Every year the Paul Owens Award goes to the top hitter and pitcher in the Phillies organization. The award does not go to the best prospect in the organization, but rather to the one that has performed the best during the past season. The hitting award should easily go to Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford who is not only putting up a great stat line (.286/.376/.401), but he has done it across two levels as a 19-year-old playing good defense at a premium position. On the pitching side the Phillies top prospects have been hindered by being hurt, ineffective, both hurt and ineffective, or having just been drafted this past June. This leads to a very wide open race for the Paul Owens for pitching.
The Paul Owens Award for pitching has not been the site of illustrious and major league successful names, but it does have its share of top prospects. The last 10 pitchers in reverse order to win it are Severino Gonzalez, Tyler Cloyd, Trevor May, Scott Mathieson, Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ, Mike Zagurski, Carlos Carrasco, Robinson Tejeda, and Scott Mitchinson.
But enough of the past, let’s try and figure out who is even in contention this year:
The Wins Leader: The current leader for wins in the Phillies system is 30-year-old Greg Smith who sports a 8-9 records to go with a 4.49 ERA and 78 strikeouts, along with a Phillies system leading 134.1 IP across 23 games started. Smith has been a great warrior for the Ironpigs this year, but the rest of his line is not impressive enough to give him the title this year. Though I think he should get plenty of kudos for being the rock of a pitching staff ravaged by promotions and injuries,
The Strikeout King: The org leader in strikeouts on August 13 is Mark Leiter Jr, and it is not particularly close as his 115 Ks lead next closest, Severino Gonzalez, by 19 strikeouts. Leiter’s K/9 of 8.5 and BB/9 of 2.4 make a good case as well. The knock against LEiter is that he has a 4.65 ERA on the year and he made 16 of his 23 starts as a 23-year-old in Lakewood.
The All-Round Solid: The player best combining workload and runs prevented is Reading LHP Adam Loewen who comes in at 15 games started, 90.1 innings pitched and a 3.09 ERA. Loewen doesn’t have a good FIP case as his 4.2 BB/9 and 6.2 K/9 aren’t stellar. Loewen comes with a great storyline as he converts back to pitcher, but at 30 years old in AA, he probably cedes his way to younger starters.
The Latin Ace: The best pitching line in the Phillies system goes to 18-year-old Ranger Suarez who posted a 1.56 ERA with 1 walk and 78 strikeouts over 80.2 regular season innings. The problem is that he just did that in the Venezuelan Summer League and not in stateside affiliated ball.
The Crazy Stat Line: The best stateside stat line has to be 2014 6th round pick Brandon Leibrandt who over 50.2 innings so far has posted a 2.66 ERA with a 1.6 BB/9 and 10.7 K/9 while limiting batters to 5.9 H/9. The knock here is that Leibrandt won’t have too many innings by the end of the year and will have pitched as a polished college starter in short season Williamsport.
The ERA Leaders: Among stateside starting pitchers the ERA leaders 2014 second round pick Matt Imhof and GCL RHP Franklyn Kilome and their 1.91 ERAs. Imhof has only pitched 33 innings and will be limited to a max of 5 innings on each of his starts. Imhof has been more than just good with the ERA though has he has 33 strikeouts, 7 walks, and only 1 home run allowed. The lack of innings really hurts his case. Kilome has been a relative unknown, but the 6’6″ RHP has been a ground ball machine, he has only pitched 28.1 innings with 17 strikeouts so the lack of flashy numbers will likely keep him away from the title.
The Sympathy Vote: Tyler Viza has in no way been the best pitcher in the Phillies org this year, but the 19-year-old might have gotten the worst deal. He should have spent his spring in Florida and his summer in Williamsport. Instead he has endured a Lakewood history worse 15 losses, a 5.15 ERA, while taking the ball 22 times for 117 innings. The righty does walk anyone, doesn’t strike many people out, but has been very hittable with fringy stuff. In a year without a clear winner he has as much a case as anyone to being valuable to the org.
The Major Leaguer: David Buchanan has started 12 major league games and 12 minor league games this year. His ERAs have not been great (4.40 and 3.95) respectively, but the 25-year-old RHP has shown some solid stuff and potential, and maybe he can stick in the back of a major league rotation. In a year where everyone has been hurt, his ability to take the ball at two levels has been extremely valuable.
The Best Pitching Prospect: The #7 pick in the draft has arrived as advertised, as Aaron Nola has been good across two levels in 2014. He has already made his AA debut and his 2.97 ERA 1.5 BB/9 8.4 K/9 line is pretty impressive for a guy who already pitched a full college season. The knock against Nola is that he has only pitched 36.1 innings so far and that there are pitchers who have done more this year that are more deserving.
The Relief Ace: The org leader in saves in 2014 is Luis Garcia. It isn’t just ending games that has made Garcia’s year great, it is the 0.71 ERA 37 strikeouts and 12 walks over 38 innings at the AAA level. Garcia has really struggled in the major leagues, but his minor league work has been great.
Most Exciting Pitcher: He may not throw pitch in the minors during the second half, but Ken Giles was electric to start the year with a 1.88 ERA and 11.9 K/9 across to minor league stops in 2014. He only pitched 28.2 innings though. What could separate Giles is that he has been even better in the majors with a 1.50 ERA 2.25 BB/9 and 13.5 K/9 across 24 major league innings. The RHP is a future closer, but voters might think he is more major leaguer than minor leaguer.