Padres' 2011 MWL Pitcher of the Year

Summary: Despite finishing near the bottom of the Midwest League in pitching the TinCaps had the best pitching prospect the team has seen since Mat Latos in Keyvius Sampson who finished at the top of many pitching categories despite being only twenty years old.

The team also got solid starts out of late round pick Mark Hardy and some good outings by 2010 third round draft pick Zach Cates. However Adys Portillo, a big money sign out of Venezuela had a tough year with a 7.11 ERA.

Two pitchers shone in the bullpen in Chris Franklin and Adam Dominick both of whom were one and two in holds and games appeared in the Midwest League shined for the TinCaps.

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible*. For the top prospect, we took into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.

*Except, of course, for Kevin Quackenbush, who appeared in our Northwest League awards.

Level: The Midwest League is the first full season league and one of the more challenging to hitters, 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.

John Conniff

Pitcher of the Year: RHP/SP Keyvius Sampson 12-3 2.90 ERA

Not a real tough decision on this one. In twenty-four starts, he gave up 38 earned runs and had a 143/49 K/BB ratio in 118 innings pitched. Throw in the fact that the opposition only hit .192 off of him...well, I'll save something for Ben and David to talk about.

Runner-up: LHP/SP Mark Hardy 11-10 2.78 ERA

A forty-third round pick out of the University of British Columbia in the 2010 draft Hardy has been, to say the least, a pleasant surprise.

He was the team leader in ERA and started 19 games with less hits (117) than innings pitched (129.1) and a very good 96/32 K/BB ratio. He's twenty-three and doesn't have a true plus pitch but based on what he did this year he's going to get a chance to keep proving that he belongs at higher levels.

Ben Davey

Pitcher of the Year: RHP/SP Keyvius Sampson

My real question is how Sampson was not named Pitcher of the Year in the Midwest League. He racked up 143 strikeouts in 118 innings pitched and he can't even drink legally yet.

The only reason his earned run average ended up as high as 2.90 ERA was because of three bad starts out of twenty-four this season. Sampson was clearly the most dominant pitcher in Fort Wayne and quite possibly the entire system.

Runner-up:RHP/SP Matt Jackson 5-1, 1.95 ERA

Jackson struggled with injuries throughout most of the season, but was named a mid-season All Star and came back just in time to propel the TinCaps to the playoffs. When things really mattered for the club, he gave up only one earned run in his final three starts.

A sub-one WHIP for a starter with more strikeouts than innings pitched with the opposition hitting .205 against him…I think he qualifies.

David Jay

Pitcher of the Year: Keyvius Sampson

Sampson was a true front-of-the-rotation stud for the TinCaps all season. From opening day, when he whiffed 10 over six hitless innings, to his one-run performance in his last start of the year, Sampson dominated nearly every time out. The Padres could not have hoped for a better year from their 20-year-old righty.

Runner-up: LHP/SP Mark Hardy

Okay, everyone who had the 23-year-old Canadian pegged as the club's ERA leader, raise your hands now. The big lefty who, as a 43rd-rounder was the lowest pick of the 2010 draft class to sign, was a key part of the TinCaps' success this year.

As a starter, his ERA was even better (2.66) across 108.1 innings than his overall numbers, which include a mid-season stint in the bullpen. Hardy was particularly impressive down the stretch, when his final two outings went for 13 shutout innings. His K rates aren't as impressive as most of the other guys in the rotation, but he worked effectively throughout the zone and kept the ball on the ground.

Others of Note: Adys Portillo showed that he has the stuff, posting 97 strikeouts over 82 innings, but struggled greatly with consistency, issuing 55 walks and a 7.11 ERA. Zach Cates was the team's most consistent starter but also struggled with control, allowing 53 walks in 118 innings. Chris Franklin was the go-to guy in the pen, leading the club in appearances with 63 and putting up a very solid 2.97 ERA with seven saves. Adam Dominick was also stellar out of the pen with 83 strikeouts in 72.2 innings pitched against only 13 walks.

Top Prospect: Keyvius Sampson (unanimous)

The biggest question hovering over Sampson coming into the year was how he would respond to the elbow challenges from last year. And while there are always reasons to worry about injuries in young pitchers, the club could not have hoped for much more than Sampson showed them this year. Working on a tight innings limit, he rarely had to go through a lineup more than twice in the Midwest League.

As he advances and works deeper into games, he will need to rely on the breaking ball more frequently, but he has clearly established himself as the guy to watch from this staff.

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