Padres Prospects August Pitchers of the Month

It was a month that belonged to the starting pitchers in each affiliate. As in the past, John Conniff was charged with filtering through the madness. After dodging curveballs and flailing on changeups, Conniff did just that to select Pitcher of the Month for August.

Portland Beavers
Wade LeBlanc
2-2, 3.55 ERA

LeBlanc was looking an awful lot like the pitcher he was in San Antonio, striking out 33 batters in 33 innings against only three walks. He also allowed only 25 hits, as batters struggled against the guys with the dominant changeups, managing only a .208 average. He was called up to the Padres at the end of the month and should get at least three or four starts, which may be an audition for a role in next year's rotation.

"If you can throw 100 MPH you can throw it right down the middle of the plate all day, everybody else has to pitch," said LeBlanc. "The goal is to get their feet moving a little and protect both sides of the plate."

Prospect Watch: Manny Ayala came up for a spot start and did a great job going seven strong shutout innings and only allowing two hits. Dirk Hayhurst was his normal effective self before being called up to San Diego, striking out 12 in 12 innings pitched against only four walks for a 1.46 ERA.

Disappointments: Justin Germano will probably not to return to the organization that he began his professional career with in 2000 after posting a 0-3 record and a 5.88 ERA.

San Antonio Missions
Mike Ekstrom
5-1, 2.00 ERA

After being removed from the rotation earlier in the year Ekstrom seems to have found his niche as a spot starter/long man in the pen. Of the 15 games the Missions won this month, Ekstrom was the winning pitcher for a third of them. In his two spot starts, he went five innings each time, allowing only a single run in both starts combined. He had 20 strikeouts in 18 innings against only seven walks. He pounds the strike zone but needs to work the corners a little more with Texas League batters hitting .324 against him, but he seemed to find ways to get out of jams.

"If I can keep the ball down and command my fastball low in the zone, I will get ground balls," said Ekstrom.

Prospect Watch: Starter Matt Buschmann went 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA, as opposing batters could only hit a measly .209 against him. He only gave up 27 hits in 35 innings, the only negative was a relatively low strikeout-to-walk ratio of 29/18. Closer Greg Burke was 7-for-7 in save opportunities with a 0-1 record and 1.62 ERA. Burke struck out 19 against only two walks in 16.2 innings. Gabe DeHoyos continues to blow away people out of the pen, striking out 17 batters in 17.2 innings pitched against only four walks and 12 hits, as batters hit .194 against him.

Disappointments: After a big July, Stephen Faris crashed back to earth with a 7.67 ERA as he allowed 47 hits in 29.1 innings. Faris only went over five innings in one of his six starts, as batters hit .379 against him. After reading Denis Savage's interview with Grady Fuson we can hear him in the background yelling, "Throw the changeup!"

Lake Elsinore Storm
Rolando Valdez
5-1, 3.96 ERA

In July, the Padres moved Valdez into the rotation, and the Mexican native responded with his best month striking out 30 against only three walks. In 36.1 innings he only allowed 32 hits and held Cal League batters to a .229 average. He averaged six innings per start; the only downside was that he allowed five home runs in August, the most on the staff.

"I feel more comfortable as a starter where I can use all of my pitches," Valdez said.

Prospect Watch: Brandon Gomes was great in relief going 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA striking out 22 batters in 16.2 innings against only a single walk. Evan Scribner also was dominant out of the bullpen with a 21/2 K/BB ratio and only allowed 10 hits in 15 innings. After Valdez, Ernesto Frieri was the best of the starters with a 0.92 ERA in a smaller sample holding batters to a .221 average.

Disappointments: Drew Miller continues to struggle with his command with a 16/10 K/BB ratio and 47 hits in 29.1 innings pitched as Cal League batters teed off at a rate of .359.

Fort Wayne Wizards
Jeremy McBryde
3-1, 2.65 ERA

This is the Jeremy McBryde we have been waiting for. McBryde struck out 48 batters in only 34.1 innings pitched against only six walks and 22 hits. McBryde only gave up 10 earned runs in six starts while Midwest League batters hit only .181 against him, as McBryde, who has always had a very good fastball, decided to finally throw his change and slider a little more.

"JMAc pitched real well down the stretch and he finally understood what [pitching coach [Tom Bradley was trying to get him to do, throw something else besides the fastball," said Wizards' broadcaster Mike Maas. "He also got a touch frustrated; he knows that he has good stuff and when he gets ahead in the count becomes much more effective."

