One of the Batavia Muckdogs' greatest strengths in 2012 was their starting pitching. As a whole, the staff only walked 143 batters in 674 innings – which led the New York-Penn League by 15 over second-place Brooklyn.
A major contributor in that category is Tim Cooney. Scouts say that he is an elite pitcher for this level because he throws three pitches (fastball, curveball, slider) consistently for strikes. Starting off as a piggy-back starter with several other candidates, it was Cooney's control that made him stand out – just eight walks in 55 2/3 innings pitched.
The 2012 3rd-round pick from Wake Forest finished the year with a 3.40 earned-run average in 13 appearances (11 starts) and 7.0 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. Although other pitchers appeared to have a stronger year in terms of numbers, it was the first-year professional who appears to have the highest upside.
Overall, Cooney deserves the selection as The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Batavia Muckdogs Starting Pitcher of the Year.
Tyler Melling ended the season with a 2.01 ERA in 13 starts and a 46-to-4 strikeout to walk ratio. The 2011 39th round pick walked just two batters in 22.0 innings with 15 strikeouts to start the year. In even more numerical terms, that's a 7.50 K/BB – an astronomical number. Melling was able to even exceed that pace significantly. He has a tremendous asset that shows this isn't just luck: control. The 23-year-old simply throws strikes. Melling's two-seamer moves a lot and the coaching staff seems to be emphasizing fastball location in his development.
At one point, Ben Freeman led the team in home runs allowed with seven (followed by Ben O'Shea's total of four); but the 2010 11th-round pick allowed only 13 earned runs overall despite the high home run total. Home runs can be unlucky in some cases – and that may be true for Freeman, who throws a lot of strikes and owned a 2.39 ERA through 49 innings.
Freeman's season was highlighted by a nine-strikeout night against Auburn July 19. He demonstrated his curveball as an effective out-pitch, as he used it for more than half of his strikeouts. Scouts say he is reminiscent of left-handed Twins' pitcher Scott Diamond who, like Freeman, stands of third base side of the rubber, turns his back on hitters to add deception and throws over the top.
The 2012 Muckdogs' rotation displayed a great deal of command and control. Who knows, it could be a trend to come for the Cardinals.
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Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series.
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