Lake Elsinore Pitcher/Prospect of the Year

With the exception of Tim Stauffer, three of the Padres top starting pitching prospects came through Lake Elsinore in 2005, Sean Thompson, Jared Wells and Cesar Carrillo.

Lefthander Sean Thompson, 23, who probably would have been in Mobile to start the year if he hadn't struggled in spring training, came out of the gate quickly for the Storm. In his first six starts for the Storm, Thompson went 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA, holding batters to a .210 batting average with an excellent 13/45 base-on-balls to strikeout ratio.

At Mobile, Thompson experienced the first struggles of his career, but performed better in the second half with a change in his arm slot. Thompson still posted decent overall numbers for the year, and is the Padres best left-handed starting prospect. As he progresses further up the chain, he seems to be answering the questions about his ability to go deep in games, despite his slight stature.

Cesar Carrillo, 21, was the Padres top draft pick this year from the University of Miami. He took the unusual step of having his contract specify that he begin his professional career in the California League (High-A). His confidence was soon validated. In his first four professional starts, Carrillo pitched 19 innings, allowing only 15 hits with an excellent 20/3, strikeout to base-on-balls ratio before being promoted to Mobile.

He experienced even greater success at Mobile, returning to Lake Elsinore to help the Storm with the playoffs. He struggled in his last two starts at Lake Elsinore, but his difficulties could probably be attributed more to fatigue than lack of ability.

Carrillo is 6-foot-3, 170-pounds and has a pitching frame that resembles Ramon Martinez with a whip-like motion. His fastball consistently sits in the 92-94 mph range, with a hard curve and developing changeup. Carrillo's early dominance at Lake Elsinore was impressive beyond his statistics for two other reasons, one he was coming off of a long collegiate season where he had already pitched 125 innings with 19 starts. Secondly, most college pitchers need to go through at least two other lower minor leagues before even attempting the California League, which as most people know is a very tough league for pitchers.

We will go into more analysis on Cesar when we review Mobile's pitchers, but it is safe to say he probably has the most upside of any Padres pitcher in the system right now.

Leo Rosales, 24, was the Storm's closer this year and finished with a 27 saves this year, and a 8-7 record to go with a 3.18 ERA. Rosales is another closer in the Padres system, along with Dale Thayer of Mobile, who relies on a slider to get people out. The big question with Rosales, as with other relief pitchers, will be if he can develop a changeup and if has enough of a fastball as he progresses up the system to become a major league player. His most impressive stat, as my colleague Denis noted the other day, was that he stuck out more batters than he had innings pitched (77/65). Rosales will get his big test next year with the BayBears.

Jared Wells, 24, pitched the longest of any of the other starting pitchers in Lake Elsinore this year. Wells, who only began pitching a few years ago when a knee injury in football sidelined both his career as a quarterback and as an outfielder, put together his best season as a professional, as he began to tap into the high potential that the Padres always believed he had.

Wells, at 6-foot-4, 200-pounds throws a hard sinking fastball that can touch 94 or 95 mph, but for the most part sat in the low 90's this year.

He went 11-3, with a 3.44 ERA, but for a guy who should be a power pitcher, he didn't have a particularly impressive base-on-ball to strikeout ratio (26-to-80). While Wells may not have a dominating strikeout to base-on-balls ratio, he did demonstrate an impressive ability to go deep into games, averaging six plus innings a start and allowing fewer hits than innings pitched (120/116), the only other pitchers to achieve the same results were Leo Rosales and Sean Thompson. The big key for his success this year was a much better command of his slider and the continuing development of his changeup.

His slider and changeup are still not where they need to be as his brief stint in Mobile demonstrated, but his progress this year is encouraging.

Wells not only had the best year of any of the three at Lake Elsinore, but could come close to matching the potential of Cesar Carillo in the long run. With Wells it's all about continuing his education as a pitcher and refining his talent, the ability has always been there.

Lake Elsinore Storm Pitcher/Prospect of the Year: Jared Wells

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