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: Double-A is one the better testing grounds in the minors. If you reach this level you can play in the major leagues, the separator is how consistently can you perform?
The gap between a journeyman in Double-A and a big leaguer is often defined by the ability to make adjustments in-game and to maintain mechanical consistency, not overall skill level. For Padres' farmhands, the Missions’ home field, Nelson Wolff Stadium, is the closest they’ll get to experiencing Petco Park’s offense-suppressing ways before arriving in San Diego.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP/SP James Needy 10-5 2.90 ERA
Needy, 23, had his second strong year as the six-foot-six Santana graduate got his game back on track after posting an ERA in April of 4.32. He followed up with marks of 2.15 and 1.26 in May and June. James finished second on the team in innings pitched with 145.2 and allowed fewer hits (133) than innings pitched while posting a strikeout to walk ratio of 113/50.
Despite his size, he is not going to light up any JUGS gun, but his sinker/two-seamers force batters to hit what they don’t want too. Needy’s stuff should play well in El Paso next year and he may have a shot in his hometown rotation.
Runner-Up: RHP/SP/RP Josh Geer 7-12 3.58 ERA
I know, he’s 31, not considered a prospect, was the Texas League pitcher of the year in 2007 when most of his teammates were in high school, but this award is about performance, not projection.
In 2014 the best way to describe Geer is that he took the ball. He led the team in innings pitched and finished second overall in the Texas League. In 17 of his 24 starts he gave up three runs or less and for 12 losses, seven came where he gave up two earned runs or less. Along with Needy, he was the only pitcher to throw more than 100 innings and make over 20 starts.
If Josh gets another chance at the big leagues it will probably be in middle relief where his sinker and ability to eat a lot of innings could give him an opportunity. At the least, coming back from skin cancer and other professional setbacks to still go out and toil in the Texas League as he moves past his thirtieth birthday is truly someone who deserves everyone’s respect.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP James Needy
Needy was the only real choice. He led the teams in wins (10), starter ERA (2.90), starts (24), and was second in innings (145.2). One of the things he needed to work on in the off-season was walks, and keeping the ball down in the zone. This year James walked fewer (one fewer in 11 more innings), gave up nearly half as many home runs (6 vs 11), allowed fewer hits (11 fewer in 11 more innings), and kept his GO/FO average at 1.3. Part of it was due to the differences in leagues, but at the same time AA tends to be the league that separates the men from the boys, and this year showed that Needy was the Man in AA.
Runner-Up: LHP Frank Garces 2-5, 1.93 ERA
There is a reason that Garces is in San Diego and being trusted in close games to get left handed hitters out; he held lefties to a .124 batting average. Garces was a starter up until this season when the Padres, at one point flushed with starters, moved him to the pen. He responded with a 1.93 ERA and striking out 74 in just 65.1 innings. Garces faced 97 left-handed batters with the Missions and only gave up three extra-base hits; none of which were home runs.
He does still have location issues, but should challenge to be the LOOGY in the Padre pen next year.
Others of Note: RHP/Closer Johnny Barbato, 21, was rolling along with 16 saves in 18 chances to go along with 33 strikeouts in 31.1 innings before he was sidelined with a sore arm in mid-June. He still finished second in the league in saves and should be ready for Spring Training. Despite a 1-4 recored, RHP/RP Adys Portillo, 22, did show some ability with 68 strikeouts in 55.2 innings. The downside? He issued 43 walks and the guy that the organization signed in 2008 for $2 million dollars out of Venezuela could be a casualty of the Rule V draft. RHP/SP Justin Hancock, 23, missed a good chunk of the season but looked good when he did toe the rubber particularly in August when he had a 3.86 ERA in four starts. LHP/RP Jeff Ibarra, 26, looks completely different at six-foot-six 180 lbs. than Garces, but was nearly as effective with a 2.59 ERA in 41.2 innings with 50 strikeouts against 15 walks. Finally, Jesse Hahn, 24, who spent the majority of his time in San Diego, started off with the Missions and had a 1.91 ERA in 13 starts and 42.1 innings. If Hahn pans out next year as a starter in the big leagues the trade sending reliever Alex Torres and Hahn to the Padres for Logan Forsythe is going to look very good going forward.
MadFriars’ 2014 Texas League Pitcher of the Year: James Needy
Top Prospect: James Needy has won 20 games and thrown over 175 innings in the past two years. As noted above, he’s not going to light up a radar gun but if he has a defense behind him that can field innings he’s going to give his team a lot of quality innings and he should be particularly effective in San Diego.