Padres Prospects: April Pitchers of the Month

The Portland Beavers – perhaps surprisingly – led the organization in team ERA. The San Antonio Missions staff led in strikeouts. The Lake Elsinore Storm and Fort Wayne Wizards tied for fewest homers allowed. But who took the individual awards for April? Take a look inside...

Portland Beavers
Dirk Hayhurst
0-0, 3.78 ERA
Relief Pitcher

You mean the guy who writes the "Non-Prospect" Diary for Baseball America? Yup, it's Dirk.

For someone who generates as much publicity as he does, what is surprising is not many people mention he can also pitch and may be putting himself into a position to help San Diego's bullpen.

This month, Hayhurst struck out 22 against only four walks in 16.2 innings, holding batters to a .227 average. He doesn't have great velocity, but can throw four pitches for strikes at any time in the count when he is going well. Hayhurst is aggressive down in the strike zone and is the type of pitcher everyone needs on their staff, a guy with a rubber arm that can give you as many innings as you need. After the starters, he logged more innings than anyone else on the staff this month.

Prospect Watch: Of all the big three – Josh Geer, Cesar Ramos and Wade LeBlanc – Geer had the best month going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA. His numbers would have been better if he didn't have one hiccup early in the month where he allowed 11 hits and eight runs in 3.2 innings, but his peripheral statistics were still strong, 14-to-4 K-to-BB ratio and a .255 batting average against. Shawn Estes pitched well with a 3-2 4.61 ERA and a 21/6 K/BB ratio. He held PCL batters to a .269 average and may be the first pitcher to get the call if the big club needs help.

Disappointments: Wade LeBlanc started off well but got hit very hard in his last two starts allowing 20 hits and 15 runs in 6.1 innings to finish off the month at 2-2 with a 9.27 ERA. Overall, he allowed 35 hits in 22 innings pitched with batters hitting .365 against him. In fairness, LeBlanc is going to take some lumps as he continues to work outside his comfort zone with throwing more two-seam than four-seam fastballs as opposed to last year. The organization believes that his fastball is going to need more movement on it to succeed in the majors, thus the move to a two-seamer, and its better he take his growing pains in PGE Park than in PETCO.

San Antonio Missions
Will Inman
3-1, 1.95 ERA
Starting Pitcher

Inman was the main target in last year's trade of Scott Linebrink, and this month he showed why, putting together a great run by striking out 29 batters in 32.1 innings and holding Texas League batters to a .191 average.

His only negative was a relatively high number of walks, 14, but his increase in velocity to the low-90s and only allowing 14 runs in six starts at 21 in Double-A is impressive.

"Mentality is the biggest thing," said Inman. "I am not trying to sound like an old salty vet, but last year taught me a lot about the mental stuff. You get beat up a little bit and you have to go out there again."

Prospect Watch: Matt Buschmann and Steve Garrison both had nice debuts in San Antonio with only one or two hiccups. Buschmann went 2-1 with a 4.07 ERA and a 26-to-8 K-to-BB ratio. His IP/hits ratio was good at 26/25 with the exception of one bad start in Frisco's bandbox his overall numbers would have been better. Garrison, 21, was the third pitcher in the Linebrink trade and worked a no-hitter against Northwest Arkansas over seven innings in his second start and his overall numbers were solid; holding batters to a .237 average. Edwin Moreno also did a nice job as the Missions' closer, going 6-for-6 in save opportunities with a 1.59 ERA.

Disappointments: After a very good 2006 in Lake Elsinore, Mike Ekstrom struggled this month with a 1-2 record and a 5.86 ERA. Ekstrom allowed 38 hits in 27.2 innings, as batters hit .317 against him.

Lake Elsinore Storm
Mike DeMark
0-0, 2.57 ERA
Relief Pitcher

The Padres have always had success scouting the Independent Leagues and may have struck again with DeMark – who was with the Storm last year. The middle reliever held Cal League batters to a .192 average and sported a 20-to-4 K-to-BB ratio, by far the best on a staff ERA of 4.83.

"What separates me from a lot of guys is I have a different demeanor," DeMark said. "I pitch every game as if it is going to be my last game."

Prospect Watch: The California League is really tough on pitchers, but there were highlights. Drew Miller showed some signs of reaching his enormous potential but caught a little too much of the plate at times, as batters hit .292 against him. He still managed to fan 29 batters in 28.1 innings against only 10 walks. John Madden rebounded well after a lost 2007, going 2-0 with a 3.93 ERA and a 13-to-4 K-to-BB ratio. Nathan Culp was 2-0 with 3.62 ERA but allowed 40 hits in 27.1 innings, as batters teed off at a .351 clip. For the most part, closer R.J. Rodriguez was solid, but three outings where you allow over three runs will cause an ERA of 5.51 ERA, despite converting 4-of-6 save opportunities and not allowing any other runs in 10 other appearances.

Disappointments: Brooks Dunn went 1-2 with a 6.84 ERA. Batters hit .343 against him and he allowed 17 walks and 36 hits in 26.1 innings.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Jeremy Hefner
2-2, 2.86 ERA
Starting Pitcher

Last year, we thought Hefner, 22, was one of the better pitchers in Eugene and a steal for the Padres in the fifth-round of the 2007 draft. We also believed in our pre-season preview that he would be the Wizards best pitcher and starting off the year at the Castle didn't disappoint.

He led the team in strikeouts (29) against only six walks in 19 innings pitched as MWL batters hit a paltry .224 against him. The 6-foot-4 right-hander out of Oral Roberts could be on the road to join his former teammate at Seminole Junior College with another good month, Drew Miller.

Prospect Watch: Mat Latos got off to a late start in joining the Wizards but had an impressive debut striking out eight in four innings. Left-hander Allan Harrington was another quality late round pick by the Padres last year and saw some time with the Wizards in 2007. This month he was 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA, holding batters to a .232 average with a 28/4 K/BB ratio. The "other" draft-and-follow from last year, Jeremy McBryde had good peripheral statistics with a 24-to-4 K-to-BB ratio but got the ball up a few too many times, allowing batters to hit .316 against him as he went 0-3 with a 7.00 ERA.

Disappointments: Geoff Vandel, in his fourth year with the organization, struggled in his first month with a 5.82 ERA. His peripherals aren't that bad with a 17-to-5 K-to-BB ratio, but he should be performing a little better with his experience. Colt Hynes, the closer for last year's Emerald's team, also struggled with a 13.50 ERA in very limited action with Fort Wayne. Pitcher of the Month: Will Inman

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