Level: The San Diego Padres High-A affiliate in the California League is mainly comprised of second- and third-year players. While Lake Elsinore is a pitcher's park by Cal League standards, that's more a reflection of how many stadiums on the circuit bear more resemblance to an X-box game than the real world. It was the best place to hit in the organization for many years before San Diego moved its AAA team to Tucson.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP/SP Andrew Werner 5-2 3.03
The Padres signed Werner, 24, to a contract last winter after he spent four years in the independent Frontier League. Werner pitched very well between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, posting the lowest ERA of any Storm starter. He posted a very solid 55/13 K/BB ratio in 68.1 innings pitched. On the road he was even better with three wins against no defeats in four starts and a 1.96 ERA.
Runner-up:RHP/RP Miles Mikolas 3-0 1.13 ERA
Mikolas, 22, was a seventh round draft pick in 2009 who the Padres converted into a reliever after a noticeable spike in his velocity last spring. He was 12-for-13 in save opportunities with 42 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched against only 9 walks. At 6'5", 230 lbs. he can bring it in the mid-90s and was just as effective after his promotion to San Antonio.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP/RP Miles Mikolas
During my first trip to Lake Elsinore this year, I was watching pitchers fielding practice and heard a rumor that some pitcher was betting everyone he could hit triple digits. I think he only hit 99, but if you look at him you would be surprised at his velocity. Mikolas pumps the ball consistently in the mid-90s, posted a great K/BB ratio, and was dominant at the back of the pen which continued into the Texas League.
Runner-up: LHP/SP Pedro Hernandez 5-0, 2-70 ERA
After he pitched so well with the Missions, people may forget that Pedro landed a majority of his 2011 innings with the Storm. Early in the season he was the only dependable starter in the Storm's rotation. He went 5-0 with 44 strikeouts with only 6 walks in 56 innings pitched.
One of my favorite things about Pedro is just his positive attitude. The twenty-two year old lefty always has a smile on his face, and whether he is starting or in the pen, he is the person cracking jokes and enlivening the clubhouse. He wins the award for most likely to shout out "We want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher."
Pitcher of the Year: Pedro Hernandez
Yes, Mikolas had video game numbers out of the pen, but Hernandez worked almost 40 percent more innings than everyone's favorite Nova Southeastern alum, and filled multiple roles for the Storm in his time there. Bouncing from the bullpen to the rotation, and then up and down the system to take the ball whenever and wherever he was needed, Hernandez quietly put up a very solid campaign which included the best ERA of anyone who made a start for Elsinore.
Runner-up: LHP Nick Schmidt 3-5, 3.84 ERA
The 2007 first-rounder missed all of 2008 and then had additional surgery last year, wedging some decidedly uninspiring pitching between the two. But Schmidt had a solid second half for the Storm, posting a 3.84 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 63 innings. The 25-year-old lefty then led the rotation through the playoffs. He has put himself back on the map heading into an offseason when he will be Rule 5-eligible.
Others of Note: Last year's TinCaps' pitcher of the year Matt Lollis struggled in Lake Elsinore going 4-8, 5.35 ERA, though he did post 114 strikeouts in 119 innings. There were rumblings about his work ethic that he needs to put to rest next year. Lefty Michael Watt, a former first-round pick who they acquired for Greg Maddux, was statistically identical to Lollis, though the six-foot lefty has little else in common. Jose De Paula was brutal through the first half, but posted a solid 4.38 ERA and 55/16 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 61.2 second half innings after he passed the 18-month post-Tommy John surgery mark. Zach Herr repeated the level and put up some nice numbers with a 77/27 K/BB ratio in 72.2 innings pitched. Jason Ray stepped into the closer role after Mikolas was promoted and went 7-4 with 11 saves and a 2.52 ERA for the Storm.
2011 MadFriars' Lake Elsinore Pitchers of the Year: Miles Mikolas and Pedro Hernandez
Top Prospect: Matt Lollis
After a stellar campaign last year and an impressive showing during offseason invitation-only drills at PETCO, there was a ton of noise on the enormous righty at the start of the season. And quite frankly, he spit the bit. But Lollis still showed plenty of the raw ingredients that make him a very interesting prospect to watch, and did so as one of the younger pitchers in the Cal League. Another winter of conditioning and a strong campaign in much friendlier confines next year would put him squarely in the spotlight next fall.