Eugene Emeralds 2006 Pitcher of the Year

The Eugene Emeralds pitching staff placed third in the league in pitching and second in homers allowed, leaving many considerations for Pitcher of the Year honors.

Separating from the herd wasn't an easy task with several quality pitchers emerging throughout the year. The ability to stick Matt Buschmann in Lake Elsinore at the end of the season spoke volumes about the confidence that he and the Padres have in his ability – thus securing the 2006 Eugene Emeralds Pitcher of the Year award.

"Thank you very much," Buschmann said. "I think honestly, and I told this to a couple of my buddies, when you come from college where the coaches are very hands on and you go to professional baseball I think that is when you finally realize that you know a lot about the game and you just haven't used it because the coaches were calling pitches for you in college and all the moves were very hands on where in pro ball you are on your own and finally have to use that knowledge that you gained. I think the fact that it wasn't as pressurized as the college atmosphere and being able to go out there and put everything to use that I learned – I think it was good for me." Conniff Confidential:

Matthew Buschmann, 22, out of Vanderbilt was one of the Padres better picks in the later rounds of the draft. He stuck out 63 batters in only 60.2 innings while walking 11 against 54 hits. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was effective and his brief two game stint in Lake Elsinore at the end of the season does bode well for his future. Buschmann going 1- 0 in two starts and holding batters to a .205 average.

Aaron Breit, 20, was the main target in the Padres draft-and-follow process just before this year's draft. Judging his debut, he seemed well worth the effort. Breit, whose fastball top out at 95 and sits in the low 90's, lead the team in strikeouts with 69 in 64.1 innings pitched against 22 walks, for a three-to-one strikeout ratio.

As for pitcher of the year, I couldn't differentiate between the two; however, I do like Breit and his big fastball more as a prospect but gave Buschmann the award.

Finally, one of the better free agent signings that the Padres had this year was closer R.J. Rodriguez out of Bethune-Cookman who led the Ems with 14 saves. He went 2-3 with a 1.78 ERA, allowing only 23 hits and six earned runs in 30.1 innings in Eugene. He fanned 27 and walked just five.

The Savage File:

Talent found in the first five rounds never defines the draft but rather what gems are picked thereafter. Matt Buschmann was the quintessential pick that could be on the fast track.

The right-hander, taken in the 15th round, strung together a scoreless streak of 16 innings during one stretch of the season, allowing just six hits over that span.

His ability to paint the corners and throw a first pitch strike set the tone for his year. He has a solid repertoire and gets good movement out of his three-quarters arm slot.

While he touched 88-91 in Eugene, Buschmann should benefit with time off and gain a tick or two on his four-seam fastball. After a successful campaign in Eugene, Buschmann was challenged in Lake Elsinore and responded. He may find that he will have to rely on his plus changeup a little more as he continues to move up the ladder.

Aaron Breit is still learning how to pitch yet was a rock with runners in scoring position, holding the opposition to a .179 average against. He has a chance to be a star down the road, one of the true power arms the club has in the system.

Brooks Dunn understands the game and never got down on his game, despite a 1-5 start to the year. He became unhittable down the stretch, allowing one earned run over his last 25 innings.

R.J. Rodriguez was the only pitcher on the team to record a sub-1.00 WHIP – coming in at 0.92 for the year.

Keep an eye on Orlando Lara and Jackson Quezada. Both could be very good in the not so distant future.

Eugene Emeralds 2006 Pitcher of the Year: Matt Buschmann

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