Padres Prospects: June Pitchers of the Month

There were some ups (think San Antonio) and downs (Lake Elsinore) but each affiliate had a candidate worthy, with the Missions offering the toughest challenge. Who came out with the award? John Conniff sorts it out.

Portland Beavers
Wade LeBlanc
3-2, 3.34 ERA
LHP/SP


After two very disappointing months, LeBlanc finally turned in the type of performance most followers of the organization have been expecting. He lowered his ERA by over half, allowed less hits than innings pitched, 35/25 and held batters to a .198 batting average. He struck out 43 batters against only nine walks, which is more batters than he struck out combined in April and May [36].

"You have to realize that I need to have this pitch in the big leagues," LeBlanc said of his two-seamer. "If it means taking some lumps in order to get where I want to go, I have to do that."

Prospect Watch: After a tough time in San Diego earlier this year, left-hander Joe Thatcher appears to have found his stuff, going with a 0.79 ERA. Thatcher struck out 11 batters in 11.1 innings against only four walks and seven hits. Closer Edwin Moreno was 7-for-7 in save opportunities with a 2-0 record and 2.38 ERA. Moreno didn't walk a single batter in 11.1 innings of work and struck out 12, allowing only seven hits.

Disappointments: After winning the pitcher of the month in April and May, Dirk Hayhurst struggled in June, as batters hit .348 against him while he went 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA.

San Antonio Missions
Will Inman
4-2, 2.83 ERA
RHP/SP


Inman was again the workhorse of the Missions staff, as he threw 35 innings while allowing only 25 hits as Texas League batters hit an even .200 against him. His K/BB ratio isn't great at 37/15 but he has certainly shown himself to be much improved over last year, especially with his velocity. Inman throws a quality curveball and changeup, but both look much better when his fastball has been able to "sit" in the low-90s as compared to the mid-80s last year. Most importantly, Inman threw two complete games this month and averaged nearly six innings a start.

"It has been going good," Inman said. "It has been going good this year. I have been doing well and am happy with myself. I am trying to keep it going throughout the year."

Prospect Watch: This month, all of the Missions starters were very good. Without a true dominant pitch many people wouldn't believe Steve Garrison would be as successful as he has been at this level, but after three months of solid outings it might be time to hop on the bandwagon. Garrison went 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA, narrowly missing the pitcher of the month. He struck out 29 in 27 innings against four walks and 21 hits, as batters hit .212 against him.

Stephen Faris was also in serious contention for the award after he posted a 0.84 ERA and a 2-1 record, striking out 30 against only four walks in 32 innings pitched.

Matt Buschmann keeps rolling along with a 2-1 and 1.86 ERA, allowing only 26 hits in 29 innings pitched with a K/BB ratio of 20/12. Finally, Manny Ayala, just coming back from the DL, brought up the rear with a 3-1 record and 3.96 ERA.

In the bullpen, Mike Ekstrom, 1-1 with a 0.68 ERA, has pitched well since being demoted from the rotation. Greg Burke may be the best closer in the Padres' system. He was 10-for-10 in save opportunities and struck out 17 against only two walks and 10 hits in 15 innings pitched for a 1-1 record and 1.20 ERA. Jon Ellis also strutted his stuff, allowing four hits and three walks while pitching scoreless ball over 11.1 innings.

Disappointments: None

Lake Elsinore Storm
Ernesto Frieri
1-0, 3.99 ERA
RHP/SP


A rough month on the mound at the Diamond, as the staff had a collective ERA of over 5.69 and opposing batters hit .285 against them. In mid-May, the Storm moved Frieri into the starting rotation and he has performed. Frieri was 1-0 in five starts with a 3.99 ERA but that was significantly better than any other member of the staff, as the opposition only hit .223 off of him. Cory Luebke had the next closest ERA as a starter and he was at 5.91. Frieri struck out 19 against five walks and only allowed 25 hits in 29.1 innings pitched.

"I work hard everyday," Frieri said. "I am trying to work hard to get my pitches consistent. They have been working with me on my breaking balls."

Prospect Watch: Mike DeMark continues to pitch well in relief with a 2.38 ERA while holding batters to a .220 average in 11.1 innings pitched and had a K/BB ratio was 13/6. Dylan Axelrod had a nice June, holding batters to a .237 average, and John Madden continues to improve, clocking in with a 14/4 K/BB ratio in 15 innings as batters hit .218 against him.

Disappointments: Outside of Frieri, the starting staff. Picking just one - the biggest name – Drew Miller. After a very good May, Miller struggled in June with a 1-2 record and 9.82 ERA, as batters hit .370 against him in four starts. R.J. Rodriguez also struggled as the Storm's closer, failing to save three of his six save opportunities, as batters hit .321 against him.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Jeremy Hefner
3-0, 3.25 ERA
RHP/SP


Hefner has been the best pitcher for the Wizards all year, and this month was no exception. Heffner had 36 strikeouts in 27.2 innings against only six walks and 25 hits. Hefner's success is about throwing three pitches for strikes. His velocity has picked up since last year in Eugene, but is still around the high-80s and only touching 90 MPH. Right now, he's a very polished pitcher and doesn't really have that much left to prove at this level.

"Hefner throws a fastball changeup and slider for strikes and that is hard to hit when you can throw all three," said relief pitcher Bryan Oland after one of Hefner's outings.

Prospect Watch: Wynn Pelzer had another strong month going 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA, striking out 22 in 24.1 innings pitched against five walks and 27 walks. Pelzer is as intense on the field as he is carefree off of it, and he is a competitor. Earlier in the month, he took a ball off of his face and has come back stronger than ever.

Jeremy McBryde has great raw stuff, but success is only going to come if he starts mixing up his pitches more as the big Oklahoman is starting to do. This month, McBryde was 1-1 with a 5.34 ERA, but struck out 28 batters in 28.2 innings against only three walks. The negative is that he allowed 38 hits. He doesn't issue free passes, but his command needs to pick up as well as using his changeup more.

Also, Aaron Breit came back from an elbow injury and looks to be in better form than he was for most of last year with a 1-2 record and a 3.20 ERA. He had a 13/2 K/BB ratio and allowed 19 hits in 19.2 innings pitched in three starts and his velocity is nearly back to where it was before he got injured.

In the bullpen, Bryan Oland pitched 18 innings, struck out 27 against four walks on his way to a 1-0 record with a 1.00 ERA. Finally, closer Jackson Quezada continues to be one of the better stories all year in the organization, as he was 5-for-7 in save opportunities with a 1-1 record and a 1.42 ERA. Quezada struck out 18 in 12.2 innings pitched against only five walks, as opposing batters hit only .149 against him.

Disappointments: Derek McDaid was 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA as Midwest League batters hit .347 against him in June.

Eugene and Arizona began their seasons in mid-June. We will add the final two weeks of June with July next month.

Pitcher of the Month: Jeremy Hefner

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