Carter rolls through the Northwest

Picking the pitcher or batter of the year at some levels of the Padres' minor league system is a challenge. This one is not.

The 2005 Pitcher of the Year for the Eugene Emeralds is Brent Carter, a lefty taken in the 16th round of this year's draft out of the University of Alabama. Neither the transition from college to the professional ranks nor from the muggy south to the rainy northwest phased him at all as he quickly and clearly established himself as the best pitcher on the staff.

In his first two starts, Carter struck out ten and allowed one earned run in ten innings. That gave everyone a clear preview of what he would do for the rest of the season. Overall at Eugene, he started 13 games and put up a stellar 1.88 ERA while striking out 66 and walking only seven in 72 innings. To cap it off, in two late-season appearances at Ft. Wayne, Carter struck out 13 more and allowed only one earned run in 12 innings.

Working with a plus breaking ball, Carter simply outclassed hitters making the adjustment from aluminum to wood. At higher levels, he'll need to prove that he can get hitters out with his fastball, but there's no doubting he got the job done in his first professional stint.

Although the competition wasn't close, several other Emerald pitchers did impress in their debuts. Neil Jamison, who closed for first-round pick Cesar Ramos at Long Beach State, had a miniscule 1.32 ERA and struck out 31 in his 27.1 innings of work. He kept up his strikeout parade in a late-season audition for Ft. Wayne and the native San Diegan added himself to a list of potential closers at the lower end of the system that already includes Leo Rosales and Matt Varner.

Neither Josh Geer nor Grant Varnell spent enough time at the level for consideration, but both were solid while there. Third-round pick Geer, a righty who followed Jeff Niemann, Wade Townsend and Philip Humber as stud starters at Rice, had a 3.69 ERA in 31.2 innings with the squad before moving up to Ft. Wayne. Varnell was taken in the 25th round and spent a month in Peoria before joining the Ems. In his 28 innings as both a starter and reliever, he put together a 3.21 ERA and struck out 24 against only two walks.

One final name to keep in the back of your head: Arnold Hughey was a three-year starting pitcher for Auburn before he was drafted in the 13th round this year. After struggling in three efforts as a starter, he moved to the bullpen and was lights out. From the bullpen, he racked up a 1.62 ERA in 33.1 innings, striking out 43 and allowing only 31 runners to reach base. That's worthy of recognition!

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