Pitchers of the Month: August

What to do with so many dominant performances during the month of August in the Padres' system? Sic John Conniff on them. Conniff sorts through the slurves, knucklers, and gyroballs to find a Pitcher of the Month.

Portland Beavers
Tim Stauffer
3-0, 1.00 ERA
RHP/Starting Pitcher

Throughout the years in writing this column, Stauffer has had the bad luck to usually wind up in the "Disappointments" section. Unfortunately for Tim the first month he's the pitcher of the month, he gets shelled in his call-up to the big leagues in. On the positive side, he was dominant in Portland this month, really as anyone in the organization, with three victories in four starts, allowing only three earned runs in 27 innings.

"I think once you are at a place a little longer you are just a little more comfortable," Stauffer said. "Usually your gameplan each time out is going to change depending on the team and depending on the lineup they put in there."

Unfortunately, in two starts in San Diego this year, he has a 21.13 ERA. Still, since the all-star break, Stauffer is 5-1 with 2.00 ERA in 54 innings with batters only hitting .219 against him. The former No. 1 draft pick of the Padres in 2003 seems on the verge of getting over the hump; look for the Padres to give him another chance in San Diego, if not this year, then next.

Prospect Watch: Around mid-June, Jared Wells would have been my pick for biggest disappointment in the Padres' system. Last year at mid-season there was talk that Wells could be called up to San Diego for a spot start, but the second half of 2006 and the first half of 2007 he was on the verge of being released. The Padres decided to move Wells to the bullpen, and this month as the closer he saved six out of seven games with a 1-0 record and a 0.66 ERA. He struck out 20 batters in 13.1 innings against only 11 hits and six walks. He's always had some of the best stuff in the Padres' organization and may have finally found his niche.

Left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher also pitched well, going 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 11 K's in 8.2 innings pitched.

Disappointments: Despite pitching well in San Diego, Jack Cassel struggled in Portland with batters hitting .374 against him. A possible explanation is the artificial surface and a rather porous defense is not the best environment for a pitcher whose greatest strength is pitching to contact with his sinker.

San Antonio Missions
Josh Geer
4-2, 2.81 ERA
RHP/Starting Pitcher

Really it could have been Geer, Cesar Ramos or Wade LeBlanc, but Geer won four games, ate up the most innings - 41.2 - with batters hitting only .203 against him. He led the organization in wins with 17 [16 in San Antonio and one in Portland] and may have put himself in contention for a spot in San Diego's rotation in 2008. Geer struck out 22 in 41.2 innings and only walked six batters.

"This year I've just been working on keeping my two-seamer down, being more careful with my four-seamer and working both sides of the plate," Geer said.

Prospect Watch: The main reason that San Antonio won the second half title was the pitching of Geer, Ramos and LeBlanc. Ramos had his best month with a 4-2 record and a 1.75 ERA. His K/BB ratio was only 18/10, but he only allowed sven earned runs in 36 innings with batters only hitting .237 against him. After a so-so debut first month, LeBlanc turned it on in August, holding batters to a .198 average going 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA over 27 innings with 29 strikeouts against eight base-on-balls.

Disappointments: None. With a team ERA of 2.57 it's hard to find anyone that didn't perform in San Antonio.

Lake Elsinore Storm
Matt Buschmann
2-1, 1.13
RHP/Starting Pitcher

Buschmann continued his dominance with his best month, holding batters to a .163 average in the hitter friendly Cal League in 24 innings against 13 hits. His K/BB ratio was 16-to-3, and he allowed only three earned runs in three starts and three relief appearances. Since the all-star break Buschmann has gone 8-2 with a 1.67 ERA with batters hitting only .220 against him.

"Professionally it's learning how to pitch and critique the performance on your own," said Buschmann. "You learn to know what you can and can't throw, know your mechanics and what you need to do to your body to get ready to pitch."

Prospect Watch: Despite a 2-2 record, Steve Garrison, acquired in the Scott Linebrink trade, posted some solid numbers. His K/BB ratio was an excellent 22/4 and he gave up only 26 hits in 32 innings pitched with batters hitting only .217 against him.

Relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri continues to be a star out of the bullpen with 23 strikeouts in 18.2 innings, holding batters to a .133 average.

