This season the move to Tucson resulted in a drastic change offensively from the overcast weather of the Pacific Northwest. The T-Padres hit .282/.351/.447 but still finished tied for the bottom of the Pacific South as the dry climate of Tucson decimated the pitching staff.
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: The Triple-A level is a combination of development and a taxi squad for major league teams. At this level, many players are good enough to be in the major leagues but, thanks to roster configuration, organizational need, and perceived or real shortcomings, they are just waiting for their shot.
Player of the Year: 1b Anthony Rizzo .331/.404/.652
Someone would be hard pressed to find anyone the Padres have ever had in their system that has put up better numbers than Rizzo, 22, did this year with the T-Padres in 2011. Sixty-one of his 118 hits were for extra-bases along with 101 RBIs in 93 games.
However all is not rosy with Rizzo. Before being promoted in early June he posted even better numbers and with the struggles of Brad Hawpe was anointed the Padres first baseman of the future before he ever took a big league swing.
A .130 batting average with the big club to go along with a big uppercut swing has led some to doubt what his role will be in 2012 especially with the emergence of Jesus Guzman, who finished the year with the highest batting average among all major league rookies.
Pre-all star game he hit .365/.444/.715. After being sent down he hit .288/.354/.571.
Runner-up: LF/1B Matt Clark .292/.363/.498
Clark, 23, did what he's done the past few years: produce and receive little recognition. Last year in San Antonio, the left-handed hitting Clark hit 28 home runs and this year in Tucson he hit 23 to go along with 48 extra-base hits. Clark has proved that he can play a decent left field and cut down on his strikeouts for a respectable 58/116 BB/K ratio compared to last year.
So why doesn't Clark get more attention? Although he even got a few games in at right field, the organization believes that at the major league level he will be limited to either left field or first base, where Kyle Blanks and Anthony Rizzo roam. It will be interesting to see what they end up doing with Clark as he's too good to return to Triple-A.
Player of the Year: 1b Anthony Rizzo
Rizzo wasn't just the best hitter on the T-Pads, he was the best hitter in all of the PCL. When Rizzo was first called up he was leading the league in nearly every offensive category and was second only to Willy Mo Pena in home runs. With 60 RBIs in his first forty-nine games with 34 extra-base hits, 41 runs scored, and a 1.180 OPS, it is shocking that the Padres managed to wait as long as they did before promoting Rizzo.
Yes he struggled in San Diego, but considering some thought he would be starting the year in AA, and was one of the youngest players in AAA it is hard to complain. He is still the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez, even if Jesus Guzman is keeping the seat warm.
Runner-up: 1B/3B/OF Jesus Guzman .332/.423/.529
Even though Guzman, 27, had more at-bats in San Diego (by three) he had more plate appearances as a member of the T-Pads which means he qualifies. Guzman is a hitter without a position, but as we found out in San Diego, when he hits like he does in San Diego they will find a place for him. Guzman was the reason why Rizzo did not walk in every plate appearance in AAA.
Guzman had a .906 OPS in April, .974 OPS in May, and .984 OPS in June before being promoted. He was even better was his splits and just didn't hit left-handed pitching but he DEMOLISHED them to a tune of .475/.556/.918 going 29-61 with eighteen extra-base hits.
Player of the Year: 1B Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo was not just the top performer for the Tucson Padres, but among the best offensive producers in the minors in 2011.
The centerpiece of the Padres' off season haul in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, Rizzo opened the year with a bang, hitting .400/.471/.744 through April, and just kept going through the first half of the Pacific Coast League season. Although he struggled through two stints in the majors, his Triple-A numbers were utterly dominant, including an OPS 58 percent above league average. He has plenty of work to do in his winter league stint in the Dominican, but Rizzo's talent is unarguable.
Runner-up: Hitter Jesus Guzman
Everybody who identified the Padres' signing of a journeyman minor league without a position last November as their most important addition to the club for the 2011 season, raise your hands now. Okay, Mrs. Guzman, you can put down your hand.
For several years, Guzman has been a minor league bat-only guy who didn't have quite enough power for a corner player. However, his performance in Tucson was just too much to ignore and ultimately earned the 27-year-old his first extended look in the majors. His slugging and on-base percentages in Tucson were the best of his career.
2011 MadFriars' Tucson Padres Player of the Year: Anthony Rizzo
Others of Note: Outfielder Aaron Cunningham continued to produce in the minors, and continued to have it not matter for his big league chances. Now 25, Cunningham eventually has to get a shot in the Majors, but it's not clear when or where that is ultimately going to come. Second baseman(ish) Logan Forsythe rebounded from a disappointing 2010 season with a .326/445/528 line in 46 games scattered around a few trips to the majors. The bat is what the club expected when they drafted him 23 picks ahead of James Darnell in 2008, but questions remain about where he belongs on the diamond. Catcher Luis Martinez continued to hit, posting a 323/379/434 line over 58 games in Tucson before a few trips to the big league club, where he acquitted himself nicely behind the plate. He will likely back up Nick Hundley in 2012, with a good amount of playing time. Shortstop Andy Parrino spent the first three months of the year with Tucson, putting up great numbers. But it was his attitude about going down to San Antonio in July to pick up the pieces after Beamer Weems' injury that really impressed the organization, ultimately earning him a call-up to the big league club. He plays above his tools and is exactly the sort of player you want to root for.
Top Prospect: Anthony Rizzo
Rizzo may have had trouble with his long swing path in the Majors, but as his successes at every stop in the minors shows, he has plenty of innate ability to work with. Rizzo has already overcome far greater challenges than swing mechanics, coming back from cancer early in his career and making the transition from his original organization seamlessly.
Rizzo has been given clear marching orders for his Dominican League stint this winter, and the organization expects him to come back ready to claim the 2012 big league job out of spring training. He has the ability to be a major contributor in the middle of their lineup for some time.