Padres' 2011 Texas League Pitcher of the Year

Summary: On a very good team that won one hundred games on the way to a league championship, pitching was its strongest component.

Even after Anthony Bass was called up to the majors in June, the team boasted seven starters as they made their playoff run in Casey Kelly, Simon Castro, Pedro Hernandez, Jorge Reyes, Pedro Martinez and Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland, the later two that came over in the Mike Adams trade on August 1.

The bullpen was also impressive with Brad Brach notching 23 saves in 25 attempts and then Miles Mikolas picking up where he left off going 9 for 11. Nick Vincent also came up big as the eighth inning guy with an 8-2 record and 2.27 ERA.

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.

Level: Double-A baseball is where the rubber meets the road and you find out who can really play. Most players who make it to this level have 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's swirling winds make it one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in professional baseball.

John Conniff

Pitcher of the Year: RHP Casey Kelly 11-6 3.98 ERA

The most impressive part of Kelly's year was his durability. He took the mound twenty-seven times and threw 142.1 innings and in nearly all of his outings he gave his team a chance to win. Only Jorge Reyes joined him with over twenty starts for San Antonio this year. Kelly, 21, had a 105/46 K/BB ratio and showed velocity in the low- to mid-90s, but his best pitch is a type of two-seam/sinker that he throws for strikes.

The downside of the year was that he caught a little too much of the plate at times, as indicated by his hits to innings pitched ratio of 153-to-142.1. However this was still only his second full year pitching professionally and the frst time he has been relatively injury free.

Runner-up: RHP Brad Brach 2-2 2.25 ERA

Despite being promoted the day before the Fourth of July, Brach,25, still ended up leading the Texas League in saves with 23, the third straight league where he ?nished on top in this category.

His work in San Antonio May have been his best yet, as he converted 23 of 25 save opportunities and struck out 64 batters in 44 innings against only 32 hits and five walks. Brach only gave up eleven earned runs in 42 games as the opposition could only manage a .198 batting average against him before he moved on to Tucson and eventually San Diego. Not bad for a 42nd round draft pick.

Ben Davey

Pitcher of the Year: LHP Juan Oramas 10-5 3.10 ERA

Oramas might not be the top prospect that Kelly or Castro is, but he had every bit the season that they did. Oramas,21, was second on the team in wins, first among full time starters in ERA, with more innings pitched than hits allowed and nearly a strikeout (102) per inning pitched (104). He also had nearly a four-to-one K/BB ratio which is outstanding for a starter. Throw in the fact that he didn't turn 21 until May, and we have the pitcher of the year for the Texas League champs.

Runner-up: RHP Brad Brach

Brach has been the most dominant closer in the Padres system the past three years running. So why would this year be any different? Brach was 23 for 25 in save opportunities, walked one hitter per nine innings pitched, and struck out over a batter an inning. Brach's hard work finally paid off when he was promoted to San Diego later in the year.

David Jay

Pitcher of the Year: LHP Juan Oramas

On a roster that posted the highest strikeout and lowest walk totals in the Texas League, the 21-year-old posted the best K and BB rates of any starter who worked 50 innings.

Under-appreciated by many prospect mavens because of his body type and a career trajectory that included a year pitching in Mexico City, he continues to put up impressive numbers at every stop. The lefty's 3.10 ERA paced the rotation throughout the year as he crossed 100 innings pitched threshold. Lots of innings and great performance? Sounds like the pitcher of the year.

Runner-up: RHP Anthony Bass 6-4 3.75 ERA

When the Padres selected the Michigan native from Wayne State in the fifth round in 2008, his fastball was in the low-90s.

Thanks to some mechanical changes, he added four to five miles per hour, helping position himself for the jump to the big leagues he made in June. Before the promotion, he worked 70 high-quality innings for the Missions, yielding 62 hits and a 1.19 WHIP on his way to earning a mid-season All-Star slot. After an apprenticeship in the bullpen for the Padres, Bass, 23, is in line for a slot in the big league rotation in 2012.

2011 MadFriars' San Antonio Pitcher of the Year: Juan Oramas

Others of Note: Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin both came over in the Mike Adams trade and looked very good. Wieland, 21, went 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA allowing only eight earned runs in five starts. Erlin,20, was even a little better with a 1.38 ERA in six starts with a 31/4 K/BB ratio. Jorge Reyes,23, whose enigmatic career at Oregon State caused him to slide to the 17th round in the 2009 draft, performed quite well with a 10-3 record and 3.12 ERA striking out 98 batters against 30 walks. After a disastrous stint in Tucson and a brutal first month back in San Antonio, Simon Castro, 23, regained his form somewhat. In his final seven starts the big righty posted a 2.53 ERA with 35 strikeouts against only five walks. Even with mechanical and mental breakdowns this year, he remains an intriguing prospect.

Rob Musgrave continues to pitch well in both relief and starting roles with a 7-2 record and 3.3- ERA. Although Nick Vincent didn't get the marquee assignment of being the closer, he was a huge part of the Missions' bullpen success with an 8-2 record and 2.27 ERA with an 89/20 K/BB ratio as Texas League batters hit .196 against him. Erik Hamren and Josh Spence, who each improbably ended the year in the Majors, both dominated out of the bullpen during their stint in San Antonio, combining for 96.1 innings and only 16 runs allowed.

Top Prospect: LHP Robbie Erlin 6-2 3.50 ERA (overall)(unanimous)

Erlin doesn't have the biggest stuff in the system, but the 20-year-old lefty from Northern California, has a remarkable ability to spot his pitches.

In 266 professional innings, he has walked only 34 and struck out 288. The 8.5-to-1 ratio is among the tops in affiliated ball. One of the primary knocks on Erlin, his fly ball tendencies, becomes less problematic in the spacious ballparks of the N.L. West. While Jed Hoyer took a fair amount of grief from the fan base for trading Mike Adams instead of Heath Bell at the 2011 trade deadline, securing Erlin and Wieland in exchange for one year of a setup reliever will almost certainly go down as a great parting gift to the organization.

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