearly all in the leadoff slot. In 134 games, he had 139 hits and 62 walks and scored a team high 79 runs. He stole 90 bases in 113 attempts which was good enough for second in the league (Billy Hamilton of Bakersfield swiped 104 before a mid-July promotion).
|Rico Noel stole 90 bases for the Storm.|
His 159 strikeouts are way too much for a leadoff hitter and he's going to need to hit more balls into the gaps, but it is hard to get past the point that Noel, who is also quality centerfielder, did what everyone wants from a lead-off hitter; he got on base and put pressure on the defense.
Player of the Year: Tommy Medica
Looking at the roster, you see plenty of "top prospects" including Rymer Liriano, Cory Spangenberg, Donavan Tate, as well as high round picks like Everett Williams. However, the player of the year is about the MVP of the team, not necessarily the top prospect. Without a doubt, Medica was the MVP of the club.
He led the club in every offensive category with the exception of stolen bases. He hit over .320 in both halves of the season and led the club in extra-base hits while still maintaining an on-base percentage over .400.
He's has had repeated shoulder surgeries, but if he can get back to behind the plate he will join the team's ranks of elite prospects in San Diego's system.
Runner-up: 2B/UTL Justin Miller .311/.385/.475
Only three players who played a minimum of at least fifty games hit over .300 for the Storm; Medica, Casey McElroy and Justin Miller. While both of them are, to use a nice phrase, vertically challenged infielders whose best position is second base; Miller was a little more complete offensively.
|Miller played 6 different position in the field in 2012 for the Storm.|
While his .311 average trailed McElroy, he was third to Medica in home runs with 12. He also stole 17 bases in 24 attempts. His best position is at second base, but he was able to fill in at every infield position during the year and saw time at both outfield corners.
Player of the Year: Tommy Medica
The owner of the Cal League's best qualifying OPS, Medica is a no-brainer here. The 24-year-old righty didn't get back on the field post-surgery until mid-May, but he clubbed five homers in his first 12 games and never looked back. He posted a league-best .623 slugging percentage, ranked fourth with a .406 on-base percentage, and did it with an acceptable 21.1% strikeout rate. If he is able to get back behind the plate in 2013, he will become a very interesting prospect to watch.
Runner-up: OF Rymer Liriano .298/.360/.443
Liriano was predictably slow over the first 90 plate appearances of the season, but he was dominant in May and June until he got promoted soon after his 21st birthday. The mid-season promotion was surprisingly aggressive given his traditional challenges adjusting at each level, but if he had remained in Elsinore, there's little doubt he would have been among league leaders in every major offensive category.
Others of note: After hitting only .237 in Fort Wayne, infielder Casey McElroy hit like a man on fire in his first ten games with the Storm at .513/.587/.846. Casey finished off at .327/.402/.460. SS Chris Bisson stole 43 bases in 56 attempts on his way to hitting .288/.334/.364. 2B Cory Spangenberg didn't have a bad season, but it wasn't the one that many had foreseen for him either at .271/.324/.352. A mid-season concussion kept him out of the line-up for over a month. Donavan Tate had a bit of an uptick when he was surprisingly promoted in late June, but withered down the stretch to post a .617 OPS in August.
2012 MadFriars' Lake Elsinore Storm Player of the Year: Tommy Medica
Top Prospect: OF Rymer Liriano
|Liriano is "the" Padres' outfield prospect that a lot of hopes are riding on..|
An April which saw him get off to his typically slow start where he hit .198 kind of ruled him out of most player of the year categories. But Liriano, 21, returned with a vengeance, culminating in a June line of .348/.396/.543 before his promotion to San Antonio.
Liriano is the real deal, the only true five-tool prospect in the Padres' system. When he doesn't put too much pressure on himself, he displays an amazing combination of speed and power. The power will show up more when he becomes a little more selective at the plate.