Mobile Pitcher of the Year 2006

The Mobile BayBears Pitcher of the Year was hotly contested, as several players dominated over half years in Double-A. With a collective team ERA of 3.58, the starters kept the team in the game and the pen kept it close. As we fought through the nine different starters that logged nine-plus starts and the eight relievers with ten or more appearances, we realized we needed wipers to clear the fog.

When the haze lifted, senior writers David Jay, Denis Savage and John Conniff (sort of) agreed that Jared Wells, the Pitcher of the Year throughout the system in 2005, deserved the Mobile Pitcher of the Year honors this season. Conniff actually strayed from the herd.

Jay's Journal

A year after being crowned the Padres' and Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Jared Wells rolled through two months in the Southern League. While his team featured virtually no offense and spotty relief pitching, the big righty still scratched out a winning record in his 12 starts before moving up to Portland.

While he throws harder than most of the Padres' minor league pitchers (especially after the deadline trading season thinned the herd dramatically), Wells is not a strikeout guy. He works with a heavy fastball that leads to a lot of poorly-hit balls in play and helps keep the ball in the park.

Wells really struggled down the stretch as he tired in Triple-A, but there's no arguing he was the best pitcher who saw more than six weeks of action in Mobile.

Taking that distinction off the table, it would be hard to ignore Cesar Carrillo's impressive run for the BayBears. Last year's top pick and the Padres' best pitching prospect, the 22-year-old posted five quality starts in nine outings before moving up.

Down the stretch, no pitcher anywhere in the system turned in the kinds of performances Jack Cassel did in Mobile. In 12 starts for the Bears, he gave up more than two runs just twice. While it's disappointing that it took a demotion to get those numbers, the 26-year-old righty deserves kudos for his efforts.

The Savage File:

Over his first nine starts in Mobile, Wells allowed a total of nine runs. That is pretty good last time I checked. Wells mixed in his still developing changeup with his low nineties fastball to take the edge away from hitters and keep them off-balance.

"I got off to a really good start down there and it was pretty exciting," Wells admitted of his time in Mobile. "I felt like I was doing well and unfortunately I had the hamstring injury and that set me back a little bit."

Wells' strength has become pitching to contact and hitting the corners. Hitters rarely got good wood on the ball during his time with the BayBears.

Where he earned his money, however, was with men on base. He seemed to kick his game into that extra gear with runners dotting the bases and bore down on his opponents.

That same pit-bull mentality would not follow him to Portland where he was regularly toasted. Also, a trend that surfaced in Double-A haunted him in Triple-A – walks. He walked more batters this year than in any previous season, a result of trying to be too fine with his pitches. The pressure he put on himself to perform didn't help either.

Sean Thompson was a bulldog for the BayBears and experienced a year of maturity, beyond just his age. Portland will do wonders for his game. Jack Cassel may have made a few bucks as a six-year free agent. He was downright nasty down the stretch after a terrible year in Portland. Cesar Carrillo lasted just nine outings before his promotion and subsequent injury but showed poise in the Southern League and has a bright future.

Conniff Confidential

Going into the year I thought that Mobile would have the best pitching in the organization. Three of the top four pitchers were slated to begin there Cesar Carrillo, Jared Wells and Sean Thompson [Clay Hensley was the fourth pitcher], in addition to having last year‘s closer Dale Thayer returning.

By mid-May Carrillo was called up to Portland, after pitching well in Mobile, before going down to an elbow strain that would sideline him the entire year.

Wells, although he didn't have a spectacular won loss record [4-3], baffled hitters, as they batted .235 against the big right-hander at "the Hank". Wells allowed less than two runs per start in Mobile, only giving up 53 hits in 61.1 innings. He did have a rather pedestrian K/BB ratio of 49/27 and frequently went deep into counts, which came back to haunt him in the Pacific Coast League.

Although Denis and DJ thought Jared Wells was the best pitcher for the BayBears this year, I voted for Sean Thompson, who may not have only been the best starter in Mobile, but maybe in the entire system.

"I always knew he was the brains of the operation anyway," Thompson said of Conniff. "Some days you have good days making judgments, some days you have bad days and some days it rains. I am grateful that there is one person out there that thinks I can be a left-handed pitcher in this organization."

What I liked most about Thompson was that he ate innings, went deep into most of his starts, and demonstrated that he has the ability to be a major league starter. In 154 innings (only Josh Geer, at both Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, threw more innings) the left-handed Thompson struck out 134 batters, which led the organization, against 148 hits and 46 walks. He averaged nearly six innings per start and had close to a three-to-one K/BB ratio. What killed Thompson was lapses in concentration, as evidenced by the 18 home runs that he gave up, which was second among pitchers who ended the season in the system to Tim Stauffer's 20.

Thompson may have answered a few questions this year that physically he has the ability to go deep into games and has the "stuff" to get him there. A change of scenery to the cooler climates of Oregon will help Thompson, who has always been vocal about his distaste for the heat, realize his full potential.

Jose Oyervidez finished second in the organization in strikeouts with 131 and nearly threw as many innings as Thompson, 149. His strikeout to base-on-balls ratio, however, wasn't as high as Thompson's - 131/75.

Dale Thayer had another good year out of the pen with 27 saves in 31 opportunities, posting a 7-4 record and a 2.48 ERA. The problem is the Padres never believed that Thayer had enough of a fastball or a good enough slider and change to make it at the higher levels. Memories of Jeremy Fikac, JJ Trujillo and Brad Baker, all of whom had big years in Mobile before getting hammered at upper levels, appear to particularly resonate.

I've always been a Dale Thayer fan, and maybe Tampa Bay is willing to find out if he can pitch at a higher level.

Mobile Pitcher of the Year: Jared Wells

Honorable Mention: Sean Thompson

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