2014 MadFriars' PCL Player of the Year

Summary: El Paso had an impressive season in their first year in AAA baseball. Despite starting the first 24 games of the season on the road, the Chihuahuas still finished the season with a .500 record and drew 560,997 fans to their beautiful new downtown stadium, Southwest University Park.

How much of a change was it from last season in Tucson?

Last year the Tucson Padres didn’t even draw half that number (200,077) in a full year with more home games.

The Chihuahuas got quite a bit of national attention thanks to Twitter superstar Cody Decker, especially for his prank on Jeff Francoeur that went viral. There were some top prospects in the Sun City this summer, led by star pitcher Matt Wisler and infielder Jace Peterson and Jason Lane was one of the feel good, and more unique stories, in the minor leagues.

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 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.

The Pacific Coast League features some of the more offense-inflating parks in affiliated ball, making it difficult to divine great meaning from many players’ stat lines on the circuit. While El Paso park was not as bad for pitching as others in the PCL, notably Las Vegas and Colorado Springs, it was only slightly better for pitchers from last year in Tucson.

John Conniff

Player of the Year: 1B/3B/C Cody Decker .261/.337/.514

I know, I like Cody. Guilty. But here are my reasons why he’s my player of the year. He led the organization and team in home runs with 27, was first on the Chihuahuas with 79 RBI in 134 games and was first in total bases with 234. If you like non-counting statistics Decker, 27, finished with the second best OPS on the team with anyone who played in at least half of the team’s number of games.

Although he obviously had a good year, he was also fourth in the league in strikeouts with 150 in 500 plate appearances as sometimes he went for too much. A good indication of how much better he is when the count is in his favor is that he hit .314/.514/.661 when ahead and .186/.342/.539 when behind.

Defensively, his best position is first base and despite working the entire spring as a catcher only got in 11 games as a catcher but saw the most games in his career at third with 15.

The Padres have Decker under control for one more year and maybe a new regime might be willing to give him an opportunity. He’s always seemed to be an ideal National League bench player because of his versatility.

Cody may not have gotten his wish to make it to the majors, but he did toss his first, and according to him last, inning of pro ball with a scoreless frame on May 28.

Runner-up: SS/2B/3B Jace Peterson .306/.406/.464

Frankly I thought Peterson’s career was mismanaged this season. The “book” on Jace, 24, has always been that the former two-sport collegiate athlete needed the defensive reps at shortstop to have a chance to fully develop into a quality defensive player. After putting up a solid month in San Antonio (.311/.386/.392) and being under the tutelage of the best infield coaches in the system, Missions’ manager Rich Dauer, the Padres yanked Peterson up and down multiple times putting him at positions which he had little or no experience instead of giving him at a minimum of a half-season of uninterrupted playing time at the AA/AAA level.

Peterson finished up strong in August hitting .357/.421/476 and made only five errors in 68 games with the Chihuahuas. There is a good chance the Padres will make him the everyday shortstop with El Paso next year.

Ben Davey

Player of the Year: Batter Cody Decker

When you lead the club in nearly every offensive category it is a pretty easy decision who is the player of the year. Decker had to battle with “other” issues that could have easily impacted his game. Some positive, making national news for his video; some negative, not starting in his “natural” position, not being a September call-up despite being the dominant force offensively. Decker didn’t let any of that stop him as he posted his best OPS in August (.989), In that month alone he hit more home runs (11) than Carlos Quentin had all year (four).

Runner-up: LF Jake Goebbert .296/.410/.539

Goebbert, 26, came over to the Padres from the A’s in the Kyle Blanks trade, and immediately let his bat do the talking. In 79 games with El Paso he had 37 extra-base hits (including 14 home runs), 58 runs scored and 60 RBI. Put that over a full season and we would be looking at 100 RS, 100 RBI, and 25 HR. What might be more impressive is Goebbert managed to walk as much as he struck out with El Paso. He’s had varying levels of success with the Padres, mainly finding it difficult to get into a game, but his bat is good enough that we shouldn’t see him back in AAA anytime soon.

Others of Note: SS Tyler Greene, 30, although he also saw time at second and third, had a solid year at the plate hitting .307/.358/.453. Greene, a five year major league veteran whose best defensive position is shortstop was oddly not called up by the Padres this year when they needed infield help. He might have more opportunities outside the organization next season. 3B/LF Jonathan Galvez, 23, also saw some time at first base and hit .280/.354/.449. His defense has improved but not being a middle infielder doesn’t help his chances of making the big club. On team with so many guys that could play so many positions Alex Castellanos, 27, stood out seeing time at six different positions, but mostly in the outfield, and hit .275/.351/.439.

2014 MadFriars’ El Paso Chihuahuas’ Player of the Year: Cody Decker

Top Prospect: Jace Peterson is still the one of the best, if not the best athlete in the system. When everything is firing, he has solid gap power, gets on base and steals bases and is sure-handed defender. Peterson has the most value in the middle infield and many in the organization believe that he has the range to play shortstop on the major league level.

Hopefully in 2015 the organization will put Jace at his best position, shortstop, so he can become a viable option at that position on the big club.

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