Adrian Martinez as a Flying Chancla. (Photo: Joe Alexander)

Summary: The Missions started the year with arguably the deepest starting staff in the organization with Reiss Knehr, Aaron Leasher, Osvaldo Hernandez and Adrian Martinez.  Knehr saw some time in the big leagues this year, but Martinez emerged as the possible breakout candidate this season.

Overview: We use a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues. 

When considering team awards, we took into account where the players made the majority of their regular-season appearances. So, while the aforementioned Knehr finished the year in the big leagues after being promoted from El Paso, he’d still be eligible for the Missions end of year awards since he spent 55.1 of his 75.2 innings pitched in San Antonio.

While there can be some overlap in awards, the Player of the Year is the player we think had the best overall season, while the Top Prospect is the one who has the brightest future and potentially the biggest impact at the major league level.

Level: As we mentioned in our Player of the Year article, this level is less hitter-friendly than the others and Nelson Wolff Stadium is a particularly hard place with the winds blowing in.  Hitters at this level also have notably less of an approach than at Triple-A or in the major leagues.

2021 San Antonio Missions Pitcher of the Year: RHP Adrian Martinez 2.45 ERA 7-3 80.2 IP 83 K 24 BB 64 H

Adrian Martinez had his best year in 2021. (Photo: Rey Holguin)

Adrian Martinez, 24, was one of the biggest breakout stars for the Padres organization in 2021.The Mexicali native cut down the number of walks that he issued and rode a strong sinker/slider combination to a lot of success with San Antonio.  His manager Phillip Wellman really liked what he saw with Adrian this summer, but he did struggle a little going up to El Paso.

He picked it up in El Paso by being able to throw his two-seamer early in the count for strikes and also utilizing his change-up more.  If he can get a strike in the first two pitches, he can have success.  He doesn’t really have the overpowering stuff to pitch from behind in the count.  

He should start the year in El Paso next season, but he will be in San Diego some time during the year.

Aaron Leasher has one of the best changeups in the system. (Photo: Rey Holguin)

Runner-Up: LHP Aaron Leasher  2.56 ERA 4-4 52.2 IP  52 K 21 BB 42 H

Aaron Leasher, 25, nearly defines the term of crafty lefty.  He relies on precision located four-seam fastball which is in the high 80’s to low 90s to go along with a very good changeup.  The key for him going forward is to continue to have success throwing his slider for strikes early in the count to set up his plus change-up.

With the Missions he was very good, but did struggle some in his limited 12-inning stint in El Paso.  Look for Leasher to go back to the Sun City to start the year and continue to work on his slider.  When he’s on, he’s a fun to watch.

Tom Cosgrove. (Photo: Joe Alexander)

Others of Note: RHP/RP Jose Quezada, 25, is another pitcher that made strides by cutting down the number of walks allowed to lead Double-A Central in saves this year with 18 and a 53:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40.1 innings pitched.  At only 5-foot-9, 185-pounds, he might be more impressive off of the field than on. … RHP/RP Henry Henry, 22, is everyone’s favorite because of his unusual name, but he is also one of the more athletic and talented pitchers in the system.  He appears to have found his niche in middle relief.  This season the 6-foot-4, Dominican native logged 67 innings for a 3.90 ERA with 59 strikeouts, but also gave up 31 walks. .. Lefty reliever Tom Cosgrove, 25, battled to stay on the field this season, but when he did he was impressive, holding the opposition to a .192 batting average in 26.2 innings for a 2.36 ERA with a 32:7 strikeout-to-base on balls ratio. 

Top Prospect:  Adrian Martinez

The first thing everyone notices about Martinez is his best pitch, a hard diving sinker that comes in around the low 90’s with his complimentary pitch a big sweeping slider that batters chase out of the zone.  However, the key to his are his two-seam fastball and a changeup that acts like a screwball, a ball that breaks into hitters.

Eric Junge, his manager in El Paso noted that a big key to his success was making sure that he was hitting the bottom of the zone with his two-seam fastball.  

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.

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