Fort Wayne TinCaps Pitcher of the Year

Summary: The San Diego Padres Low-A affiliate captured the Midwest League crown largely due to their pitching staff. The Fort Wayne TinCaps led the league in shutouts, strikeouts and placed second in team ERA.

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards, whichever team the player appeared at the most determined their eligibility. For the top prospect we took into account of not what the players did this year, but their age and ability to improve.

Level: The Midwest League is often a prospect's first chance to be indoctrinated into full season ball. Known as a pitcher's league, as only eight batters managed to hit over .300 in 2009, hitters and pitchers alike often hit a wall during the hot months of August. April isn't kind either, as the weather can include snow and sleet.

Savage Sub-Rosa

Pitcher of the Year:
Simon Castro
10-6, 3.33 ERA
Right-handed starter

There were so many choices and so few spots. Castro allowed two runs on 15 hits over his final 36 innings with a no-hitter sprinkled in, including his work in the playoffs. The most impressive stat, however, might be the 37-to-157 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Castro led the Midwest League in strikeouts and was eighth overall among minor league starters in strikeouts per nine innings. He has electrifying arm action with a mid-90s heater that misses bats and secondary pitches that allow him to have continued success at the highest levels.

Runner-up:
Brad Brach
3-3, 1.27 ERA, 33 saves
Right-handed reliever

The rotation gets most of the glory but would be nowhere without the mighty pen. Brad Brach converted all but one of his 34 save opportunities and the opposition to a 0.74 WHIP and .164 average against while he managed to strikeout 11.6 batters per nine innings pitched. Eight of the 10 runs he allowed all year came in non-save situations. Brach is one of two pitchers in the system that are allowed to throw their splitter – the late break he gets on his has hitters committing before they can recognize it.

Conniff Confidential

Pitcher of the Year:
Simon Castro
10-6, 3.33 ERA
Right-handed starter

Two things strike you about Castro, he's a very big guy with a big fastball and he sure misses quite a few bats. He had 157 strikeouts in 140 innings against only 118 hits. But this year, more than ever, he has developed into a pitcher, only giving up 52 earned runs in 27 starts, for slightly over two runs per start. Only 21, his success has grown with the development of his secondary pitches, particularly his changeup and the ability to be more consistent with his two-seam fastball.

Runner-up:
Brad Brach
3-3, 1.27 ERA, 33 saves
Right-handed reliever

The most important statistic for a closer is the number of saves in save opportunities and this year Brach was 33-for-34. As noted above, the WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was under 1.00, the only other member of the staff to achieve that was Mat Latos. The 6-foot-6 Brach, 23, is not a power pitcher, but instead relies upon a lethal mix of sliders and splitters with the occasional well placed four-seamer. Brach has the perfect temperament for the bullpen and with his ability to throw his slider for strikes could go places.

Others of Note: In any other year, Anthony Bass, Erik Davis, Alexis Lara, Nick Schmidt and Nick Schumacher would all have a place as the Pitcher of the Year. In 10 of his 18 starts, Bass allowed one run or less. He gave up just five runs over the first two innings of the game – spanning 35 frames total. With a four-pitch mix, Bass throws strikes, works quickly and keeps the opposition off balance. Davis was tied for the league lead with 16 victories, despite not earning his first start until May 31. Lara had a 0.52 ERA across his final 27 games with 11 hits allowed in 34.2 innings. Schmidt allowed two runs or less in all but two of his 11 starts and did not allow a homer in 51.2 innings. Schumacher started the year in extended yet yielded just seven earned in 56.2 innings for a 1.11 ERA, holding the opposition to a .152 average against.

Manager's Comments: "Everything from his English to his command of his pitches, to doing interviews has accelerated so, so much and so beautifully that this guy could go fast." – Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo on Simon Castro.

Top Prospect: Simon Castro

Since entering the Padres system as an international free agent in 2006, Castro has made significant leaps each season. When he was first acquired, the right-hander had little command but threw fire. As each season has come and gone, Castro has improved tenfold. His command is no longer an issue, his English is outstanding and his secondary pitches have come along. With a mid-90s heater and tilting slider, the changeup has become a much improved pitch that he can call upon at any time. With life on all of his pitches, Castro has the makings of a top flight pitcher at the major league level.

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