With much of the staff shuttling back-and-forth to San Diego throughout June, the Tucson Padres posted a 5.03 ERA. After getting shelled in two May big league starts, Burch Smith returned to Tucson and quickly reminded everyone how he reached the majors in the first place.
The hard-throwing righty made four starts, posting a 2.74 ERA and 21 strikeouts over 23 innings. The showing earned him a return trip to the big leagues in the bullpen. Sean O'Sullivan, who isn't on the 40-man roster and therefore didn't join the shuttle staff, was the anchor of the rotation, taking the ball six times in June and putting up a solid 3.34 ERA – particularly impressive given that his three home starts may have been the most pitcher-friendly he had in the month.
Closer Miles Mikolas is making a case to be added to the big league club's rotating bullpen. In June, he allowed a run in only two of his 16 appearances, posting a 1.13 ERA and converting eight of nine saves.
June Pitcher of the month: Sean O'Sullivan
The Missions got strong performances from one guy on his way in, one on his way out, and one on his way back. Matt Andriese, the May pitcher of the month, kept it up through June. The big righty from Riverside posted a 2.63 ERA over five starts, though he was held to fewer than 80 pitches in his first three outings. The showing was good enough to pick up a promotion to Tucson in time for his final appearance of the month.
After taking a few starts to get his feet under him at Double-A, 20-year-old Matt Wisler had a strong June. The righty from Ohio posted a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings across five starts, striking out a batter an inning. After entering the year a bit under the radar in the pitching-deep Padres system, it's safe to say he won't escape many observers' attention this winter.
While Andriese and Wisler were continuing a trend, Keyvius Sampson's impressive month was an extreme departure from what had been an ugly start to the year. After getting shelled in Tucson to open the year, Sampson returned to Double-A, scrapped his curve ball, and got on a roll. Still just 22 years old, the 2009 fourth-rounder dominated through June, posting a 2.20 ERA and striking out 31 in 28.2 innings, finishing the month on a 20 inning scoreless streak.
June Pitcher of the Month: Keyvius Sampson
Lake Elsinore Big righty James Needy was always a talent, but until last year, he never stayed on the field long enough or showed consistent enough mechanics to find success. Last year, that changed as the sixth round pick from 2009 posted a 1.75 ERA in Ft. Wayne to earn his way back into the rotation. It took him a little while in April to trust his stuff in the hitter-friendly Cal League, but June showed him, and the organization, what he can do with his heavy sinker and late-breaking offspeed stuff. The 22-year-old posted a 3.55 ERA in June, a number which was skewed high by a rough outing at Lunar Outpost High Desert, but struck out 25 in 25.1 innings and was getting nearly twice as many grounders as fly balls. He may be creating a tough choice for the organization when it comes to 40 man roster spots this winter, as a team could take a flier on him as a middle relief guy in the Rule 5 draft.
Justin Hancock only made two starts for the Storm, but they were impressive. The 22-year-old Ohio native only gave up one earned run on seven hits in 11 innings, though his 4:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio wasn't inspiring. As has been well-documented elsewhere, Hancock, a ninth-rounder out of junior college in 2011, opened last year in Ft. Wayne and was obliterated. He went back to Peoria, reworked his mechanics a bit, and then went out and had a stellar 1.61 ERA for Eugene. Almost exactly a year after he went backward from Fort Wayne last year, he moved the right direction this month.
Cody Hebner walked a tightrope all month, but the reliever managed a 1.17 ERA in 15.1 innings despite walking eight with only 10 strikeouts. Dennis O'Grady and John Hussey highlighted a bullpen corps that had five other guys post ERAs below three, helping the team to a 16-11 record in June. June Pitcher of the Month: James Needy
Fort Wayne If you liked Hancock's performance in Elsinore, you should see what he did to get the promotion in the first place. The righty made three starts, worked 18 innings, and surrendered one earned run. By the time he was done, he owned the best ERA in the Midwest League, a 1.73 mark. As he refines his pitch sequencing, he'll need to up his strikeout rates, but for now, low-level hitters simply don't have a chance against his stuff.
Joe Ross posted a 2.92 ERA for the month, but most of the damage came in his final appearance. Through his first three starts, he had a sub-1.00 ERA, and overall he struck out 19 in 24.2 innings against only five walks. As promising as that was, the Padres staff had to take great heart from an impressive run by Walker Weickel, the supplemental round pick last year who had limped through his first 18 professional appearances. The tall Floridian posted a 3.05 ERA in June with an impressive 19 strikeouts against only four walks in his 20.2 innings. The trick will be for him to build on that success.
Out of the bullpen, Leonel Campos was as unhittable as any pitcher in the game. For June, he faced 45 total batters and yielded only three hits. He struck out 20 and wasn't touched for a run in 11.1 innings. The red flag for him remains walks – he issued seven free passes in June and has 22 in 36.1 innings for the year. June Pitcher of the Month: Justin Hancock
June MadFriars Pitcher of the Month
Across two levels, Justin Hancock had a 0.62 ERA in five starts. It doesn't matter whether the peripherals were as dominant… with a performance like that, he definitely gets the nod here. Next month, we'll have enough data to look at all six levels of the organization.