Approach: We use a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible with whichever team he appeared for the most. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: The California League is notoriously hitter-friendly. While several stadiums are at elevation with strong winds, the Storm’s home field, The Diamond, plays more neutral than the league as a whole. The High-A level is home to players with a wide mix of experience levels.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP/RP Brandon Alger 4-3 2.70 ERA
I am always inclined to pick a starter over a relief pitcher for a variety of reasons; they pitch more innings and have to go through a line-up usually at least twice - in essence, a relief pitcher has to be much better.
Well, Alger, 22, was much better.
In 63.1 innings he had an ERA that beat Colin Rea, Zach Eflin, Joe Ross and Elliot Morris by over a full point. He held Cal League batters to a .191 batting, which again was lower than anyone on the staff and was the only pitcher who threw significant innings that allowed fewer hits than innings pitched . Interestingly Alger was actually tougher on righties (.178) than he was on lefties (.206) this season.
The former starter has enough of a pitching repertoire to throw more than one inning and if he gets off to a strong start could easily be in San Diego sooner, rather than later.
Runner-Up: RHP Zach Eflin 10-7 3.80 ERA
I really don’t think there is a wrong answer for this position. You can easily advocate Rea or Ross for this spot, but I went with Eflin, 20. His ERA was slightly better than Rea’s and he threw the second most innings on the staff at 128. The six-foot-six, 220 lbs. Floridian just pounds the zone with a relentless number of two-seamers and should put up the best numbers of his career next year in San Antonio with his moving two-seamer.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Colin Rea 11-9, 3.88 ERA As John pointed out there are quite a few people that can legitimately lay a claim to this title. Despite the Storm having two of the bigger pitching names in the Padres’ organization in Joe Ross and Zach Eflin, neither of them showed to be the “ace” that normally wins player of the year. Instead the Padres had five starters with good but not great stats.
The reason my vote goes to Rea, 23, is because he led the team in most pitching categories; wins (11), strikeouts (118), and games started (28). Rea would look like the ace of the staff in three starts, and then get hit hard in another. When he is on though, he has enough bite to his pitches to generate a large number of swing and misses.
Runner-Up: RHP Joe Ross 8-6 3.98 ERA
Joe Ross, 21, was the victim of the Cal League. He made 19 starts with the Storm before being promoted. Of the 19, 15 of them were good-to-great starts; the problem is the other four starts he got shelled. Three of those four starts came in extreme hitter parks of High Desert and twice in Lancaster.
Others of Note: RHP Bryan Rodriguez, 23, made 26 starts and threw 149.1 innings finishing up with a 4.16 ERA and an 8-9 record. The six-foot-five Dominican should be able to make the jump to San Antonio and held the opposition to a .269 batting average. RHP/RP Adam Cimber, 23, was very effective in middle relief throwing 77.2 innings with a 2.90 ERA. If he can have more success getting out lefties next year his future could be bright. LHP Chris Nunn, 23, was also a big part of a solid bullpen and threw 58.2 innings for a 4.30 ERA with 76 strikeouts against 25 walks. RHP Matthew Shepherd, 24, was 6-1, mainly out of the bullpen but also had five spot starts. In 86 innings he had 96 strikeouts against 37 walks.
MadFriars’ 2014 CAL League Pitchers of the Year: Brandon Alger and Colin Rea
Top Prospect: Joe Ross (Ben) Last year I had the chance to talk to an Oakland scout who viewed Joe Ross as noticeably better than his brother Tyson at the same stage of development. As with Tyson, Joe can struggle at times with allowing home runs in hitter friendly ballparks, but when he is on his game he can be one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. Joe has more natural movement on his pitches, leading to more whiffs.
If Tyson Ross is an All-Star, and Joe Ross is better, why wouldn’t he be the top prospect?
Top Prospect: Zach Eflin (John)
Well I have an answer for you Ben. In the past two years, while pitching on the same staff, Eflin has been better. Eflin has a better chance to develop into a major league starter because he has greater command of his pitches and has been more consistent.
Could it change? Sure but right now the numbers look like pretty good.
In the past two years he has thrown 246 innings and posted ERAs of 2.72 in Fort Wayne and 3.80 in Lake Elsinore. He’s only twenty, with good size and strength and fits comfortably into a projection as a number three starter that is capable of eating innings and giving his team an opportunity to win every time out.