Mobile Prospect of the Year

For those of you that have been following the rotating Player of the Year awards between David, Denis and myself, you've probably come to the realization that both David and I tend to give the award to players that we believe has the most potential to help the Padres in the future, as opposed to Denis who awards it to which player had the best year at each level.

Nowhere is this distinction more apparent than when deciding who was the BayBears top pitcher in 2005. To me, it was a no-brainer. Cesar Carrillo Carrillo, at 6-foot-3, 175-pounds, was the Padres first round selection in the 2005 draft and quickly showed that he could pitch at Lake Elsinore, an unusually high place to start his professional baseball career. When the Padres acquired third baseman Joe Randa from Cincinnati, itcost the team two of its better minor league pitchers, Justin Germano and Travis Chick. As a result, the Padres promoted Carrillo to Mobile and he did not disappoint.

In five starts, Carrillo went 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA. He had a 35-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, held batters to a .204 average and only allowed 23 hits in 30.1 innings. All of this came after he logged 125.2 innings with the Hurricanes in Miami and 25.2 innings with the Storm.

Carrillo has an above-average fastball and curveball. The only pitch that he is still developing is the changeup, and when that happens he'll be in San Diego. Carrillo is the rare combination of a pitcher that has tremendous physical skills coupled with the ability to pitch. In 51.3 innings of professional baseball, Carrillo only issued 15 walks.

Carrillo was briefly sent down to Lake Elsinore to help the Storm with the playoffs where he met with his firs struggles, largely due to fatigue. Cesar will be back with the BayBears to start the season, and if he meets the same success as he did last year, and develops his change-up a little more, it is conceivable he will be in San Diego before the All Star break.

After Carrillo, the best prospect in Mobile would be our own correspondent, left-hander Sean Thompson. Thompson, 23, is the best left-handed starting prospect in the Padres organization but he would be the first to tell you that he struggled for the first time in his professional career when he got promoted to Mobile. Part of the change was due to the team changing his arm slot and his well-known aversion to the intense sticky heat of the south Alabama.

Thompson still has one of the best curves in the organization, but his base-on-balls-to-strikeout ratio, 54-to-99 is of some concern as was his .282 average against.

Jeff Kingston, the Padres Director of Baseball Operations said, "We still like him a lot and expect some growing pains with Sean. The big thing with Sean is his command of the fastball."

Thompson agreed. "There is a big jump, from A-ball to Double-A, if you don't think so, you are lying to yourself. Guys at this level are not going to miss that 2-0 fastball".

Thompson also agreed with Kingston's assessment: "Everything begins and ends with my fastball. I really got to work on getting it down, or its going to be a short career."

Thompson will start the season in Mobile and he should be a much different in the coming year.

If you had to go by which pitcher came out and pitched for the BayBears day-in-day out in 2005, it was Mike Thompson. After putting together a very good season in 2004 with the BayBears when he compiled a 10-2 record, Thompson was surprisingly sent back to Mobile. On the surface, Thompson seemed to put together a rather pedestrian year, especially when compared to last year, 6-6 in 18 starts. However, he had the second best ERA on the team at 3.22 for a starter and his 68-to-27 strikeout-to-base-on-balls ratio was impressive.

Thompson continued his success at Portland, finishing with a 4-2 record and a 3.15 ERA. Thompson will get a chance to shine in Portland and he may get a shot in San Diego in 2006 as a spot starter with another solid campaign.

Jared Wells, after a very strong campaign in the California League, was promoted to the Southern League for his last seven starts, where he struggled with a 2-5 record with a 4.40 ERA. He should improve on his performance in 2006; he simply has too much talent for this level not to succeed.

As with the previous two levels of the organization, Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, the BayBears had a good closer this year in Dale Thayer, who put together his third straight quality year.

Thayer who is known for a hard slider and a good change-up, is somewhat similar to last year's big relief pitcher prospect, Brad Baker, the man with the big change-up (I know, I had him as the #2 prospect last year. He's now with the Braves organization after a disappointing season at Portland that saw him lose his closer‘s job).

This year Thayer went 3-5, with a 2.34 ERA and 27 saves. He did experience some troubles at the beginning of the year, especially in April when he posted a 5.90 ERA with all of his losses coming before June 9. After that loss, however, Thayer only two more runs for the rest of the year to give him a 0.64 ERA for the rest of the year.

Thayer isn't a great strikeout pitcher, but he his sinker does force batters to drive the ball into the ground and his ERA speaks for itself. The difference between Thayer and Baker is that Thayer relies more on a hard slider as opposed to fooling people with a change-up as Baker does, thus he doesn't have to rely as much on a fastball to set up his best pitch.

Keep an eye on Mobile's staff at the start of 2006. With Carrillo, Thompson and Wells all coming back this rotation may be the class of the Southern League.

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