Summary: The Missions claimed the Texas League championship for the second time in three years, largely on the back of the circuit’s best pitching staff. San Antonio pitchers gave up fewer hits, homers and runs than any team in the league. The team got equally fantastic contributions from starters and relievers alike all season long, with 10 different pitchers getting to double-digits in appearances with an ERA at or below 3.00.
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: Double-A is the ultimate testing grounds in the minors. While some players reach this level relying on their savvy or an experience advantage, they won’t move on unless they have the talent to carry them to the majors. The gap between a journeyman in Double-A and a big leaguer is often defined by the ability to make adjustments in-game and to maintain mechanical consistency, not overall skill level. For Padres farmhands, the Missions’ home field, Nelson Wolff Stadium, is the closest they’ll get to experiencing Petco Park’s offense-suppressing ways before arriving in San Diego.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Keyvius Sampson
10-4, 2.26 ERA; 110 K, 33 BB in 103.1 innings
It may have been book-ended by two tough stretches in Tucson, but Sampson’s run through the Texas League was most impressive. Beginning in early June, he put together a two month stretch of total domination that you won’t see often. Still only 22, Sampson was a high-profile pick in 2009 out of high school in Florida. The club gave him an ultra-aggressive posting to San Antonio in 2012, and he responded with only moderate success. In his second crack at the league, he got command of his slider and really took off. In his final 63.2 innings, he posted a 1.13 ERA and struck out more than five times as many as he walked. Despite Ben and John’s comments below, there is zero question that he will be protected from the Rule 5 draft.
Runner-Up: RHP Matt Wisler
8-5, 3.00 ERA; 103 K, 27 BB in 105 innings
The 2012 organizational Pitcher of the Year breezed through six starts for Lake Elsinore before joining San Antonio in mid-May. He took a few starts to settle in, but from June 1 on, the 20 year old was among the best pitchers in the Texas League. The righty, who complements a mid-90s fastball with two solid breaking balls and a change, posted a 2.46 ERA over the final three months of the season, then topped it off with 16 innings of one-run baseball in the playoffs.
Pitcher of the Year: RHP Keyvius Sampson
Sampson had a very strange season. He went from getting lit up in Triple-A to becoming one of the most dominating starters in Double-A. Over an eight start stretch in July, Sampson averaged nearly 10 strikeouts and just over one run per start. He was promoted back in mid-August and once again struggled to find his location. Sampson will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason, meaning that a Padre team that is already stocked with young pitchers on the 40 man, even if most are injured, will have to see if they have room for another. Do the Padres keep the 22 year old Double-A pitcher of the year, or do they gamble risking him to the Rule 5 because of his horrendous Triple-A numbers?
Runner-Up: RHP Matt Wisler
Most young players with mid-90s fastballs struggle with command. Whether they can’t find home plate or just try to throw it past everyone; it is one of the main reasons why you hear the term “raw” thrown around young promising players (see Portillo). Wisler does not have this problem. He walked just 33 in 136 innings this year between High-A and Double-A, and only two in his final five starts. He finished the season with nearly four times as many strikeouts as walks. He did this all while holding opponents to just a .223 batting average.
Pitcher of the Year: Keyvius Sampson
Sampson credited his turn-around in San Antonio to adding a slider in his repertoire, which gave him three legitimate pitches, and going back to his high school mechanics, which increased his velocity. In his last 26 innings in Double-A he only gave up one earned run.
I agree with Ben that the Padres will have a big decision to make on Keyvius going into the off-season because he will be taken by another club if the team does not protect him, which is why I think San Diego will add him to the 40-man. Hopefully he will have better luck in El Paso in 2014 than he did in Tucson.
Runner-Up: Matt Wisler
If Sampson hadn’t put up the superhuman numbers he did, Wisler would easily be the top pitcher. It is truly amazing how far he has come since the beginning of the 2012 season in Fort Wayne. He continued to improve in San Antonio, posting a 2.18 ERA in the second half as compared to a 4.19 in the first. He was much better at home in the Wolff with a 1.68 ERA, but just managed a 4.70 mark on the road.
Others of Note:
The Missions had an embarrassment of riches on the mound this year. Matt Andriese continued his trajectory as a future innings-eating, ground ball machine, posting a 2.37 ERA in 15 starts before his promotion to Tucson. Lefty Juan Oramas, nearly forgotten after his Tommy John surgery last summer, returned with a vengeance in the second half of the year and posted a 0.65 ERA over five August starts. Ground ball machine Donn Roach had a solid, though uninspiring campaign, posting a 3.53 ERA in an organization-high 142.2 innings. Kevin Quackenbush gave up one earned run in 29 relief outings before moving on to Triple-A. When he departed, Matt Stites stepped in so impressively that he became, in effect, the primary trade chip used to land Ian Kennedy. Even when Stites left, new closer Jeremy McBryde shined, striking out 73 in 61.1 innings. Even the San Antonio disabled list - which includes lefties Jose De Paula and Chris Rearick and righty Adys Portillo - featured plenty of talent. Amid all the future stars, Josh Geer deserves special recognition for his perseverance. At 30 years old, the righty spent the majority of his second consecutive year after battling cancer riding buses in the Texas League. Instead of sulking about it, he contributed to the team out of the bullpen and starting rotation and wound up claiming the deciding victories in both Missions playoff series.
MadFriars’ 2013 Texas League Pitcher of the Year: Keyvius Sampson
Top Prospect: Matt Wisler
On a staff that included a number of future big league pitchers, Wisler stands out for his combination of pitches, mound presence and ultimate ceiling. The Ohio native, taken in the seventh round of the 2011 draft that appears destined to be the most productive ever for the San Diego Padres, has proved that he’s the real deal. He should be vying for a spot with the big league club by the middle of 2014.