Summary: The 2013 TinCaps were defined from the outset by the quartet of first-round draftees in their starting rotation. The club’s roster featured six teenagers at the start of the year, and their youth showed at times as they struggled for consistency during the year. The team posted a .623 winning percentage in the first half to clinch a spot in the playoffs, but limped through the second half at 29-41. They rallied to win their first-round playoff series, but were eliminated in the Semifinals.
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 Midwest League is the first stop in full-season ball. Rosters are a mix of first-time professionals and players with a few years of professional experience. With nasty cold in April and oppressive humidity in the summer, the elements make it a tough environment, especially for young hitters.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Zach Eflin
7-6, 2.73 ERA; 86 K, 31 BB in 118.2 innings
Eflin didn’t have the best stuff on the staff, and he doesn’t project to add a lot in the coming years, but he was absolutely the rock of the TinCaps’ rotation in 2013 from start to finish. The big righty from Florida posted a league-best 2.73 ERA, delivering a streak of 19 starts of at least five innings and two or fewer runs surrendered. He didn’t give up more than two homers in any month and simply refused to give in to hitters and kept his composure no matter the situation. He’s a guy whose total package is greater than the sum of the parts.
Runner-Up: LHP Max Fried
6-7, 3.49 ERA; 100 K, 56 BB in 118.2 innings
It was an up-and-down year for the young lefty, but when he was on, Fried showed three different above-average to plus pitches. He walked way too many batters, but in the second half of the season, he brought his BB/9 rate down by more than one free pass. Fried has all the physical tools to succeed, but he’ll need to master the mental skills that define the sort of front-line starter he could become.
Pitcher of the Year: Zach Eflin
Of the four first-rounders in the TinCaps rotation, Eflin, whose 2012 debut season last year was cut short by mononucleosis and who came in without much fanfare, had the best year. As with most of the young pitching staff, he walked too many. However, he also took the ball for 22 starts and led the team in innings pitched. He shaved nearly a run and a half off of his ERA in the second half and should continue his success into the Cal League.
Runner-Up: RHP Roman Madrid
6-4, 22 Saves 2.72 ERA; 56 K, 29 BB in 56.1 innings
Closers, and relievers in general, are really hard to project at the major league level and Madrid is not an exception to the rule. But when the discussion is on value to the TinCaps in 2013, his contributions are hard to discount. Joe Ross, Fried and Walker Weickel all are better prospects and had their moments, but Madrid held the opposition to a lower batting average than all of them and averaged a strikeout per inning while only allowing 45 hits.
After a very good first half when he was 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA and went 12-for-14 in save opportunities, he struggled in the second half with a 4.88 ERA but still saved 10 of 11.
Pitcher of the Year: Zach Eflin
When you win the league’s ERA title, chances are you’re the team’s pitcher of the year. David mentioned that Eflin went 19 consecutive starts throwing at least five innings, allowing two earned runs or less. Eflin had 22 starts ALL YEAR. Meaning that the last time he allowed more than two earned runs in a start, there was still snow on the ground in Fort Wayne. On a staff that saw a lot of young talent have their struggles, Eflin was the 19-year-old veteran leader.
Runner-Up: Joe Ross
5-8, 3.75 ERA, 79 K and 40 BB in 122.1 IP
At 20 years old as of May 21st, Ross was the oldest of the TinCaps’ first-round picks. With a year in the minors already under his belt, the Padres were more willing to let him go longer and deeper in games. Throughout the first half, he often dominated for the first five innings, then made a mistake in the sixth or seventh and picked up a loss. For the season, his ERA spiked to 9.54 after the fifth. With that said, I am giving Ross the runner-up because no pitcher in the rotation could be as completely dominant, and make hitters look as foolish, as Ross. While Padre fans are drooling over Tyson, Joe actually has the better stuff and higher ceiling.
Others of Note:
Justin Hancock wound up making more appearances in Lake Elsinore, where he really struggled. But he completely stymied the Midwest League in his second crack at it. The 22-year-old righty from nearby Defiance, OH, posted a 1.73 ERA in 12 starts for the TinCaps, completing a remarkable comeback to earn a promotion almost exactly a year after he was demoted from Ft. Wayne last year. Walker Weickel had a most perplexing year. He struggled to repeat his mechanics, rarely got out of jams, and generally stumbled through the season with a 5.04 ERA. He had flashes where his first-round ability showed through, but they were too few and far between. Out of the bullpen, Leonel Campos wasn’t always pretty, but his 63 strikeouts in 36.1 innings are pretty jaw-dropping. Coming back from surgery that cost him all of 2012, the Venezuelan hurler was even better once he jumped to San Antonio. Chris Nunn was the go-to lefty out of the pen. He posted an 8-2 record with a 2.77 ERA. However lefties did hit .267 off of him.
MadFriars’ 2013 MWL Pitcher of the Year: Zach Eflin
Top Prospect: LHP Max Fried
Fried was the first lefty and first high school pitcher taken in the 2012 draft. The lanky 19-year-old showed up in spring with a vastly-improved change, demonstrating an impressive aptitude and work ethic. However, on game days, he sometimes struggled to keep focus and trust his electric stuff. Fried can be his own biggest enemy. When he relaxes and lets his physical ability take over, he’s more than most minor league hitters can ever hope to handle. The Padres will hope to channel that Fried more often as he progresses through the system.