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San Antonio Missions Playoff Recap 

missionsThis was an amazing and championship season for the San Antonio Missions. There is much to be excited about with this group of players. Many of them started the season with San Antonio but finished it with the San Diego Padres and yet the team was still strong enough to win the championship in their league. That says a lot about the quality of talent moving up in the Padres system.

To start the season, the Missions had 3B/2B Logan Forsythe, 3B/LF James Darnell, Starter Anthony Bass. 1B/LF Kyle Blanks, CF Blake Tekotte and utility player Andy Parrino, all playing on a regular basis or starting. All of them played parts or a lot of the regular season for the Padres. They were replaced on the Missions and the team kept winning. They finished the year with a 94-46 record and a 15 game lead over the next closest team. They were 1st and 2nd half division winners and played 55-15 ball at home. They had the best record of any team in minor league baseball. That is an amazing accomplishment for a team that supplied so much support to the major league club.

So now we will review what happened in the playoffs, along with some general notes regarding some players.

The Missions played their first series versus the Frisco Rough Riders, taking three of four. The championship series was against Arkansas and they swept three straight but had to rally in the 9th inning of game one and won game two in 20 innings.

It is difficult to know where to start when talking about this team. Both the pitching and the offense excelled during the regular season with 3B/LF James Darnell and 2B Vince Belnome leading the team with a .333 average. Their lines were amazingly similar with Belnome having a .432 OBP and .603 slugging and Darnell with a .434 OBP and .604 slugging. Belnome played in 75 games with 267 AB, 19 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR and 62 RBI. Darnell played 76 games with 288 AB with 25 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR and 62 RBI.  Belnome had 8 errors in his first season playing second base, a remarkable improvement over his defense at third base over the past two seasons. Darnell finished with 10 errors for his minor league season.

3B/DH Jedd Gyorko had a .288/.358/.428 line in 59 games and 236 AB with 12 2B, 7 HR and 40 RBI but was promoted from Lake Elsinore half way through the season.

CF Blake Tekotte hit .285/.393/.498 in 106 games and 414 AB with 27 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR and 67 RBI.

LF Daniel Robertson hit .283/.370/.393 in 124 games and 438 AB with 23 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR and 44 RBI.

RF Sawyer Carroll, playing his third season for the Missions, had a .267/.352/.463 line in 129 games and 460 AB with 24 2B, 6 3B, 18 HR and 71 RBI.

1B/DH Cody Decker had a difficult season with injuries and only played in 49 games with 177 AB. He finished with a .237/.289/.525 line.

LF Jaff Decker had a healthy season for the first time in his pro career and struggled a little in his adjustment to AA ball. Possibly due to the fact that he has not played an entire season so far and the jump in quality of play that has to be adjusted to at this level. His 236/.373/.417 line in 133 games and 496 AB reaped 29 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR and 92 RBI. You might ask what is wrong with those numbers. Nothing except that the expectation is this talented, young (21 year old) outfielder will not only hit for extra bases but has the ability to hit for high average as well. If he is promoted to Tucson next season the numbers will be ridiculous.

Jaff led the team in doubles, homeruns and RBI while Carroll led with triples and Tekotte tied with homeruns. The leader in stolen bases was Blake Tekotte with 36 of 48 and Dan Robertson was second with 20 of 26. J. Decker also snatched 15 of 20 for his season.

For the post-season Blake Tekotte hit .320  with a HR and 4 RBI, C. Decker hit .310 with 3 2B, 3 HR and 6 RBI and J. Decker hit .258 with 3 HR and 7 RBI with Vince Belnome hitting .233 with 2 2B and 5 RBI.

The pitching overpowered their opponents during the season and the postseason. The starters for the beginning of the year were Casey Kelly, Jose Reyes, Juan Oramas, Simon Castro and Matt Buschmann. The Missions received Rob Erlin and Joe Wieland at the major league trading deadline when Mike Adams was sent to the Texas Rangers. Simon Castro struggled in the starting role and missed part of the season while working on his delivery elsewhere. Buschmann was promoted to Tucson but returned for part of the second half of the season (12 starts).

The regular starting rotation for the second half and the playoffs were Kelly, Reyes, Oramas, Erlin and Wieland. Castro had spot starts and did start two playoff games.

Starter Jose Reyes 10-3,  3.12 ERA in 112.2 IP with 98 strikeouts. Pitched in relief in the playoffs with a 2-0 record, 5.40 ERA in 5.2 IP with 3 hits, 4 runs and a blown save. He finished second in the league in ERA.

