Level: The Midwest League is the first full season league and one of the more challenging, mainly for the cold weather early in the year. At this level batters are still adjusting to wood bats and learning how to cover the plate. Pitchers with so-so "stuff" can succeed as long as they command their fastball and put it on both sides of the plate.
Pitcher of the Year:
4-2, 1.66 ERA
Big Matt Lollis, 20, began the year in extended spring training and finished the year as the Padres best starter at the A-ball level. He struck out 45 batters in 54.1 innings against only 13 walks and 47 hits. In nine starts, he gave up 10 earned runs and held Midwest League batters to only a .234 batting average. Most impressive statistic; with runners in scoring position, he held batters to a .136 batting average.
8-5, 3.27 ERA
After suffering through an injury plagued 2009, the Dominican lefty bounced back to put together his best year in the organization. DePaula, 20, had a 69-to-20 K-to-BB ratio and allowed less hits, 71, than innings pitched, 85.1 while holding the opposition to a .222 batting average, the lowest of any TinCaps starter.
Pitcher of the Year:
Big Country was virtually unhittable, using his massive size to create a downward plane that rivals Chris Young at his best. He allowed two earned runs or less in all nine of his starts with the TinCaps, averaging six innings per start. Lollis also held the leadoff hitter of the inning to a .145 average – with first outs the norm, it was even harder for the opposition to mount a scoring opportunity.
6-3, 2.20 ERA
After struggling in Eugene last season, Mikolas was awarded the Most Improved Pitcher at Instructs 2009. He proved that was no fluke, working as a reliever all season. He picked up 13 saves at the end of the year after Nick Schumacher moved to Lake Elsinore, striking out nearly a batter an inning while posting a near 2-to-1 ground-to-fly ball ratio. He allowed more than one earned run just three times across 60 appearances.
Others of Note: Michael Watt, 21, the pitcher acquired in the Greg Maddux trade a few years ago, led the team in innings pitched with 125 and finished with a 3.82 ERA. He had a strong 105-to-37 K-to-BB ratio and allowed slightly over two earned runs an outing in 25 starts. Jerry Sullivan, 22, was the Padres third-round pick in the 2009 draft and put together a good season with a 7-4 record and 4.03 ERA. Along with Watt, Sullivan was also a workhorse on the staff throwing 116 innings with a 92-to-29 K-to-BB ratio. A healthy Robert Poutier showed what he was capable of with a 2.49 ERA, allowing just 38 hits in 50.2 innings. Pedro Hernandez was more confident this season but hit too much of the plate with 122 hits in 100.1 innings.
Manager's Comments: " He has a bulldog mentality. He wants the ball and believes that whoever's in that box he's going to get him out." – former Fort Wayne manager Jose Flores on Matt Lollis.
Top Prospect: Matt Lollis.
Size, age and his performance this year make it impossible for anyone to come close to his upside at below the Double-A level. Last year, the Padres skipped Simon Castro to Double-A San Antonio after a big year with the TinCaps, and you have to think with the late season playoff promotion to Lake Elsinore they may have the same idea with Lollis. He has a plus fastball and developing secondary pitches. If the off-speed pitches progress, a ticket to San Antonio may be warranted.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards
Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars