Vermont Lake Monsters: Pitcher Of The Year

"He mixes his pitches very well."

The New York-Penn League has and always will be known as a pitcher friendly league, and it was the pitching that kept the Vermont Lake Monsters afloat in 2006. Led by polished college groomed starters, they excelled on the mound. Now, CapitolDugout.com will hand out the award for the Vermont Lake Monsters' Pitcher Of The Year.

While it may not have stacked up against most of the other pitching staffs of some of the better teams in the league, there's no doubt that the Vermont staff is what carried them throughout the season. But, they actually ranked dead last in team ERA at 4.03. The Lake Monsters also finished at the bottom of the league in WHIP and saves. It obviously wasn't a banner year for the overall staff, but that was more due to a lack of pitching depth rather than a lack of any highly successful pitchers.

To prove that it isn't always a necessity to have a power fastball in order to be successful, Zach Baldwin put together a very strong season in his first sampling of professional baseball in 2006. Baldwin, a southpaw whose fastball rarely cracks 88 MPH, was selected in the 31st round out of West Virginia State University in the 2006 draft. He wasn't blowing anyone away in the New York-Penn League, but he still managed to put up quality efforts game after game, becoming one of Vermont's most consistent starters. He went 1-5 on the season, but don't let the record fool you. In 54 1/3 innings of work, he compiled a solid 3.81 ERA while striking out 40 and walking 15.

"Professional hitters compared to college hitters is just such a big difference," Baldwin explained to CapitolDugout.com. "These guys out here are all really tough outs. Not too many easy outs to be had here."

"In college you could throw the ball down the middle and get away with it sometimes," he continued. "Here, even with the wood bats, you aren't going to get those pitches back."

Earning the second place spot for this award is 20-year-old right-hander, Aaron Jackson. A native of St. Augustine, Florida, Jackson was a 22nd round draft pick in the 2004 draft and until this season, had struggled to find his way in his first two years of professional baseball. He is another pitcher who depends on his location, command as well as the defense behind him rather heavily. And, for the Lake Monsters, there may not have been a more consistent pitcher in the second half of the season. For the year, he went 3-5 with an impressive 3.11 ERA in 63 2/3 innings pitched. He also struck out 48 while walking just 16.

Taking home the award for the Vermont Lake Monsters' Pitcher Of The Year for 2006 is left-handed starter, Jack Spradlin. Yet another guy who relies very much on location, as he is not blessed with a fastball over 90 MPH, Spradlin was a master of command and deception in 2006. A former 8th round pick, the 21-year-old lefty went 2-3 with an outstanding 1.69 ERA in 48 innings of work. He also surrendered just 10 walks while striking out 33. Using his deceptive delivery, Spradlin also held his opponents to a .217 batting average. For all these reasons, he takes home the honor.

"In Vermont, Jack Spradlin did very well while I was there," one of his teammates, Ryan Harrison recently told us. "He mixes his pitches very well, gets a lot of pop-ups and weak ground balls, has good control and it always seemed like we would get 5-7 quality innings from him."

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