Summary: Early on, the Missions were on pace for a historically bad season, posting a 22-48 in the season’s first half. However, with a revamped roster as the summer wore on, they finished 36-34 on the back of quality pitching in the rotation and bullpen.
The club didn’t feature a ton of future big-league regulars throughout the year, but there were enough interesting pieces to give hope for the El Paso staff in 2017.
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.<p>
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.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Seth Simmons 2.35 ERA, 88K, 29BB, 72 H in 95.2 innings
If there was a less likely story in professional baseball this year than Seth Simmons, I have yet to find it. The 28-year-old righty was released by the Diamondbacks five years after they made him a 40th-round pick, having never made a professional start. He joined the Missions on May 31, and proceeded to deliver stellar results, first in mop-up relief, but quickly transitioning to the rotation. From there, he put together 15 starts with a 2.26 ERA, allowing 91 total runners in 87.2 innings. He’s short and his stuff isn’t overpowering, but the East Carolina product has pitched his way into an opportunity in 2017.
Runner-Up: RHP Dinelson Lamet 3.39 ERA, 91K, 31BB, 57H in 74.1 innings
Unarguably the top pitching prospect in the upper minors for the Padres, Lamet did everything he needed to in his 2016 campaign. After steamrolling the Cal League for 12 starts with Elsinore, the 24-year-old made the transition to Double-A. Through three starts with the Missions, he gave up 10 runs in 15 innings with an alarming 10 walks allowed. He settled in after that and was especially dominant through August. His fastball is electric and, though he sometimes fights for feel of the slider, it too can be a very good pitch. Lamet profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter with high strikeout totals, and should be in San Diego by the summer of 2017.
Pitcher of the Year: Seth Simmons
Simmons had appeared in nearly 250 minor league games before making his first professional start for the pitching-starved San Antonio Missions. The results showed that the Padres may have found something. Simmons posted a 2.26 ERA in 15 starts, including a 1.41 ERA pitching at home. While Simmons is small in stature (he’s listed at 5’10) the 28-year old former Diamondback farmhand was a huge reason why San Antonio had a winning second half.
Runner-Up: RHP Kyle Lloyd 3.31 ERA, 130.1 IP, 124 H, 38 BB, 99 K
Lloyd, 25, had his finest season as a professional. The split-finger specialist saw his ground-ball outs increase, although his strikeouts took a noticeable hit. Still, Lloyd was very effective as a starter and finished fifth in the Texas League in ERA among qualified starters. Lloyd was lights-out in the second half as well, pitching to a 2.45 ERA in 14 starts. Lloyd has started each of the last three seasons in the ‘pen before working his way into the rotation. Lloyd should be penciled into El Paso’s rotation in 2017.
Pitcher of the Year: Seth Simmons
Its funny that the pitcher of the year for the Missions was released in May by the Diamondbacks. The Padres picked him up a few weeks later, and by the end of June, desperation forced him into the rotation. He never looked back. In his 15 starts with the Missions, he allowed more than three runs just twice including nine starts where he allowed one or fewer runs. Simmons is 28 and has never been a prospect, but he put together a great half a season with the Missions.
Runner-Up: LHP Kyle McGrath 1.29 ERA, 48.2 IP, 32 H, 8 BB, 50 K
While Seth Simmons was a big reason for the turnaround for the Missions, the biggest reason was the dominance of the bullpen. Rafael De Paula, Adam Cimber, Jason Jester, and Jose Torres all had ERA’s less than three, but none were as dominant as McGrath. McGrath averaged more than a strikeout per inning while walking the fewest hitters per innings, and having the lowest WHIP. Despite only spending half the year in San Antonio, McGrath led the team in holds and was the go-to person to help the starters get out of jams.
Pitcher of the Year: Seth Simmons
Simmons’ performance in the Alamo City turned around his career and should earn him a starting spot in Triple-A El Paso’s rotation next spring. As Kevin noted above, a possible reason for his success in San Diego as opposed to with the Diamondbacks is he was significantly better as a starter, 2.26 ERA in 87.2 innings with a .197 batting average against than coming out of the pen in previous years.
Runner-Up: Kyle McGrath
You can make a very good argument for Lamet, Lloyd and Michael Kelly, all starters for the runner-up but McGrath put up numbers that were significantly better than all of them coming out of the pen in nearly as many innings. He struck out more batters than innings pitched and held the opposition to only a .188 batting average against; easily the best of the three
Others of Note: RHP Michael Kelly, a first round pick in 2011 that many had given up for dead, bounced back with a big season splitting time between Triple-A El Paso and the Missions. In San Antonio he posted a 2.90 ERA with a 49:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 49.2 innings. RHP Jason Jester was the closer for most of the year until his promotion and had the type of numbers that you want to see in that role with 53 punchouts against only seven walks in 39 innings converting on 14 of 16 save opportunities. RHP Yimmi Brasoban was another strong bullpen arm who struck out 35 in 35.2 innings pitched, although the walks were a little high at 16. Finally, RHP Adam Cimber isn’t going to post big strikeout numbers, but he did lead the relief corps with 52.5 innings pitched while posting a solid 2.56 ERA. The sidewinder held right-handed hitters to a .200 batting average and made progress on lefties with an improved changeup.
MadFriars’ 2016 Texas League Pitcher of the Year: Seth Simmons
Top Pitching Prospect: Dinelson Lamet
Lamet will go into the season as San Diego’s best pitching prospect in the upper levels. In only his second full-season of pro ball he flashed a very big fastball, and when his slider is on, he is very tough to hit. He held the opposition to a .207 batting average against, and with an improved changeup should be the top pitcher in Triple-A El Paso.
The Padres will probably keep him in Triple-A for a bit, he will still have only 260 professional innings pitched going into next year, but he is definitely someone to watch.