In their fifth season as the Padres Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, the Chihuahua’s ran the table, once again finishing as league winners. The team won 15 of their first 20 games and never looked back. An already strong team at the PCL All-Star break was further bolstered with the additions of top prospects Francisco Mejia (trade), Cal Quantrill (promotion), and Logan Allen (promotion). The team clinched during an other-worldly 22-4 stretch in which they set a record for most consecutive home wins with 17.
When considering team awards, we took into account where the players made the majority of their regular-season appearances. So, while Logan Allen finished the year with El Paso, he made a majority of his starts for the Missions and thus would only be available for the Double-A top pitcher.
While there can be some overlap in awards, the Player of the Year is the player we think had the best overall season, while the Top Prospect is the one who has the brightest future and potentially the biggest impact at the major league level.
Triple-A is the last test for prospects before they hit the big leagues. It is usually a mix of top prospects waiting for their call, 4A players hoping to get another chance to prove themselves, and veteran big leaguers looking for one more shot. As such there was a 13-year gap between the team’s oldest player (Allen Craig) and youngest player (Luis Urias).
Unlike the Texas League, the PCL has a reputation for being a great hitter’s league. As such it is common to see a hitter’s numbers improve upon promotion and a pitcher seen as great for having an ERA less than four.
2018 El Paso Position Player of the Year (unanimous)
2B Luis Urias – .296/.398/.447, 8 HR, 30 2B, 7 3B, 2 for 3 SB, 12.6% BB rate, 20.5% K rate
While the final numbers are outstanding for Luis Urias, it is important to remember that at the trade deadline he was in a 1-16 slump and hitting .265/.378/.393. In addition, his strikeout rate of 20.5% was more than double his career rate of 8.1%. While those numbers are not especially bad, they are not what many people assumed one of the top prospects in baseball was capable of. That changed in August.
In August, Urias had a six-game hit streak followed by a 15 game hitting streak (which was the team-high hitting streak for the year). Over the month Urias hit .420/.480/.659. He was one of the biggest reasons for the 22-4 stretch and helped catapult the Chihuahuas into the playoffs.
He did all of this while playing very good defense at whatever position was asked of him. His natural position is second, but he jumped at the chance to play shortstop when Javy Guerra received a day off or moved to third when Carlos Asuaje joined the team. He played the position with an energy and confidence that is usually reserved for veterans.
Top Position Prospect (unanimous):
2B Luis Urias
This was a clear, unanimous decision. Luis Urias not only spent the last month making fans drool, but he also was the only top 30 offensive prospect to play a majority of their games with El Paso. Per FanGraphs, Urias profiles as a well above average bat, with an above average glove at second base. His value to the club and the organization make Urias one of the best players in the organization, and the top player on the Chihuahuas.
Other Players of Note
The Padres traded LHP Brad Hand in a deal to acquire catcher Francisco Mejia. Mejia did not disappoint hitting .328/.364/.582 in 31 games for El Paso. In addition, he showed a cannon for an arm, that San Diego fans have already been in awe of. There are still concerns over his ability to stay behind the plate, and he is currently blocked by Austin Hedges, but Mejia is a force to be reckoned with.
Right fielder Franmil Reyes, technically qualifies with the big league club as he had more games in San Diego. Seeing as how we don’t do one for the big leagues it should be noted that Reyes hit .324/.428/.614 with 16 home runs in 58 games. Despite playing in only 58 games he tied for the team lead in home runs (16), and if you combine his El Paso numbers with San Diego numbers, he led the organization in home runs.
Ty France spent the majority of his time with the Missions, where he put up some solid numbers, but the former San Diego State Aztec also hit well with the Chihuahuas where he hit .287/.382/.532 in 107 plate appearances to go along with 13 extra-base hits. France played mostly third base, but also first and was even starting to work out at catcher when we caught up with him.
SS Javy Guerra once again showed off how talented of a fielder he was. His glove could play anywhere. The ease that he makes tremendous defensive plays looks almost Ozzie-like. However, Guerra hit .223/.269/.398 at the plate, finishing second in the league with strikeouts. He did improve over the second month hitting .278/.327/.515