Today we continue the IPI’s year end awards with the announcement of the Pitcher of the Year. This award goes to the starting pitcher in the Indians organization that had the best year from a performance perspective, not from a prospect standing.
Barnes was having an outstanding season before a knee injury sidelined him on July 10th and he missed the rest of the season. He was on quite a roll at the time as after struggling in his first exposure to Triple-A he made a quick adjustment and in his last ten starts went 5-3 with a 2.58 ERA (59.1 IP, 49 H, 5 HR, 19 BB, 63 K). He showed an ability to get his fastball by hitters and is definitely a Major League starting pitching option for the Indians in the near future.
This was Adams’ first season as a full fledged starter as he spent all of 2010 in a piggyback role and he made a lot of strides. He is still raw and learning how to pitch, but the power of his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and his good curveball make him an exciting pitching prospect for the Indians. He finished 2nd in the organization in wins (11) and 2nd in strikeouts (131). He also finished 2nd in the Eastern League in wins (11), 11th in ERA (3.77), 12th in innings pitched (136.0), 6th in strikeouts (131), and 3rd in walks allowed (63).
Araujo took home the honors this year for the Biggest Breakthrough, which was well deserved after the year he had. He finished 7th in the Indians organization in ERA (3.36) and also ranked 1st in the Arizona League in wins (9), 3rd in ERA (2.86), 9th in games started (11), 4th in innings pitched (63.0), 3rd in strikeouts (58), 3rd in WHIP (1.14), 1st in batting average against (.228), 5th among starters for lowest walks per nine innings (2.5), and 2nd among starters for fewest baserunners per nine innings (10.3).
Colon had a very good return to the mound this season after missing all of the 2010 season because of a right elbow sprain. He pitched all season at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley before getting a call up to Low-A Lake County for his final appearance of the year (6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R/ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 4 K) and is likely where he will open the 2012 season. He finished 9th in the Indians organization in ERA (3.51).
Paolo Espino (RHP – Akron/Columbus)
8-1, 2.77 ERA, 34 G (10 GS), 120.1 IP, 101 H, 11 HR, 25 BB, 119 K
Espino is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Indians organization as he just “gets no respect”. All he has done the past few years is perform, but his opportunities have been limited because other pitchers with higher value continue to pass him over. He was lights out for most of the last four months of the season, and in his final 10 games at Triple-A Columbus went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA (37.1 IP, 29 H, 3 HR, 4 BB, 39 K). He finished 4th in the Indians organization in ERA (2.77).
Gomez returned to Triple-A Columbus to start the season and made a few spot starts over the course of the year in Cleveland before he was called up for good on August 30th. He finished 3rd in the Indians organization in ERA (2.54) and 3rd in wins (10). He finished 1st in the International League in ERA (2.55), 5th in wins (10), tied for 3rd in complete games (2), 8th in WHIP (1.25), and 5th among starters for lowest batting average against (.242).
Huff is 27 years old and lost his rookie status back in 2009, so he is no longer a prospect per se, but he still pitched a majority of the season at Triple-A Columbus so is eligible for the award. After a tough 2010 season he bounced back this season and had a good year in Columbus and a solid showing in Cleveland where in 11 starts there he went 2-6 with a 4.09 ERA (50.2 IP, 55 H, 6 HR, 17 BB, 36 K).
Jimenez has made the slow progression through the Indians system where he pitched at rookie level Arizona for two years in 2009 and 2010 before finally getting an opportunity at short season Single-A Mahoning Valley this year. He did not disappoint pitching at a higher level this year and definitely raised his stock. He finished 2nd in the Indians organization in ERA (2.39). He was also 5th in the NY-Penn League in ERA (2.39) and 11th in innings pitched (71.2).
After a disappointing 2010 campaign last season in Triple-A (9-12, 5.29 ERA, 27 GS) McAllister had a very good second go around this year. He finished 5th in the Indians organization in ERA (3.32), 1st in wins (12), and 4th in strikeouts (128). He also finished 7th in the International League in ERA (3.32), 3rd in wins (12), 1st in complete games (3), 4th in innings pitched (154.2), 2nd among starters in lowest walks per nine innings (1.8), and 4th for fewest baserunners per nine innings (11.2).
McFarland started the year at High-A Kinston but was quickly promoted to Double-A Akron and pitched well in his first extended exposure at one of the highest levels in the minors. He established himself as a good, young starting pitching prospect for the Indians and likely will return to Akron to open 2012. He finished 10th in the Indians organization in ERA (3.74). He also finished 2nd in the Eastern League in complete games (2) and 11th in innings pitched (137.1).
Don’t let that high ERA fool you as it is not truly indicative of how well Packer pitched this season. He finished the season with a flurry going 8.0 innings or more in six of his last ten starts and in 11 starts after the All Star break went 6-4 with a 2.78 ERA. He finished 2nd in the Eastern League in games started (27), 1st in innings pitched (169.1), 1st in total batters faced (702), 2nd in losses (12), 7th in strikeouts (129), 9th in WHIP (1.23), and 2nd in lowest walks per nine innings (1.8). He also ranked 3rd in the Indians organization in strikeouts (129).
Rayl was up for the Biggest Breakout award as well as he had a very good first full season for the Indians. He split his time between Low-A Lake County where in 17 starts he went 5-5 with a 2.83 ERA (82.2 IP, 66 H, 3 HR, 13 BB, 84 K) and High-A Kinston where in 8 starts he went 1-3 with a 4.61 ERA (41.0 IP, 48 H, 6 HR, 13 BB, 37 K). He pitched well in both places and his 3.42 ERA was 8th best in the Indians organization.
And the Tony Award goes to…Jeanmar Gomez
The Indians did not have a true standout pitching performance from a starter this year. Had lefty Drew Pomeranz finished the year in the organization he would have been the clear runaway winner for the award as his performance was outstanding. There were several good performances by other pitchers, but nothing to Pomeranz’s level so it made it tough to hand out this award.
In the end it was hard to overlook the year that Triple-A Columbus right-handed pitcher Jeanmar Gomez had. Sure, he was no longer a rookie coming into this season thanks to the 11 starts and 57.2 innings he pitched at the big league level in 2011, but he is still just 23-years old and is still growing as a pitcher. To put it in greater context he will not turn 24-years old until next season but already has two Triple-A and Major League seasons of experience under his belt.
Gomez pitched very well all season at Columbus and was one of the best pitchers in the International League. When he was called up to Cleveland on August 30th he got on a roll where in five starts after his recall he went 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA (30.0 IP, 29 H, 8 BB, 15 K), though he struggled in his final start of the season against the hot-hitting Tigers on September 27th as he allowed 10 hits, 8 runs, 2 walks and had 5 strikeouts over four innings.
Gomez showed a good fastball that he cuts and sinks and had better command of it this year. His slider and changeup both showed improvement as well. It is now all about just getting him consistent from start to start and becoming more aggressive in the strike zone. He has Major League stuff, just the question is how well it will translate every five days over the course of a 162-game season in the big leagues.
I myself have never been a huge fan of Gomez and what he could do at the big league level. I have always felt he is a big league starting pitcher, but that it would be more as a back of the rotation or depth starter. But after his season I may have to reconsider my thinking on that as he now looks like he has the potential to be a solid middle of the rotation starter in the big leagues. Unless the Indians add a veteran starting pitcher to the mix he will go into spring training as the early favorite to make the 2012 opening day starting rotation as the fifth starter.
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