Sonoma Stompers Staff Report
Without the steady work of Mike Jackson Jr. and Taylor Thurber, it’s hard to imagine the Sonoma Stompers Professional Baseball Club capturing the 2016 crown.
The two right-handed hurlers were stalwarts of the Stompers rotation, and the league took notice as the Jackson and Thurber finished with a second and third-place finish, respectively, in the Pacific Association Pitcher of the Year voting.
In his third season with the Stompers, Jackson Jr. was at his very best. Prior to his promotion to the Long Island Ducks (Atlantic League, Ind.), the 27-year-old Pennsylvania native went 8-2, with a 2.84 ERA, and a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 1.132. In 76 innings, spanning 12 starts, Jackson Jr. allowed just 59 hits, struck out 61 batters and walked just 27. His eight wins were tied for most in the league (J.R. Bunda, San Rafael), and his 61 strikeouts were 11th-most in the association, despite him not making a start after Aug. 10. His ratio of hits-to-innings of 7-to-9 was the best figure among any pitcher who made more than three starts. Only San Rafael’s Patrick Conroy, who was named the league’s top pitcher for 2016, had a better ERA among pitchers who made more than 10 starts.
The veteran, and a charter member of the 2014 Stompers Inaugural season team, took his game to another level in 2016, and also served as a leader in the clubhouse for manager Takashi Miyoshi. From Spring Training, Jackson Jr. served as the leader of the pitching staff.
Thurber, 23, was nearly just as valuable. In his first year in Sonoma, Thurber won seven games, posted a 2.95 ERA, and boasted a WHIP of 1.148. The Appalachian State University product, was seventh in the league in strikeouts (70), and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.38 (best among all pitchers who made more than one start). Opposing batters hit just .246 off Thurber, and they were often attempting to hit from behind in count as he led all qualifying pitchers with a .714 first-pitch-strike percentage.
The Stompers have been well represented thus far in the postseason awards balloting. Outfielder Mark Hurley and catcher Mason Morioka were both recognized as the league’s top defenders at their positions, and Manager Takashi Miyoshi was named the Manager of the Year. Right-hander Juan Espinosa, and fellow Miami product, Randy Santiesteban, finished third and fourth, respectively, in the race for Rookie of the Year.
Reliever Jose Flores, who assumed the closer role for the Stompers late in 2016, finished third in voting in Reliever of the Year honors, and late-season acquisition Ryan Richardson finished fifth.
The Pacific Association voting is comprised of the league’s front offices, managers, coaches and broadcasters.
On November 14, the league will announce the 2016 MVP. In 2014, former Stomper Jayce Ray, won the award. San Rafael’s Matt Chavez took home the hardware in 2015. Both played the next season with the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association. Ray is currently in the Boston Red Sox organization, where spent the 2016 season reaching as high as Double-A.