2012 MadFriars' TL Player of the Year

Summary: San Antonio won their second Texas League Championship as a San Diego affiliate in 2011. Unfortunately, 2012 was not nearly as successful. The Missions finished at 60-80, the second worst record in an eight team league.

Hitting is always going to be a challenge in San Antonio, but the Missions' league –worst .972 fielding percentage didn't help the patchwork pitching staff they were forced to run out for most of the year. Offensively, first baseman Nate Freiman had the best season of his career. OF/1B Cody Decker and utility man Dean Anna also put up good overall numbers.

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. Wherever a player appeared 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. Anyone who succeeds at this level has the talent to play in the major leagues. Those who can replicate their top performances frequently and make adjustments effectively keep advancing from here.

As will be noted often in any discussion of the San Antonio club, Nelson Wolff Stadium's swirling winds make it one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in professional baseball.

John Conniff

Player of the Year: 1B Nate Freiman .298/.370/.502

This selection was not too hard. Freiman was not only one of the best players on the Missions but in the Texas League. He finished third in home runs with 24 and led the league in RBI with 105 as he showed his durability by playing in 137 of 140 games. The two most interesting micro-statistics that pop out for Freiman are that, with runners in scoring position he hit .336, and he actually had a better batting average, .293, when hitting behind in the count than when ahead, .260.

Runner-up: OF/1B/DH Cody Decker .263/.367/.540

In addition to being one of the better interviews in the system, let alone the only member in the Padres' system and maybe in all of baseball that can also sing the lead in the Music Man, Cody can also really hit.

Cody Decker led the Missions in home runs with 25.

He finished second in the Texas League in home runs with 25 despite playing in one of the tougher environments to hit in minor league baseball and was third in slugging percentage. While he did strike out 100 times in 400 plate appearances he also walked enough to finish third on the team in on-base percentage of any player with at least 100 plate appearances. He increased his value this season by showing he had an ability to play in the outfield corners in addition to first base.

Ben Davey

Player of the Year: 1B Nate Freiman,p> Its time for Nate Freiman to get some love. Last year he hit .288/.354/.487 with 22 HR and 111 RBI in Lake Elsinore. Despite these numbers few considered him a prospect because: (a) he was old for the league and( b) he did it in a great hitter's league, the Cal League.

As always, many pundits thought that AA would see a significant decrease in his statistics. While Freiman might still be considered "old," he showed that last year's numbers were due to his ability and not just the league he played in. Freiman's 105 RB not only led the Missions but he was also the only player in the Texas League to finish with over 100 RBI. Additionally, he finished first in the league in hits and fifth in runs scored and OPS.

So maybe its time to start giving Nate his due.

Runner-up: OF/DH/1B Cody Decker

After missing most of 2011, Decker came back this year hoping to even get a chance to prove himself despite being blocked by Freiman at first base. The Missions found a way to get him in the line-up either at DH, the corner outfield spots and an occasional start at first base after a very big May where he was the MadFriars' Player of the Month hitting .343/.438/.761 with 8 home runs and 18 RBI in 20 games.

After being promoted to Tucson and being returned in a little over a month after a slump his power numbers remained the same but his batting average dipped. While Cody would be the first to tell you there is room for improvement he still led the team in OPS .907 and home runs, 25, despite playing in 33 fewer games than Freiman.

David Jay

Player of the Year: 1B Nate Freiman

Big Nate Freiman stepped it up this season in San Antonio. Although on paper, his season looks similar to 2011 in Elsinore, putting up those numbers in the Texas League is much more of a feat. He was among league leaders, not just in counting stats, but in most rate categories as well. His wOBA, an attempt to quantify total offensive production, was sixth on the circuit. He's doing everything he can to keep moving up each year.

Runner-up: 1B/DH/OF-ish Cody Decker

There are plenty of red flags on Decker. He's a short right-handed slugger whose primary position is first base. He strikes out prodigiously. He went to UCLA. (Okay, maybe that's just a prejudice of mine.) But the man can hit a baseball very, very hard. After something of a lost season in 2011, he returned to San Antonio this year and mashed enough to get a promotion to Triple-A. He struggled there and then never got his mojo back when he was demoted. But his overall production actually outstripped Freiman's on a per-game basis.

2012 MadFriars' San Antonio Missions Player of the Year: Nate Freiman

Others of note: 2B/OFJonathan Galvez, 21, missed two big chunks of time with different leg injuries, but put up solid numbers at the plate while improving defensively. His strikeout rate fell this year, but so did his power, but he has the tools to be an important contributor. After a brutal start to the year, "third baseman" Edinson Rincon pounded the ball later in the year. Given his defensive shortcomings, even the 329/362/467 line he put up in the second half might not be enough. Utility man Dean Anna was the player of the year through the first half, but wilted down the stretch. He'll need to show that his May and June performance wasn't a fluke. Jason Hagerty, Jaff Decker, Jeudy Valdez and Reymond Fuentes led a parade of disappointing performances by Missions position players, despite each coming in with varying levels of promise.

Top Prospect: Nate Freiman

Yes, he's going to be 26 and he is limited to first base. Those are really big obstacles for a right-handed hitter. Coming into the year, there was concern whether Double-A pitchers would be able to bust him under his very long arms. Instead, he increased his raw production at the higher level. Given the league context for his 2011 and 2012 lines, he really took a significant step forward. Scouts who have seen him over the span of his career have noted that he has become much more adept at cutting down his big swing particularly when he is behind in the count.

The one type of power hitter that PETCO Park does benefit is a right-handed hitter that can pull it down the line. Throw in the fact that he's also a good defensive player with a .996 fielding percentage and there is a lot to like.

Right now Yonder Alonso is a pretty big roadblock, but Nate could put up some truly frightening numbers in the PCL and make it interesting.

MadFriars Top Stories