Summary: To call the 2013 Emeralds campaign a disaster understates just how bad the team was. The club’s 27-49 record was the worst posted in the Northwest League in nine seasons. The Ems struggled equally on both sides of the ball; they gave up more runs, and scored fewer, than any other team by a wide margin. Eleven different pitchers started at least one game as manager Jim Gabella navigated innings caps, ineffectiveness and roster transitions throughout the season.
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 Northwest League is a short-season rookie league. The median age on rosters is almost two years older than the Arizona League. Many college players start their professional careers here after the draft, though rosters also include many guys who spent the previous two months playing in extended spring training. With hitters adjusting to wood bats and several parks that are hard to hit in, the Northwest League favors pitchers.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Erik Schoenrock
2-3, 2.51 ERA; 52 K, 15 BB in 57.1 Innings
The son of long-time collegiate coach Daron Schoenrock, Erik is a prototypical Northwest League success story. While his stuff is not overwhelming, he has a very good breaking ball and a high baseball IQ. That set of tools helped the Tennessee native, who turned 22 in August, to an impressive pro debut. Schoenrock posted a 2.51 ERA over 14 starts, working particularly effectively down the stretch in three-inning outings. He’s an extreme groundball pitcher who induced a lower batting average from right-handed hitters this year, so even if he eventually moves to the pen, he may not be relegated to LOOGY status.
Runner-Up: RHP Coby Cowgill
3-2, 2.78 ERA; 62 K, 20 BB in 55 Innings
Cowgill, originally drafted by the Rangers last year, signed with the Padres one day after he was released in May. The righty from VMI made the most of his second chance, pitching his way into the Eugene rotation for the final month of the season. The 22-year-old hurler had the best strikeout rate on the club and was especially effective at home where he posted a 1.73 ERA.
Pitcher of the Year: Erik Schoenrock
Schoenrock was a NWL All Star, and posted the best numbers on the team. Just like our AZL Pitcher of the Year, Pete Kelich, Schoenrock is not going to be a Top 20 prospect nor will he be hyped as the ace of the TinCaps next year. What he does have is the ability to keep hitters off-balance by throwing all his pitches for strikes. At the short season level, that is enough to give him a stellar 2.51 ERA.
If Schoenrock makes it to the majors it will undoubtedly be out of the pen. He did hold lefties to a .245 average and struck out nearly 30% of left-handed hitters faced.
Runner-Up: RHP Adam Cimber 3-1, 2.56 ERA, 10 SV, 31.2 IP, 7 BB, 27 K
A good closer has to have something that makes him stand out from other relievers. For most, it’s a power fastball or slider. For Cimber though, it is his sidearm delivery. The Padres liked him enough to take him in the 9th round in the draft. After a rough start to his career, he quickly became the team’s closer. After giving up four runs in his first six innings, Cimber settled down to allow only five more runs over his next 25 innings.
He throws in the high 80s and has a quality slider and change. He held lefties to a .145 batting average while striking out over 35% of lefties. At the lower levels, Cimber should continue to post great numbers as long as he can maintain control. To become a prospect, he is going to have to improve on one of his pitches, probably his slider, to make it a true out pitch.
Pitcher of the Year: Erik Shoenrock
After battling through injuries his first two years at the University of Memphis, Schoenrock had his best year this season throwing 98.1 innings for the Tigers with a 3.02 ERA and a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio of 86:28. He should be able to eat innings for the TinCaps next year, but as David and Ben both noted, his future probably will be in the pen at advanced levels.
Runner-Up: Coby Cowgil
Cowgil, at 22, was a little old for the level. Then again, he was also consistently sitting in the low 90s and even touched 97 for the Emeralds this season. It’s still a mystery why anyone would give up on this type of talent as the Rangers did.
He held left-handed hitters to a .194 batting average and had more strikeouts than innings pitched, which is always a good sign. Right now he is primarily a fastball pitcher and is going to have to develop better secondary pitches moving forward. To have a shot, he’s going to have to move fast. But it’s not improbable he could be in Lake Elsinore by mid-season in 2014.
Others of Note: Third round pick Bryan Verbitsky got off to a great start over his first three pro outings, but he lost his feel for the strike zone as the season wore on and he finished the campaign with 38 walks in 49.1 innings. The righty did strike out 47, but finished with a 4.01 ERA. Twin towers Gennison Reyes and Tayron Guerrero both made the transition to the bullpen and established at least a modicum of control with their high-octane fastballs. Reyes, 21, struck out 37 with only 13 walks in 35.2 innings a bit improvement on his 2012 numbers. Guerrero, a 22-year-old righty, was shelled in three starts, but managed a 2.16 ERA in 12 relief appearances. His 26 strikeouts and 18 walks in 25 innings out of the pen represent a real improvement on his career numbers.
MadFriars’ 2013 NWL Pitcher of the Year: LHP Erik Schoenrock
Top Prospect: RHP Jimmy Brasoban
The teenaged hurler from the Dominican had ups and downs in his first stateside campaign, but his filthy slider has the makings of a true plus pitch. As he gets more familiar with commanding the pitch in the zone, his strikeout totals should go up and ERA drop.