2012 MadFriars' CL Pitcher of the Year

Summary: The Storm finished the first half with a slightly better record than they had in the second half, yet they reached the playoffs as a second-half Wild Card team.

The club finished with the Cal League's best ERA, a factor of both strong performances and a neutral home field. At the plate, that neutral home field and some underwhelming performances led to a last-place finish in runs scored for the Storm.

Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible wherever he appeared most. For the top prospect, we took into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.

Level: The California League is an Advanced-A level league. Featuring a number of teams that play in hot, high-altitude venues, the Cal League is a notorious hitters' league, although The Diamond in Lake Elsinore plays more neutral than the league as a whole. Advanced A has a wide mix of players anywhere from their first professional season to guys who first appeared in pro ball three years earlier.

David Jay

Co-Pitchers of the Year:

RHPMatt Andriese 3.58 ERA, 140 H, 131K, 38 BB in 146 IP

RHP Burch Smith 3.85 ERA, 127H, 137K, 27 BB in 128.2 IP

Andriese and Smith each did everything the Padres could have hoped when they were selected the college juniors in last June's draft. Andriese led the Cal League in ERA, finishing six spots ahead of Smith, but Smith allowed fewer total runs per inning. Smith put up a better strikeout rate, but Andriese issued fewer homers. Andriese induced more ground balls, but Smith walked fewer hitters. Smith had a slightly better FIP, but Andriese had more quality starts. Ultimately, the two were both very good and neither was markedly better than the other.

Andriese struck out 131 in 146 IP.

Andriese was a third-round pick out of UC Riverside last year. Although Smith went 11 rounds later, he signed for almost exactly the same bonus. They're both big-bodied righties who will be 23 when next season opens. Smith has a slightly bigger fastball, while Andriese has a slightly better change. Both will headline the rotation in San Antonio to open 2013, and both have a good chance of making their stuff work at the highest levels.

John Conniff

Pitchers of the Year: Matt Andriese and Burch Smith

I tried to find a flaw in David's logic and I couldn't. It was impossible to differentiate between two very good performances this season by Andriese and Smith.

Ben Davey

Pitcher of the Year: RHP Burch Smith 3.85 ERA, 127H, 137K, 27 BB in 128.2 IP

Pay no attention to Smith's slightly inflated stats as a reason to disregard him as the Pitcher of the Year, and a top prospect. The 22-year-old did everything and then some through the first four months of the season. He was told that his innings would be limited in August, which might have messed up his mentality leading to an 0-2 record and an 8.38 ERA in August. Outside of that, Smith was the ace of the club and the clear choice for pitcher of the year.

Runner-up: RHP Kevin Quackenbush 0.94 ERA, 27 SV, 42 H, 70 K, 22 BB, in 57.2 IP

Quackenbush finished his third straight league with an ERA under one.

Yes, you can make a strong case for Andriese as the runner up and possibly even pitcher of the year, as my colleagues named him. But, in a league known as a hitters league, where even the cream of the crop pitching prospects are lucky to escape with an ERA south of 4, Quackenbush made the opposing teams know that games ended after 8 innings. Quack led the league in saves, had an ERA below 1, and maybe most impressively, he allowed only one homer all year.

Others of note: He wasn't in Lake Elsinore for long between coming over in the Ernesto Frieri trade and his promotion to San Antonio, but Donn Roach may have been the club's best pitcher during his tenure. In 14 Storm appearances, he held opponents to a .231 batting average and had a 73/14 K/BB ratio.

Roach was a great pick-up from the Angels.

After starting the year in the bullpen, righty Matt Branham, 24, gave the team some solid starts down the stretch. His stuff played up in shorter stints, but even as a starter, he walked few hitters and was getting strike outs.

MadFriars' 2012 Lake Elsinore Storm Pitcher of the Year: Burch Smith

Top Prospect: RHP Burch Smith Smith is the type of player who will reach the majors before 99 percent of minor league observers have ever learned his name. He's not particularly young, yet he was one of the league's best in an aggressive posting in his first pro season. He has no single wipeout pitch, although he has four usable big league pitches. He likely won't ever be the anchor of a rotation, but his impressive mix of stuff and pitchability should make him a reliable innings-eater in the big leagues. Don't be shocked if he is on the mound at PETCO twelve months from today.

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