2015 MadFriars Missions Pitcher of the Year

2015 was a rough season for the Double-A Missions by every measure, including a league-worst 60-80 overall record. While the offense was so-so throughout the year, only one Missions pitching staff since the team became a Padres affiliate gave up more than the 614 runs this year’s edition surrendered.

Even with their struggles, San Antonio once again had a pair of pitchers who jumped to the Majors, and saw several other big arms who will hope to join them next year.

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 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.

David Jay

Pitcher of the Year: RHP Colin Rea 12G, 75IP, 1.08 ERA, 60K/11BB .185 Opponents’ average

The 2014 season provided reasons for optimism about the big righty from Iowa as he cut his walk rate by more than 60 percent. But even the most favorable forecast for this year would have come up short of what he actually did. Rea simply outclassed Texas League hitters for the three months he was in San Antonio and, while the organization would have liked to give him more time in Triple-A, Rea more than held his own when he arrived in the Majors. He didn’t surrender an earned run in seven of his 12 starts for the Missions, including four outings of at least seven innings, and gave up only one earned run in his final 23 innings on the circuit. When he moved up, his ERA was nearly a full run better than any other qualifying Texas League pitcher, making this the easiest call of any in the system.

Runner-Up: RHP Justin Hancock 22G, 120.1IP, 3.59 ERA, 92K/49BB

It wasn’t always pretty for Hancock, but the 24-year-old righty consistently kept opponents off the scoreboard and gave his club a chance to win. In a year when 17 different pitchers made a start for the Missions, Hancock’s consistent ability to take the ball and keep his team in games was very important to the team. The 2011 draftee shaved more than half a run off his ERA in his second trip through the Texas League even though his walk rate crept up a bit. Using a mid-90s fastball, he gets enough ground balls to erase many of those extra baserunners, but he’ll need to sustain better command to have a chance to let his talent play at the highest level.

Ben Davey

Pitcher of the Year: Colin Rea

Rea burst onto the scene last year after a strong performance in Lake Elsinore where he went 11-9 with a 3.88 ERA, leading the team in strikeouts. As masterful as his 2014 season was,it couldn't even begin to compare to his 2015 campaign in San Antonio. In addition to all the stats the other guys have bombarded you with, Rea went from never even making an All-Star Team, to representing the U.S. in the Futures Game. As many in San Diego have already seen, Rea is not the next ace of the Padres. However, he does have enough velocity and movement on his pitches that he can become a solid #3 or 4 starter, which is apparently worth 15 mil a season (or at least that's what Ian Kennedy is going to get).

Runner-Up: Justin Hancock

Hancock is a player I have followed closely since he was drafted by the Padres. Partly because he is a really nice guy who loves to talk baseball, but also because no broadcaster can mention Justin Hancock without pointing out that he is from Defiance, Ohio. Hancock was, and still is, a pitcher who has the raw talent to succeed in the majors, but runs into trouble locating his pitches. Throughout his career he had averaged nearly four walks per nine innings. This year, unfortunately, was no different, as Hancock still walked 49 in 120 innings leading to a WHIP of 1.46 (average for a starter is usually closer to 1.25). However, he became an expert this year at escaping from jams, and - most importantly - stayed healthy. This Missions team did not have a lot of bright spots, but watching Hancock come back strong and healthy was a big win for the team.

Kevin Charity

Pitcher of the Year: Colin Rea

I had to give a little thought on my selections for the other awards we gave out, but Colin Rea was by far the easiest choice. Rea allowed opposing hitters to bat just .186, and he allowed just 11 walks in 75 innings. Rea never allowed more than two runs in any Texas League start, and allowed no runs in seven starts for the Missions. Rea’s dominance helped him reach the Big Leagues, where he showed promise.

Runner-Up: Justin Hancock

I gave some consideration to relievers Michael Dimock and Tayron Guerrero, but ultimately Hancock gets the nod. While Hancock allowed 127 hits in 120 innings, he generally gave the Missions a good outing each time out. Hancock pitched to a 2.98 in the first half, but tapered off a bit in the second half. He is probably the best prospect in the upper minors not to have reached the Padres, but he will need to refine his control to reach Petco Park next season.

John Conniff

Pitcher of the Year: Colin Rea

Most in the Padres’ organization had thought it was only a matter of time before Rea’s talent started to come through. This year it did. We got a good glimpse last season in Lake Elsinore when he began to throw inside more to open up the outside corner to his two-seamer and scrapped the change-up for a splitter and he arrived. Favorite statistic: he gave up only nine earned runs in 12 starts. At six-foot-five and a solid 225 pounds he has the size you look for in a pitcher and has a good chance to start 2016 in the big league rotation.

Runner-Up: Justin Hancock

As the others have noted, he walked more people than he would have liked, but he is an intriguing prospect with his two-seam fastball/slider combination and despite his slight frame he can dial it up to the mid-90s. He was second on the team in innings pitched, led the team in strikeouts and earned a late season promotion to Triple-A El Paso. He should be one of the top arms in the upper levels next season.

Others of Note:

When Tayron Guerrero is on, he is an absolutely dominant shut-down closer. When he’s not, he’s a spastic-looking thrower and fans anywhere in the lower seating area better be on the lookout just in case he really misses with his next pitch. The 24-year-old Colombian can make it look easy to triple-digits with his fastball, but he also regressed from last year’s walk rate to issue well over four free passes per nine innings of work. He’s headed into his second season on the 40-man roster, but until he has more consistent control of his lanky body’s mechanics, it’s hard to see how he could be ready to help the big league bullpen in the coming year. … Casey Kelly’s long road back from Tommy John surgery finally came to its end in September when the now-26-year-old made three appearances for the Padres. The last remaining piece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade had genuinely mixed results during the year, but did manage to get his innings in and remain healthy. While there is still immense underlying talent, Kelly no longer has youth and relative inexperience for his age on his side as reasons for optimism. It will be interesting to watch how the club handles the athletic righty next spring.

MadFriars’ 2015 Texas League Pitcher of the Year: Colin Rea

Top Prospect: Colin Rea

Rea isn’t a future ace in the Majors, but the 25-year-old certainly showed that he belongs as a member of the big league rotation this year. The big man will have to continue to trust his stuff enough to avoid nibbling around the edges of the zone, as the reduction in walks since he was drafted has been among the most important parts of his development. His emergence as a twelfth-round pick is the sort of scouting and player development success story the Padres desperately need to have more frequently.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Tayron Guerrero as Dominican. We apologize for the error.

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