Prospect Watch: Jeremy Hefner was promoted at the end of his month but not before he put in his standard strong performance with the Wizards. Hefner went 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA striking out 33 against only 10 walks but more impressively held opposing batters to only 17 hits in 28.1 innings. Corey Kluber, after a tough year in Lake Elsinore, seems to have gotten back on track, striking out 48 batters in 35.1 innings against only 10 walks with a 3-2 record and 3.57 ERA. Cory Luebke, another pitcher the Padres may have pushed a little too quickly from last year's draft, also got back on track after being sent down from Lake Elsinore, striking out 29 against only three walks in 34.1 innings. He allowed only 11 earned runs in six starts for a 2.56 ERA but the anemic Wizards offense gave him a losing record at 1-2.

Disappointments: Aaron Breit went 2-3 with an 8.40 ERA, as batters teed off at a .388 clip. He allowed 26 hits in 15 innings and walked nearly a batter an inning with 12.

Eugene Emeralds
Simon Castro
1-1, 4.31 ERA

Castro's problem has always been finding the plate and throwing something other than a fastball. This month he showed more signs of turning the corner with a 24/8 K/BB ratio and allowed less hits than innings pitched at 28 to 31, as he greatly improved his ability to throw off-speed pitches. The key with him as it is with most guys with big fastballs is how well his secondary pitches come along.

"The slider and fastball sometimes are very hard and I need something slow to try and change speed," said Castro. "I think I need to keep working on the changeup."

Prospect Watch: Relief pitcher Rob Musgrave made the post-season Northwest League All Star squad and went 2-0, striking out 21 batters in 13.2 innings against only six walks. Starter Erik Davis didn't have a decision but posted a 1.26 ERA in four starts and 14.1 innings to go along with a 23/2 K/BB ratio. Left-handed pitcher Geoff Vandel may have finally turned the corner, leading the Emeralds in innings pitched [33] and posting a 2-1 record with a 3.24 ERA. He's only 21, but he's also been in the organization for three years, and next year he is going to have to find a way to stick in Fort Wayne.

Disappointments: Nick Vincent had a tough month, going 1-2 with a 7.40 ERA.

Arizona Rookie League Padres
Stiven Osuna
3-2, 1.57 ERA

For the second straight month, Osuna was the pitcher of the month, narrowly edging out Chris Wilkes. Osuna struck out 30 in 34.1 innings pitched against only six walks, holding AZL batters to a .217 average. He has yet to allow a home run this season in 70 innings

"He knows how to pitch," DSL Padres manager Evaristo Lantigua said. "He has a great changeup and a very good idea about running the game."

Prospect Watch: Chris Wilkes, a late round draft pick that the Padres took away from the Ole Miss football squad, had his best month with a 4-0 record and a 2.32 ERA. Most impressively, he didn't walk a single batter in 31 innings and six starts for a K/BB ratio of 22/0 [a first in the writing in this column]. Jose DePaula continued to be impressive with a 4-1 record and a 2.25 ERA. DePaula struck out 30 against six walks, holding batters to a .245 average. DePaula, as with Osuna and Wilkes, allowed fewer hits than innings pitched with a 28/26 ratio. Eric Gonzalez, a fifth-year senior out of South Alabama, had his best month, going 2-0 in relief with a 0.61 ERA in 14.2 innings. The Canary Islands native struck out 25 against only two walks, holding batters to a .170 average. Finally, Mat Latos, on a rehab assignment, struck out 22 in 13 innings against only two walks.

Disappointments: None. There was no one that pitched more than ten innings that had a bad month.

DSL Padres
Pedro Hernandez
2-0, 0.95 ERA

In 19 innings of work over three outings, the southpaw stifled the opposition, allowing seven hits and three walks while striking out 23, as he held the opposition to a slim .113 average. Without any true plus pitch, Hernandez used his savvy and mixed his pitches well to confound hitters.

Prospect Watch: It was hard to not give his away to Juan Oramas and his 0.56 ERA across 16 innings. The right-hander surrendered just seven hits awhile striking out 19 and ended the year with a sparkling resume. Erick Ojeda allowed just eight hits in 15.2 innings but there was concern regarding the nine walks he issued.

Disappointments: Pedro Martinez struggled through bouts of wildness and centering his pitches over the plate, resulting in a 8.03 ERA across four outings. Deiber Sanchez had a rough go of things after pitching well in the previous two months, giving up 11 runs in 17 innings of work on 18 hits and eight walks.

Pitcher of the Month: Wade LeBlanc

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