Level: Double-A baseball is where the rubber meets the road or where you find out who can really play. Anyone who makes it to this level has the talent to play in the major leagues; it's more of a question of how often they can replicate their top performances to keep on advancing. As will be noted often in any discussion of the San Antonio club, Nelson Wolff Stadium because of its swirling winds is one of the most pitcher friendly parks in professional baseball.
Pitcher of the Year:
7-2, 1.87 ERA
Gomes is what you want to see in middle relief; he throws heat and strikes people out. In 72.1 innings pitched he struck out 93 against only 15 walks and 52 hits. After the All-Star break, he was even better, giving up only six runs in 34 innings, as batters managed a .185 batting average against him. Gomes is not the biggest guy in the world at 5-foot-11, but he has been consistently getting outs since he came into the system in 2007. How deep is the Padres minor league bullpen depth? This is Gomes second year in San Antonio and last year he had a 2.62 ERA and a 100-to-28 K-to-BB ratio.
7-6, 2.92 ERA
Castro, 22, entered the year as the organization's top prospect and lived up to expectations after skipping High-A Lake Elsinore. Although he faded a little in July, he only allowed 42 earned runs in 23 starts and posted a 107-to-36 K-to-BB ratio. He allowed fewer hits, 107, than innings pitched 129.2 and the opposition managed only a .223 batting average against him.
Pitcher of the Year:
The man with the devastating splitter was dominant for the second straight year. Gomes has struck out 193 across his last 144.1 innings, 12.03 batters per nine innings pitched. He has filthy stuff and should be on the Padres 40-man roster. A 7-2 record speaks to his ability to come in and keep the score tied so his team can try for the win. He allowed runs in just 11 of his 51 appearances, holding right-handed hitters to a .161 average.
The big right-hander continues to perform at a high level even when challenged, as mentioned above. His control has been impressive and his slider a true wipeout pitch. The changeup has also advanced. Castro still has some mechanical issues to resolve but is on track with two plus pitches and a third that is now a solid offering. Castro will face his toughest challenge in full-time duty with Portland next season with an eye on a rotation spot by the end of the season.
Others of Note: Jeremy Hefner, 24, led the team in innings pitched at 167.2 and posted a good 115-to-51 K-to-BB ratio. Hefner also led the team in victories with an 11-8 record and had a 2.95 ERA. Much of Hefner's success this year can be attributed to an uptick in his velocity, which returned to the levels he was hitting in college along with improved breaking pitches. Evan Scribner, 25, took over the closing duties when Craig Italiano went down with injuries and never regained his command. Scribner was 16-for-17 in save situations to go along with a 4-5 record and 2.59 ERA. What always stands out about him is his ability to strike batters out, 81 in 66 innings without giving up any walks, 15, or that many hits, 51, as he held batters to a .213 batting average against him. Alexis Lara has big time stuff but will lose focus and spiral out of control. He posted a 3.95 ERA this past season. Nathan Culp will have to figure some things out or face hitting the Double-A wall after posting a 4.21 ERA with 139 hits in 117.2 innings.
Manager's Comments: "The biggest leap is a maturity factor for him. He's getting more and more comfortable every day and year he gets to the ballpark." – San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo on Simon Castro.
Top Prospect: Simon Castro.
He's only in his second full season of professional ball and is still refining his mechanics. At 6-foot-5, a very solid 225 lbs., Castro is one of the Padres' top pitchers not only because of his ability to consistently throw a low to mid-90s fastball but because of his outstanding work ethic on both the physical and particularly the mental sides of the game. He has the ability to become a top of the rotation starter.
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