While the overall on-field performance was abysmal, more potential future big leaguers toed the rubber in Peoria this year than any in recent memory. Ten 2012 high school draftees appeared for the rookie league pitching staff.
Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible with whichever team he appeared for the 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 Arizona League is the lowest level of the minor leagues in the states. Typically the players at this level are young Latin American players, high school draftees and second-tier college picks. If they play well, a few will get an opportunity to compete for a spot in Fort Wayne next spring, but most will go to extended spring training followed by a trip to Eugene in the Northwest League.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Max Fried 3.57 ERA, 17K, 6BB in 17.2 innings
While he led the club with nine starts, the Padres’ first overall pick worked only 17.2 innings on the desert. The tiny sample size gave a glimpse of what the tall lefty from Harvard-Westlake High School can do. In August in particular, he worked 9.2 innings, yielding only two runs while posting a 9:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Runner-Up: RHP Walker Lockett 4.34 ERA, 13K, 4BB in 18.2 innings
Like Fried, Lockett was on a tight pitch count after signing as a fourth-round pick out of a Florida high school. The big-bodied righty flashed some of his power arsenal in limited action. Although he was too hittable throughout, he was the only other eligible pitcher to work at least 15 innings and keep his ERA below 5.00.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Max Fried
While the AZL team had a ton of high profile pitchers, none of them were allowed to do anything more than get their feet wet. Of pitchers with at least 15 IP, only two had an ERA below 4.00. With Chris Wilkes having pitched more innings in Eugene this became an easy decision.
Runner-Up: RHP Vladimir De La Cruz 5.67 ERA, 44 K, 28 BB in 39.2 innings
It was tough to put any of the high profile picks in this position as none of them really pitched in more than a handful of innings. Instead I went with the 6’3” RHP out of the Dominican. While De La Cruz struggled at times with location (28 walks) he led the team in strikeouts, and was the only pitcher outside of Fried who allowed fewer hits than innings pitched.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Max Fried
A few insiders in the Padres’ organization claimed that San Diego had Fried at the top of their board as the pitcher with the highest upside in the 2012 draft and he showed why in the AZL. He held opponents to a .215 batting average and shut out the opposition in three of his nine outings.
Runner-Up:RHP Walker Weickel 4.50 ERA 12 K, 6BB in 14.0 innings
The 6’6” righty got the second-highest bonus in this year’s draft and after giving up earned runs in his first two appearances didn’t allow another earned run is six out of his final seven appearances as the the opposition hit only .262 against him. He was a little hittable, giving up 16 hits, but his size allows him to achieve a solid downhill plane on his fastball resulting in a “heavy” pitch making it difficult for batters to barrel the ball.
Others of Note: First round supplemental pick RHP Zach Elfin came down with a virus so he was only able to get into four games. We should have a much better idea of what he can do after the Instructional League. 2011 Supplemental first round pick RHP Michael Kelly was up and down in the AZL this summer as he struggled with his fastball command. The 6’5” Florida native has a world of talent if he can harness it. Free agent signee RHP Dan Lazzaroni showed some ability coming out of the pen with a 16/3 strikeout to base-on-ball ratio in 18.1 innings pitched.
MadFriars’ 2012 AZL Player of the Year: Max Fried
Top Prospect: Max Fried
Fried will head one of the more talented staff that the Padres’ have sent to Fort Wayne in a long time in 2013. The organization experienced great success with high school right-hander Matt Wisler throwing over a hundred innings there this season. Fried, Lockett, Elfin and Weickel could all be on the same program.