Cedar Rapids Pitcher of the Year

Cedar Rapids Pitcher of the Year

It was an odd season for the Cedar Rapids Kernels pitching staff. Only two players had more than 20 starts and only four topped ten starts. Also, ten different pitchers notched a save. So it is no surprise that two of the candidates spent time in both a starter and relief role as they vied for Pitcher of the Year honors in the Angels Midwest League affiliate.

Right-hander Nick Green started the season in relief before becoming a starter over the final seven games. And thus it was a tale of two seasons for the Georgia native.

A 35th round draft pick in 2004, Green, 21, ended his year with a 3-3 record with two saves in 26 games, eight starts. As a reliever, Green compiled an 0-1 record with a 4.20 ERA in 49.1 innings. Opponents batted .270 off him in relief.

As a starter, Green went 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA in 51.1 innings with batters hitting .238 off him. He was honored by the Angels as their minor league Pitcher of the Month for August after going 2-0 with a 2.06 ERA in five starts with a .188 average against.

One of the most impressive stats in Green's season was his strikeout to walk ratio of 74-to-14. It helped him maintain a WHIP of 1.08 on the year.

Rafael Rodriguez, 21, spent the first half of the season in the Midwest League before moving up to the Quakes of the Cal League. Signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Rodriguez went 5-2 with a 2.78 ERA in 13 starts.

In 74.1 innings of work he allowed just 61 hits for a .220 average against. And in 73 at bats with runners in scoring position he allowed just 11 hits, a .151 average.

Before his promotion, Rodriguez used his electric fastball, which touches the mid-nineties, to strike out 74 while he walked 27.

He wasn't nearly as effective after his promotion. His pitches were up in the zone – resulting in 11 homers in 72 California League innings and 33 walks. But this award is solely based on his work with the Kernels.

Michel Simard took a different route than Green. He went from the starting rotation to begin the year to the bullpen – after being demoted from a horrid stint with Rancho Cucamonga. After giving up homers at the speed of ground outs, Simard regained his composure in the Midwest League, going 6-4 with two saves and a 3.80 ERA.

A 25th round pick in 2002, this year was his second in Cedar Rapids. The Canada native allowed 55 hits in 64 innings for a .231 average against and that number dropped to .213 with runners in scoring position.

After some initial struggles as a starter, Simard, 24, excelled in relief. He posted a 3.53 ERA and .218 average against in 35.2 relief innings. And while he struggled against lefties all year, he held right-handed hitters to a .199 average against.

In the end, a 24-year old prospect excelling in Low-A does not mean nearly as much as a 21-year old – who was 20 when he marched through Cedar Rapids. Rodriguez was not only the best pitching prospect to come through, he also had the best year in winning Pitcher of the Year for the Angels Cedar Rapids squad.

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