Summary: For the second year in a row, the Padres posted the worst ERA in the Arizona League. Unlike 2012, this year’s edition of the club did not have a collection of first-rounders scattered through the staff. While the top of the rotation was exceptional, too many innings went to guys with nonexistent command which cost the team a ton of runs. The team spent the year working out of temporary accommodations in Surprise as the Padres complex in Peoria was rebuilt.
Approach: We use a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible with whichever team he appeared for the most. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: The Arizona League is the lowest level of the minor leagues in the states. In addition to young international players making their stateside debuts, the AZL features high school draftees from the last two years and second-tier college picks making their professional debuts.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Pete Kelich 7-1, 1.40 ERA 69K, 1BB in 58 innings
Most 22-year-old college seniors who spend the summer in the Arizona League are destined to begin and finish their professional careers in the same year. But what Kelich did isn’t normal, and it’s safe to say he’ll have a job in Fort Wayne next spring. The last guy to sign out of this year’s draft class, Kelich put up numbers that wouldn’t be believable in a video game. In 58 innings, the righty struck out 69 and walked exactly one batter. As great as he was overall, his final month was even better as Kelich gave up one earned run in 27 August innings to go with 35 strikeouts.
Runner-Up:LHP Payton Baskette 2-2, 1.37 ERA 43K, 11BB in 46 innings
As dominant as Kelich was, Baskette actually posted a slightly better ERA. The lefty out of Grayson County College was nearly unhittable over his first 25 innings, yielding only two runs and striking out 31 before August. Pitching all year as a 19-year-old, Baskette demonstrated why the Padres thought he was worth a $100,000 bonus as a 16th-rounder.
John ConniffPete Kelich
Pitcher of the Year: This wasn’t even close. In addition to his pro numbers that David pointed out, Kelich finished a four year career at Bryant University in Rhode Island holding most of the program’s all-time pitching records. In his senior year he had a strikeout to base-on-balls ratio of 83/18 in 92.2 innings pitched for a 2.53 ERA.
He posted some great numbers in the AZL in 2013 but at the same time he’s also twenty-two. In the past we have seen pitchers like Daniel Crooper, Adam Schraeder and Mark Hardy, all older college pitchers, perform well at this level only to fizzle as they moved forward. However, Kelich has certainly earned his chance to prove that he is the exception to the rule next year in Fort Wayne.
A lefty who can start and relieve? Everyone will take that. In 16 appearances, the opposition could only muster earned runs against him three times as he held the AZL to a .207 batting average. He was one of the late round picks the Padres took a flyer on hoping that they could lure him away from a four year school. In his only season with Grayson College, he threw 56 innings with a 47/17 K/BB ratio.
Pitcher of the Year: Pete Kelich
Going off of stats alone, Kelich was by far the best pitcher for the AZL Padres and quite possibly in the entire league. Kelich allowed only 44 base runners in 58 innings for a 0.76 WHIP. Kelich also threw the only complete game in the entire league. Yes, he is older and was a late-round pick from a small college, but he has earned himself a starting job in Fort Wayne next year, and a chance to prove himself against hitters closer to his age.
Runner-Up: Peyton Baskette
After a successful stint in the bullpen, Baskette was finally given the chance to start at the very end of July. Over his final four starts he allowed only one run with a sub-1 WHIP and an opponents’ average of .180. Baskette is a projectable, 19 year-old, lefty. The Padres took a flier on him because they thought he had potential and he more than lived up to what the club was hoping for.
Others of Note: Adrian De Horta ran out of gas in his final three appearances, but the only high school pitcher to sign in this year’s class was fantastic early in his pro debut. The 18-year-old had a 1.85 ERA in early August. While he finished the year at 4.06, he still had 40 strikeouts in 31 innings. … Massive righty Cam Stewart worked more innings than anyone but Kelich. Drafted in 2012, Stewart pitched all year as an 18-year-old. Though his stuff is less dominating than you’d expect from a guy his size, he still has plenty of room to improve on his 4.15 ERA. … Rubber-armed Australian Sam Holland was the anchor of bullpen. The wiry righty with a funky delivery made a league-high 27 appearances, posting a 2.25 ERA with 34 strikeouts over 32 innings.
MadFriars’ 2013 AZL Pitcher of the Year: Pete Kelich
Top Prospect: Adrian De Horta
A two-way threat at perennial high school powerhouse South Hills High, De Horta got the third largest signing bonus the Padres handed out this year to bypass Cal State Fullerton. As he makes the move to pitching full-time as a professional, the young righty will need to work on consistency with mechanics and feel for his pitches. However, as he showed in putting together a 0.98 ERA in July when he struck out 26 in 18.1 innings, he has impressive tools to work with. He’ll need plenty of time to develop, but he’s a guy to keep an eye on in the coming years.