2016 MadFriars’ Arizona League Padres pitching prospect of the year

While the AZL Padres pitching staff featured a wide array of very young, high-upside pitchers this year, their best performers were a pair of college pitchers from small schools.

Summary: The Padres’ goal in the Arizona League is to get young pitchers into the basic routines of professional work, not to give them a ton of in-game exposure. The team used 31 pitchers to make it through 483 total innings, and only two pitchers worked more than 30 frames total.

With such limited workloads, it’s hard to find much meaning in individual statistics. But the Padres had nine talented teenaged pitchers in the desert, supplemented by some solid, slightly more experienced hurlers who showed quality components.

Overview: 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 Arizona League is the lowest level of the minor leagues in the states. Typically the players at this level are young Latin American players, high school draftees and second-tier college picks. If they play well, a few will get an opportunity to compete for a spot in Fort Wayne next spring.

This year there was quite a bit of talent on the Padres’ AZL team. Given the ability level and the front office’s history of aggressive assignments for players, we could see many of these arms in the Midwest League as soon as next year.

David Jay
Pitcher of the Year:         RHP Lake Bachar 3.45 ERA, 35K, 6BB .232 opponents’ avg. 28.2 IP
While he’s got several years on many members of the pitching staff, the 21-year-old righty doesn’t have a ton of in-game experience. The Padres’ fifth-round pick went to Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater as a punter. But he missed baseball and walked on to the school’s baseball club as a sophomore, quickly emerging as a prospect. In his pro debut, the hard-throwing righty posted impressive strikeout and walk rates, and showed that when he stretched out for longer outings, he could be very effective. He also navigated one of the realities of pitching in the AZL - having your defense commit errors behind you - very effectively, not allowing an unearned run on the year.

Runner-Up:        RHP Jim McDade 1.59 ERA, 27K, 6BB .198 opponents’ avg. 34 IP
At 23 years old and coming out of D-II Millersville (PA) College as an undrafted free agent, McDade was an important presence on the staff in Peoria all summer. The lanky righty turned in 34 quality innings, modeling the sort of work the organization wants to see from all of its pitchers. Relying on command to both sides of the plate, he was a tough match-up for young hitters in the AZL, posting a team-best opponents’ average and allowing less than one runner per inning.

Kevin Charity
Pitcher of the Year: Jim McDade
McDade at 23, was a bit old for the AZL but the undrafted reliever pitched well in Peoria this summer. McDade was second on the squad with 34 innings and led the team with a 0.91 WHIP. McDade ate innings when several of the young arms were only able to throw an inning or two. While he isn’t a leading prospect, his performance in 2016 should give him an opportunity to pitch somewhere in the organization next year.         

Runner-Up: Lake Bachar
Bachar, the Padres’ fifth-rounder this season pitched well in limited innings for the AZL Padres this season. The right-handed pitcher and former punter averaged better than a strikeout per inning, while only walking six in 28.2 innings. The righty’s innings were limited in the desert  but he has a chance to start in Fort Wayne next season.

Ben Davey
Pitcher of the Year:   Jim McDade     
As already mentioned, McDade was an innings eater on a team with numerous young prospects who were only going a few innings per outing. McDade made the most of his opportunity by leading the team in wins and more impressively was the only pitcher to have a WHIP below one.  He was the second-oldest pitcher on the team - Grant Zawadzki beat him by a few months - and will not be in the same conversation as  some of the others, but he far and away put up the best numbers and is well deserving of the pitcher of the year.  

Runner-Up: Lake Bachar
There are quite a few pitchers who could take the runner-up title including Jean Garcia, Mayky Perez, and Starlin Cordero.  The one thing that set Bachar apart from them is location.  While there is no doubt that the three other names listed above have enough raw talent to make them prospects, all three consistently struggled with finding home plate.  Bachar walked just six in 28.2 innings while striking out 35.  He did give up his fare share of hits, but always managed to pitch around it and finished the year strong.  

John Conniff
Pitcher of the Year: Jim McDade
While I don’t doubt Bachar is a better prospect going forward, McDade threw more innings, had a much lower ERA and had a batting average against of .205 compared to .231 for Bachar; and those made the difference for me. A starter in college, he walked only 20 batters in 172.2 innings over his last two seasons for the Marauders.

With the talent the organization will have in the rotations going forward, his best chance of advancement will be as a long reliever; but his performance this season has earned him an opportunity to continue to follow his dreams.

Runner-Up:    Lake Bachar
As with Ben, I thought it was close between Garcia, Perez and Cordero but what put Bachar over the top for me was his 35:6 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio in 28.2 innings. In the AZL if you can throw your fastball for strikes, chances are you will have success.  The competition for spots in the Fort Wayne/Lake Elsinore will be intense this spring and if Bachar can command a breaking pitch and flash a changeup he could have a shot at the rotation.

Others of Note: The three high school prospects from the draft who spent the year in the AZL, representing nearly $4 million in investments by the Padres, were right-handers Reggie Lawson, Mason Thompson and left-hander Dan Dallas.  San Diego held all three out until the beginning of August and will continue to be careful with their innings going forward. On the mound, Lawson showed the most velocity, hitting the mid-90s easily. Thompson, coming off of Tommy John surgery during his junior year, has the feel and frame (he’s 6’6” and long-armed) to promise the most upside. Dallas, a late-rising cold-weather pitcher already showed tenacity as he adjusted to facing higher level competition than he’s ever seen before. All three could be in line to make the jump to Fort Wayne for the first half of next season, likely in a piggy-back situation similar to this year’s group of teenagers.  

A pair of giant Dominican teenagers in right-handers Jean Garcia, 19, (6’5”, 220) and the even younger and larger Starlin Cordero, 17, (6’7, 220), showed some promise in the desert.  Garcia led the team in innings pitched at 46.2 and posted a good 36:15 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio.  Cordero was better with 31 punchouts in 25.1 innings. Even though he allowed 17 walks, he managed a strong 2.84 ERA. Fellow 2015 July 2 signee Andres Munoz hit triple digits with his fastball several times throughout the year and stands out as one of the more intriguing additions to the organization. It's been four years since Mayky Perez was the prize of the Padres’ international signing class, but the big man finally stayed healthy and gave a look at what he can do, striking out more than a hitter per inning.


MadFriars’ 2016 AZL Pitcher of the Year: Jim McDade

Top Pitching Prospect:  Mason Thompson
Thompson emerged as a potential first-rounder as early as his freshman year in high school, but a Tommy John Surgery meant he was available to the Padres in the third round. With an ideal pitcher's build and advanced feel for three pitches already, it's easy to envision him growing into a front of the rotation starter.

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