Casey Kelly  11-6,  3.98 RA in 142.1 IP with 46 walks and 105 strikeouts (best on team). He started one game in the playoffs with 6 IP, 6 hits, 2 R, 2 ER and 3.00 ERA/

LHP Juan Oramas  10-5,  3.10 ERA in 104.2 IP with 28 walks and 102 strikeouts. He pitched in one playoff game for 6 innings 6 hits, 4 runs, 4 ER, 6 SO for a 6.00 ERA.

LHP Rob Erlin  6-2,  3.50 ERA in 92.2 IP with 11 walks and 92 strikeouts. He started one game in the playoffs for 5 innings, 9 hits, 2 runs, 1 ER, and 5 SO for a 1.80 ERA.

Joe Wieland  7-1,  1.80 ERA in 70 IP with 17 walks and 54 strikeouts. He pitched in two games in the playoffs  for 13 IP with 9 hits, 3 runs, 3 ER, 12 SO and a 2.08 ERA.

Simon Castro  5-6,  4.33 ERA in 89.1 IP with 16 walks and 73 strikeouts. He started two games in the playoffs for a total of 12 innings and 14 hits with 5 runs and 5 earned runs with 15 strikeouts for a 3.75 ERA. Castro started the season very poorly and worked hard to right the boat to finish strong. He still has problems with his control, repeating his delivery and keeping his mechanics. The talent is still there but he has to begin showing the consistency he has lacked this past season to maintain his prospect status.

The relievers for the playoffs were mostly the same top performers during the season with the addition of Pedro Hernandez, who was a spot starter for the Missions after his assignment mid-season. Hernandez began the season with Lake Elsinore for 15 games and performed well. He was then sent to Tucson to fill in for 4 starts then spent the last month and a half of the season with San Antonio and was a spot starter for 8 games.

Reliever Nick Vincent was lights out for the Missions. He finished the season with a 8-2 record and 2.27 ERA in 79.1 IP with 20 walks and 89 strikeouts and 3 saves. He pitched 6 innings in the playoffs with 1 hit and no runs.

Rob Musgrave  7-2 record and 3.30 ERA in 79 IP with 25 walks and 65 strikeouts. He was promoted to Tucson for his last 9 games of the season, as a starter. He did make 12 starts for the Missions out of his 23 appearances.

Eddie Kunz was a minor league free agent signee to bolster the bullpen for the Missions. He has played in several different organizations, as well as the independent league, over the 5 seasons of his career. He had a 2-1 record with a 4.30 ERA in 73.1 IP with 34 walks and 27 strikeouts.

Miles Mikolas  1-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 32.1 IP with 6 walks and 27 strikeouts. He pitched the first half of the season with Lake Elsinore and posted a 1.13 ERA, which earned him a promotion. He took over as the closer when Brad Brach was promoted to Tucson. He finished with 9 saves for San Antonio. For his combined 2011 season- 4-0, 1.38 ERA in 62 games and 72 IP with 21 saves and 15 walks to 69 strikeouts. For the post season he pitched in 3 games, 3 IP, 2 saves, 1 hit and no runs.

Brad Brach was the closer for the Missions until his promotion to Tucson at the end of August. He had a 2-2 record with a 2.25 ERA in 44 IP with 5 walks and 64 strikeouts with 23 saves. He had 11 more saves in Tucson.

Of note, starter Anthony Bass went 6-4 with a 3.75 ERA in 69.2 IP with 21 walks and 62 strikeouts during his time in San Antonio before being called up to the Padres. He had a breakout season with increased velocity on his fastball and improved off-speed pitches from his season with Lake Elsinore last year. The improvement is credited to improved mechanics/delivery and an off-season workout program. His future looks bright as a regular member of the Padres staff in 2012. He should have a chance to break into the pitching staff during spring training.

Padres fans should take heart when looking ahead to the future. It might take another season for the maturation process to bring many of these players to the major league level. We will probably see some of them next season on a regular basis as it is reported that Bud Black wants to give some of these guys a look-see in spring training.

James Darnell and Logan Forsythe finished the season on the DL but there is a good chance we will see one or both of them again sometime next season. Utility player Andy Parrino has been on my radar for a long time. I have been a champion of his for two seasons as he reminds me of Tim Flannery/David Eckstein/Jerry Hairston as a gritty, old school player who loves the game and can play at a high level with whatever talent he has. I am hoping the Padres give him a real chance next season.

Many of these players will find their way onto the Padres roster over the next two seasons and others will be trade bait to bring needed pieces and parts to the team.

Be excited, Padres fans. There is good stuff on the way!