Disappointments: Richie Daigle struggled with an 0-3 record and a 6.86 ERA allowing 30 hits in 19.2 innings.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Cory Luebke
1-2, 3.33 ERA
LHP/Starting Pitcher

Luebke was one of the five of the Padres' first-round supplemental picks in the 2007 draft and so far has risen the farthest with his recent promotion to Lake Elsinore. Luebke was 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in Eugene before being promoted to Fort Wayne. Even though he had a losing record with the Wizards, his peripheral statistics continue to be strong, 30 strikeouts in 27 innings against only five walks. He was a little more hittable at this level, allowing more than a hit an inning [27/29] but many in the organization believe in his ability to pitch.

"In college, your 1-2 and 2-2 counts you can think, ‘All right, I am going to make a perfect pitch here' and put that guy away," Luebke admitted. "I have to get out of that mode and try to pitch to the bat and get ground balls, keep the pitch count down and eat up innings."

Prospect Watch: Aaron Breit has struggled all year, but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. This month he was 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA and a 23/5 K/BB ratio. He still caught a little too much of the plate allowing 30 hits in 28.1 innings and batters hit .270 against him, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Disappointments: Steve Delabar continues to struggle and was ineffective as a starter and in the pen with a 0-1 record and a 9.20 ERA.

Eugene Emeralds
Mat Latos
1-1, 3.08 ERA
RHP/Starting Pitcher

Although Nick Schmidt was the Padres first round selection in 2007, Latos was the prize of the draft and so far the 19-year-old has been every bit the power pitcher Padres' fans envisioned. Latos has 70 strikeouts in 51.2 innings against only 18 walks for the season. Is he perfect? No, with a 1-4 record he is catching a little too much of the plate with 53 hits, but the talent is there. Each month Latos has been improving and August was his best month with 37 strikeouts in 26.1 innings, allowing only nine base-on-balls and holding batters to a .240 average. He had a 1-1 record with a 3.08 ERA, his best yet, and only allowed nine earned runs.

"Maturity in the baseball aspect of how to handle myself off the field and on the field," Latos said of what he has learned. "The responsibility of this being a career and not more of a game."

Prospect Watch: Eugene has the best raw collection of arms in the system, the problem is most of them are still learning to pitch. You're going to see quite a few strikeouts along with some line drives hit right back. Still, the Padres have to be impressed with the performances of not only Latos, but also 2007 fifth-round pick Jeremy Hefner who also has some impressive K/IP ratios this month of 35/28.1 against only eight walks with batters hitting only .224 against him. The downside is a 1-4 record with a 4.76 ERA. Colt Hynes, a 31st-round draft pick out of Texas Tech has emerged as the Emerald's closer with Jackson Quezada injured, saving two out of three opportunities and striking out 21 batters in 15.2 innings.

Disappointments: After a good July, Jeremy McBryde, the other draft-and-follow, struggled in August with a 0-2 record and a 7.01 ERA.

Arizona Rookie League Padres
Alexis Lara
3-0, 3.38 ERA
RHP/Relief Pitcher

Lara had his best month of the year, saving one of his two save opportunities and striking out 22 batters in 13.1 innings against only five walks. The twenty-year-old out of the Dominican Republic also hit nearly as many batters (4) as he walked, so his control might not quite be there yet.

"Everyday I try to work hard so that my shoulder doesn't suffer and to try to maintain my strength until I get to where I want to be," Lara said of surgery that limited him to less than 10 innings a year ago.

OF NOTE: The feel good story of the spring, Cooper Brannan, the ex-Marine continues to struggle in his adjustment to pro ball with a 0-2 record and an 11.48 ERA. He's also walked more [9] than he's struck out [8].

Disappointments: Simon Castro has as big an arm as anyone in the lower minors, the problem with him is trying to determine where the ball is going. This month Castro was 0-5 with a 9.28 ERA, the main culprit was allowing 13 base-on-balls in 21.2 innings, despite 28 strikeouts. Oh yeah, allowing 33 hits and 22 earned runs didn't help much either.

Tyler Mead, last month's winner, struggled with a 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA, as batters hit .343 against him.

Pitcher of the Month: Tim Stauffer

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