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: Daniel Cropper 3-1 2.08
Cropper, 23, was one of only two Padres pitchers in the AZL who allowed fewer hits than innings pitched this season. He had 34 strikeouts in 30.1 innings pitched against only four walks and 29 hits.
Signed as a free agent this year, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington grad's performance punched his ticket for Eugene, where he also pitched well in limited opportunities and maybe earned himself a roster spot in Fort Wayne for 2012.
Cropper was a starter in college and threw 90.2 innings with an 8-3 record and 3.97 ERA this season, so tack on 30.1 innings in the AZL and 9.2 in Eugene he threw quite a bit. At 6'3" 205 lbs. he could be another one of the Padres' small college finds as with Mark Hardy last year.
Runner-Up: James Jones 2-1 2.97
Jones was a 33rd-round selection by the Padres in 2011 out of Louisiana-Monroe. Jones, 22, struck out 32 batters in 30.1 innings pitched against only 4 walks, nearly identical numbers to Cropper. At 6'4" 190 lbs. Jones threw 53.1 innings for a 5-3 record and 3.23 ERA as the Warhawks' number one starter.
Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Cropper
In a year that most pitchers would like to forget, Cropper stood out as the rose amongst the thorns. Most impressive for me was that Cropper was not afraid to come after the hitters and challenge them.
This helped create a wonderful 34-4 K/BB ratio.
Runner-Up: James Jones
Cropper and Jones have almost identical numbers, with the same innings total, hits and runs allowed, walks, hit batters, and WHIP. Jones did his work in the pen though, amassing 8 saves during his 27 appearances. The 22 year old is another moderately big RHP out of college that seems to do well in the minors with the Pads.
Pitcher of the Year: James Jones
Arguing about the best pitcher in Peoria this year is much like debating which Police Academy movie is the finest example of American cinema. But, if you have to pick someone, it's hard to argue with James Jones, who looks to become the latest late-round reliever to star in late relief for the Padres. The righty flashed good stuff and was able to overwhelm younger hitters with solid command and control.
Runner-Up: Jean Corpas, 3-1, 3.79 ERA
The 20-year-old righty had a solid year for the AZL team, going 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched. Signed out of Panama in 2009, Corpas got a late start stateside after opening the year in the Dominican, but performed well enough to get the nod here.
Others of Note: Warren Slack, 22, was excellent for the Pads, racking up 25 strikeouts and a 1.33 ERA in 20.1 innings, but was lit up in his brief cameo in Eugene. Genison Reyes is a hard-throwing teenager, striking out 44 hitters in 42.2 innings of work. But when hitters timed his fastball, things didn't go well for the 19 year old, as he was tagged for a 10.34 ERA. Monster Columbian righty Tayron Guerrero managed to walk 41 hitters in 33.2 innings of work as he tried to figure out the finer points of pitching mechanics. Finally, 20-year-old Uber Paz was the only consistent starter for the AZL team, even though Uber wasn't "uber" very often, going 4-3. 5.16 ERA allowing 79 hits in 59 innings pitched.
MadFriars' 2011 AZL Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Cropper
Top Prospect: Joe Ross (Ben and David)
The Padres' first-round pick out of high school in the Bay Area only worked one inning after signing late, but that single uninspired outing makes him the most promising pitcher to suit up for Peoria this year. The big righty, younger brother of Oakland A's perennially-injured starter Tyson Ross, has all the elements you look for in a teenage pitcher, showing good command of his above-average fastball, and flashing a strong breaking pitch. The competition for prospect of the year should be higher for him next year, but he should be prepared for it.
Top Prospect: Genison Reyes (John)
While I don't disagree with either Ben or DJ's assessment of the AZL pitching staff its also hard for me to give a guy that threw one inning the top prospect ranking. Reyes had a 10.34 ERA, a 2-6 record and gave up 76 hits in 42.2 innings pitched along with forty-nine earned runs.
Not that good.
However he's also 19, 6'5" 190 lbs., and struck 44 batters in 42.2 innings pitched and consistently sits in the mid-90s and can touch 98.
If he can ever learn to throw a pitch other than a fastball or hell just change speeds with it a little we could have something.