MadFriars 2012 Midwest League Pitcher of the Year
Coming into the season the TinCaps were expected, based mainly on the total signing bonuses their roster had received, to be one of the more talented teams the Padres had sent out in many years.
As the Padres' Director of Development Randy Smith predicted pre-season, the TinCaps were better in the second half than they were early. They made it to the Midwest League championship series before losing to Wisconsin three games to one.
Only two Midwest League teams gave up fewer runs as six different TinCaps pitchers with more than 50 innings pitched posted an ERA below 3.00.
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 Midwest League is the first full season league and one of the more challenging to hitters because of the early cold weather. At this level, batters are still adjusting to wood bats and learning how to cover the plate. Pitchers with so-so "stuff" can succeed as long as they have decent fastball command and the ability to throw a second pitch.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Matt Wisler - 2.53 ERA, 95H, 113K, 28BB in 114 IP
His ERA wasn't quite as gaudy as the number Portillo put up before his July promotion, but Wisler did finish third among Midwest League qualifiers with his 2.53 mark. And Wisler's performance, which included a walk rate that was half of Portillo's, is likely to be much more sustainable going forward. The 19-year-old righty outperformed anything the team might have hoped for when they paid him $500,000 to bypass Ohio State University as a seventh-round pick last year.
Runner-up: RHP Matt Stites - 0.74 ERA, 25H, 60K, 3BB in 48.2IP
The above numbers aren't a typo. Matt Stites struck out more than twice as many hitters as he allowed to reach base and posted a 20-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. After working in the low-90s as a starter in his one year of NCAA baseball at Missouri, the 2011 17th-round pick has added significant velocity this year, hitting triple digits out of the pen. He's undersized, but he can flat-out pitch and could move up very fast next year.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Matt Wisler
After April, the Padres knew they had something special in the TinCaps pitchers; Matt Wisler, Frank Garces, Adys Portillo, Cody Hebner and Johnny Barbato were all having stellar seasons. While Portillo put up better numbers before his promotion to San Antonio, Wisler was also there all year.
Wisler was Mr. Consistency throughout the year and was the only starter to toss a complete game shutout and have an ERA below 2.70 ERA in every month outside of April. Wisler has shown to be every bit the prospect they hoped he would be when they went over slot to keep him from Ohio State.
Runner-up: RHP Matt Stites
Stites was just named the Midwest League All Star closer, so it is only fitting that he makes the pitcher of the year roster in some regard. Stites performed about as well as anyone could hope. Even great major league closers would have loved to post a 20:1 K/BB ratio.
While Stites did spend some time on the disabled list, he didn't allow an earned run in three of the five months he pitched. He never allowed more than two in a month.
Pitcher of the Year: Matt Wisler
Anytime a nineteen year old throws 114 innings with a 2.53 ERA in his first season of professional baseball it is an accomplishment. Wisler finished second in the league in WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) as the tall Ohioan allowed a little over a walk a game in his 24 starts.
Runner-up: Matt Stites
Many times a closer's stats can be a slightly exaggerated because they never go through a line-up more than once and they usually get a clean inning to start. But Stites' numbers, as both David and Ben pointed out, are simply too good. The only possible black mark are three blown saves in sixteen opportunities, but his ERA and K/BB ratio is simply too good for him not be included.
Others of note: RHP Johnny Barbato may have been the best middle reliever in the system as he ate up 73.1 innings with a 1.84 ERA, finishing second in the Midwest League in holds. The big Floridian has a fastball that will catch everyone's attention with 84 strikeouts in 73.1 innings pitched. Slight lefty Frank Garces was durable, making twenty-five starts and good with a 2.81 ERA and a 112/55 K/BB ratio. RHP James Needy was healthy enough to pitch significant innings and showed some of the potential that San Diego saw when he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 draft out of Santee High School. The TinCaps put him in the rotation for his last four games and he responded with a 1.80 ERA in twenty-five innings. He should be a big part of the Storm's rotation in 2013.
MadFriars' 2012 Fort Wayne TinCaps Pitcher of the Year: Matt Wisler
Top Prospect (DJ): Matt Wisler
As fun as it is to dream on Portillo, I'll take the likely A-/B+ over the gamble on a possible A. Wisler didn't turn 20 until after the regular season ended, yet carried the Midwest League ERA lead into the final week of the season. Still maturing as a pitcher, he already has great stuff with four pitches that he can use at any level. He's still going to get bigger and he's shown good coachability in his first year as a professional.
Top Prospect (BD & JC): Adys Portillo
There really isn't any "wrong" answer between Wisler or Portillo and while I do like DJ's argument, I tend to come down on the side of a pitcher whose best pitch is a plus fastball that arrives in the mid-90's over one that doesn't have it. In eighteen starts, Portillo gave up 19 earned runs with 81 strikeouts in 91.2 innings. Although he's only twenty, his total of 70 walks in 126.2 innings at two levels this year is going to have to get better. Fortunately, he has some time.