Padres Prospects: May Pitchers of the Month

The system had some phenomenal months and some clunkers, as two teams struggled from the mound while two clubs sparkled. It was up to John Conniff to rummage through the carnage.

Portland Beavers
Dirk Hayhurst
0-0, 4.30 ERA
Relief Pitcher/Starter

If you take away a bad three-game stretch in May where Dirk allowed five home runs and seven earned runs in 7.2 innings, he was dominant. Even with them included, he was very good. In 23 innings, Hayhurst struck out 32 against only five walks and 18 hits. In April, batters hit .221 against him and this month it was .212. In his only start of the month, he went five innings, allowed one run on four hits and struck out nine. For the second straight month, he was the Padres best pitcher in Triple-A. So why isn't he on the big club, especially with all of the bullpen woes the Padres have been experiencing? The quick answer is even though he throws four pitches, none of them are going to light up a radar gun or is a type of lights out changeup that Wade LeBlanc has, but combined they are difficult to beat.

"I couldn't get drafted on any of these four pitches but all of them combined work", said Hayhurst. ‘The pitches are more than the sum of their parts and combined they look pretty good."

Another good month and San Diego is going to have to take a look. Results are results.

Prospect Watch: Slowly but surely, Wade LeBlanc is beginning to dig his way out of a tough debut. Although a 2-2 record with a 6.56 ERA will not set any hearts afire, he only allowed 21 hits in 23.1 innings and struck out 18 against nine walks. The key for LeBlanc is not only mastering a two-seam fastball but having the accompanying changeup to go with it that looks like the two-seam fastball. Once he is over that hump, results will begin piling up as they have before. Josh Banks' solid May earned him a promotion to the big club, striking out 17 batters in 20.1 innings with only four walks for a 1-1 record with a 3.98 ERA.

Disappointments: Cesar Ramos continues to get hit hard allowing 39 hits, seven of them home runs, in 29.2 innings across six starts.

San Antonio Missions
Greg Burke
0-1, 0.69 ERA
Relief Pitcher

On May 1, Burke gave up two runs. Seventeen innings and 10 appearances later, he gave one again, and on May 29, he gave up his final one of the month in three innings of work – that was it. Burke led the organization in ERA for the month and was simply dominant in 26 innings of relief work. He struck out 29 batters against only seven walks and held batters to a .226 batting average. This is Burke's first full season in relief after two previous seasons as a starter and he may have found his niche.

"I have been throwing my slider a lot," Burke said. "It is more of a cut fastball but when I get in trouble I go to it – boom."

Prospect Watch: Even though his ERA was high at 5.40, Will Inman still struck out 31 batters in 23.1 innings for a 1-1 record in five starts. His K/BB ratio is still a little high at 31/11 and he may have caught too much of the plate at times with 24 hits in 23.1 innings, but overall his year so far has been a big success. His counterpart Steve Garrison continued to post a positive K/BB ratio of 23/9, going 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA in six starts. Matt Buschmann continues to throw strikes, striking out 33 in 31.1 innings against only eight walks but also allowed six home runs and 35 hits.

Disappointments: Mike Ekstrom continues to struggle at 1-2 with a 9.86 ERA allowing 36 hits in 21 innings.

Lake Elsinore Storm
Drew Miller
4-1, 4.15 ERA
Starting Pitcher

The Padres organization is a system that craves power arms but doesn't tolerate pitchers that don't throw strikes. Consequently, the teams throughout the system are full of pitchers that tend to rely on location and movement much more than velocity. Miller is one of the rare Padres' prospects that has big time stuff combined with solid control. The question throughout his career has been the ability to stay healthy. This month, he gave a sign of what he is capable of when he is healthy winning four of his six starts. He struck out 31 in 34.2 innings against six walks, including a gem on May 2 where he fanned 11 batters in six innings against no walks while only allowing one run.

"We were taught to look at the positives," said Miller. "I had some negatives and had some positives so I just try and focus on the positives and learn from the negatives."

Prospect Watch: R.J. Rodriguez was 5-for-6 in save opportunities with a 1-0 record. He only gave up three runs in 11 appearances and lowered his ERA from 5.51 in April to 2.25 in May. Ernesto Frieri had some rough outings at 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA but still held batters to a .235 batting average, striking out 19 in 22 innings against only seven walks. Mike DeMark continues to perform in limited innings, striking out 13 in 14 innings against only five walks and holding batters to a .160 average.

Disappointments: In 16.2 innings pitched, Cal League hitters teed off against Brooks Dunn at .395 clip; he was subsequently released. Cory Luebke had a good K/BB ratio of 23/5 in 26 innings .The problem was he also allowed 38 hits for an 8.31 ERA.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Wynn Pelzer
3-1, 2.22 ERA
Starting Pitcher

Pelzer was a ninth- round pick of the Padres in last year's draft whom many believed was better than where he was selected. This month, he had his best month as a professional, holding Midwest League hitters to a .195 average with a 15/4 K/BB ratio. He only allowed 17 hits in 24.1 innings.

"The slider and changeup have been good but I have to work on fastball command," said Pelzer. "Down and away fastballs to everyone. That is a big pitch in baseball. It is the hardest pitch in baseball to hit – even listening to hitters. I have to work on that. Other than that, I have felt good about how I have pitched."

Prospect Watch: Jeremy Hefner struck out 23 in 30.1 innings against only nine base-on-balls, but also allowed six home runs to finish 1-1 with a 4.75 ERA in six starts. Jeremy McBryde had his best month as a professional, going 1-1 with a 1.90 ERA in five starts. He struck out 22 against only seven walks but most impressively he only allowed five earned runs in 23.2 innings. Jackson Quedeza was solid as the Wizard's closer going 9-for-9 in save opportunities and striking out 18 in 15.1 innings with only four walks.

Disappointments: Steve Delabar was able to go 1-0 but otherwise was hit hard in his third year in the Midwest League, as batters hit .350 against him before being released by the organization.

Padres Pitcher of the Month: Greg Burke

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