Earlier today, you had a chance to vote for the Minor League Player of the Month and now you can vote for the pitchers. The rules are the same for the pitchers as for the hitters: I nominate one player from each team (defined as playing at least a third of the season at that affiliate) and you vote on who had the best year. You can pick your own criteria, but you should vote for what they did over the course of the whole season and not based upon how good a prospect they are. Of course, if you have a terrific entire season, you've got at least a shot at having a major league career.
Also, you have to still have rookie eligibility to be nominated. Sorry, Spencer Patton. You also still have to be in the Cubs system. Sorry, Paul Blackburn.
With that said, the nominees are:
Iowa Cubs right-handed pitcher Felix Pena: The I-Cubs had issues with their starting pitching this season, but several relievers stepped up and none more so than Pena (except Spencer Patton). Pena moved from the rotation to the pen this year and thrived, throwing 63.1 innings over 36 relief appearances. In that time, Pena had a 3-4 record with three saves and a 3.41 ERA. Most impressively, however, is that Pena struck out 81 batters and walked only 23, which is a big increase in strikeout rate and decrease in the walk rate from when he was a starter in Double-A. Pena also held opposing hitters to a .203 average. For his impressive effort, Pena got his first call up to the majors in mid-August.
Tennessee Smokies right-hander Zach Hedges: Hedges just barely qualifies for this list after having made eight starts in Tennessee and 16 in Myrtle Beach. And while he was pretty good in Myrtle Beach (he'd have to be to get promoted, right?), Hedges was outstanding in his eight starts with the Smokies. In Double-A, Hedges was 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA. In his 24 starts with Tennessee and Myrtle Beach combined, Hedges was 10-11 with a 2.75 ERA. He pitched 144 innings and struck out 95 and walked just 27. He's also an extreme groundball pitcher when he's on and he got more than twice as many outs on the ground as in the air. He did allow 15 unearned runs, which is the one black mark I can see on his record.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans right-hander Trevor Clifton: Clifton was the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year and he made the game one start for the Pelicans in the playoffs. Overall, Clifton was outstanding in 23 starts, striking out more than a batter an inning and keeping opposing hitters to a .225 average. In his 119 innings, Clifton struck out 129 and walked only 41. He was 7-7 with a 2.72 ERA, and he only gave up six unearned runs on the season.
South Bend Cubs right-hander Preston Morrison: Morrison was strong in 16 starts with South Bend, which earned him a ticket to Myrtle Beach on July 25 where he was even better. Morrison made 16 starts and one relief appearance with South Bend and went 9-4 with one save and an ERA of 2.24, With Myrtle Beach, he was 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in six starts. In his combined stats between the two teams, Morrison pitched 128 innings and struck out almost a batter an inning with 122. He only walked 33 and kept opposing hitters to a .235 average. He did give up 12 unearned runs, 11 of which were in South Bend.
Eugene Emeralds left-hander Manuel Rondon: The Cubs got Rondon last summer from the Angels for Rafael Lopez, and in his first full season with the Cubs, Rondon was the Northwest League Pitcher of the Year. Rondon made 12 starts this season and allowed one earned run or fewer in 11 of them. He gave up two in the other one. (He did allow eight unearned runs, as opposed to only seven earned runs, in 57.1 innings, but that's more understandable at this low level.) Anyway, Rondon was 6-1 on the year with a 1.10 ERA. He struck out 49 batters and walked 22. Opposing hitters just hit .233 against him this year.