The Lake Elsinore Storm finished the 2018 season with a 68-72 record. They finished with identical 34-36 records in both halves of the season. The pitching staff featured several top prospects like LHP Adrian Morejon and RHP Michel Baez to start the year. In May, RHP Chris Paddack returned from Tommy John surgery and showed no ill effects from the procedure.
Overall, the Storm finished fourth in the eight-team circuit with a 4.10 ERA and third in strikeouts, with RHP Pedro Avila finishing second in the league with 142.
Eligibility for the awards is simple: We consider a player at whatever level he made the most regular-season appearances. So, while Chris Paddack and Michel Baez finished the year in San Antonio, they will be eligible here, since the majority of their work transpired in the California League.
We distinguish between the player of the year and top prospect at each level. Player of the year is about whose production this season was most impressive. Top prospect takes into account a mix of this year’s production, opportunities to improve, and potential impact in the big leagues.
A mere 75 miles from PETCO Park, Lake Elsinore provides the best opportunity for Padres fans to see prospects coming through the system before they reach the big leagues. While The Diamond is a pitcher’s park by Cal League standards, that’s more of a reflection on how offense-heavy the game the game can be at other sites across the league. The High-A (or Advanced-A) league features a range of players in their second to fifth professional campaigns.
2018 Lake Elsinore Storm Pitcher of the Year
RHP Chris Paddack: 10 G, 4-1, 2.24 ERA, 52.1 IP, 43 H, 13 ER, 4 BB, 83 K. (unanimous)
When Paddack made his long-awaited return from reconstructive elbow surgery, few could have predicted that the Texas-born righty would somehow be even more dominant after the operation but that was the case in 2018.
Paddack debuted on April 30th, pitching six shutout innings in a win over Inland Empire. The dominance continued until a promotion to San Antonio in July. In between, Paddack had three games where he struck out 10 batters. In those three starts, he walked one hitter combined. Paddack had an incredible 21:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio with Lake Elsinore and never walked more than one batter in any outing.
While Paddack’s stint with the Storm was short, he showed that he should be considered one of the top prospects in the system and could be a factor in the big leagues in 2019.
2018 Lake Elsinore Storm Top Pitching Prospect of the Year
RHP Chris Paddack (Conniff, Charity, Jay, Barnett, Pond).
While Paddack had eye-popping numbers, the decision wasn’t as easy as it seemed. At one point, the 2018 Storm rotation had three consensus top-100 prospects, as well as talented arms like Reggie Lawson and Pedro Avila in the rotation. Paddack’s remarkable season gives him the nod, although it was far from unanimous.
Others receiving votes
LHP Adrian Morejon: 4-4, 3.30 ERA, 13 G, 62.2 IP, 54 H, 23 ER, 24 BB, 70 K (Davey)
Morejon, still just 19, looked sharp in his 13 starts, although he missed time in June with a forearm strain and he was ultimately shut down in August due to a triceps strain. The good news is that the injuries seemed precautionary and Morejon should be ready to roll in spring training.
Morejon showed an advanced repertoire, which featured a fastball that topped out at 98 mph in a few starts and an outstanding breaking ball. Morejon lowered his ERA in each month he pitched, with his best work coming in three June starts. In the aforementioned starts, he struck out 26 batters in 18.1 innings.
Others of Note
In any other season on any other team, RHP Michel Baez would have likely been a candidate for both awards but instead, he was just the third most impressive arm in the Storm rotation, which is far from a slight. Baez’s velocity wasn’t quite what it was in 2017 but he still consistently showed a mid-90’s fastball and a darn good changeup. The big Cuban righty averaged more than a strikeout per inning while pitching to a 2.91 ERA in the Cal League.
RHP Reggie Lawson got the start on opening night and finished a pretty solid season, while pitching near his hometown of Victorville, CA. On the surface, Lawson’s 4.69 ERA isn’t impressive but his ERA was below 3.45 in every month of the season, expect for July, where it ballooned to a ghastly 11.10 in five starts. Lawson averaged a strikeout per inning and is working on a slider, to go with a mid-90’s fastball and an excellent curveball.
RHP Pedro Avila continued to put up big strikeout numbers and he led the team in punchouts. Avila was a little too hittable, which resulted in an ERA of 4.27. The 21-year-old isn’t the biggest guy but his three-pitch mix in over 300 strikeouts in his last two seasons in the Padres’ system.
Former 35th-rounder David Bednar had a huge year out of the ‘pen, pitching to a 2.73 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 69.1 innings. His ERA dropped to 1.80 after May 1st. … Dauris Valdez touched 100 mph on a few occasions in 2018 and racked up the strikeouts. Command is still a big issue for the righty but his velocity gives him a chance to rise in 2019. … Former 37th-rounder Blake Rogers struggled down the stretch but notched 70 punchouts in just 57.2 innings.