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 All-Star break was further bolstered with the additions of top prospects Francisco Mejia (trade), Cal Quantrill, and Logan Allen (promotions). 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, 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 before going to 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 to rebound. As such, on this year’s squad, there was a 13-year gap between the team’s oldest player (Allen Craig) and youngest (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 Pitcher of the Year (unanimous)
RHP Brett Kennedy – 10-0, 2.72 ERA, 89.1 IP, 80 K, 23 BB
The Chihuahuas had 19 different pitchers start a game during the 2018 season, including five of the MadFriars’ top pitching prospects entering the season. However, it was right-hander Brett Kennedy who outshined them all.
The 24-year-old Kennedy came off a 13 win Texas League season in 2017 to become the first El Paso starter to record 10 or more wins without a loss. In Kennedy’s 16 starts with El Paso, he allowed two or fewer runs in 12 of those outings. That would be good for any ballpark, it is exceptional in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. The numbers become even more eye-opening when you incorporate that of his four starts allowing three or more runs, two of them came in May right before it was disclosed he was injured and went on the disabled list for a month. When he came back in June he was his old self, allowing two or fewer runs in seven of his next eight starts.
Kennedy relies on his four-seam fastball location to get batters out, although he was working this year on expanding his use of his slider and changeup. While he might lack the outstanding velocity that comes with a top prospect, he can move his four-seamer up, down and around the zone. A big part of his success came from allowing only 1.4 walks per start, a number that more than doubled when he joined the Padres after his August promotion.
Top Pitching Prospect: (Conniff, Charity, Barnett, and Pond)
RHP Brett Kennedy
This was less of a clear-cut cut decision as two of us went with a different pitcher. While five of the top 10 pitching prospects started for El Paso, none of them qualified. Of the handful of starters who did qualify, Kennedy has the highest potential. He might be a low ceiling prospect, but his floor should be high enough that he can be a quality back end of the rotation starter if he can find his control at the big league level.
Others Receiving Votes:
At six-foot-six with an upper 90s fastball, Trey Wingeneter packs a punch. Photo credit: Grant Wickes.RHP Trey Wingenter 3.45 ERA, 3-3, 44.1 IP, 24 BB, 53 K (Jay and Davey)
Similar to Kennedy, Wingenter was another prospect to spend considerable time with San Diego to end the year. Wingenter sat in the upper 90’s, occasionally touching triple digits. David and I went with Wingenter for the potential of his arm alone. At times he can become wild and lose the plate (4.87 BB/9 in AAA, 5.21 BB/9 in San Diego), but if he can even reduce those numbers marginally, hitters were only hitting .185 off of him (.250 on BABIP), and he has a ceiling of an elite back end of the rotation arm. His floor is also considerably lower than Kennedy’s but we went with the upside over the safer bet.
Other Players of Note
The only consistent starter for the Chihuahuas was right-hander Walker Lockett. This year, Lockett struggled through most of the year including his three call-ups to San Diego. In El Paso, he finished 5-9 with a 4.73 ERA but did lead the team in innings (133.1) and strikeouts (118). No other pitcher on the team reached 90 innings.
Former Padres Luis Perdomo (3.72 ERA), Colin Rea (5.08 ERA) and Kyle Lloyd (5.59 ERA), all saw considerable time with the club to varying effectiveness. Rea was coming back from Tommy-John surgery and did appear better in his last few starts.
The Chihuahuas used over 40 pitchers on the year, so to say the bullpen was a revolving door was an understatement. When they were with the team the bullpen was led by Jose Castillo (0.79 ERA, 11.1 IP), Robert Stock (1.59 ERA, 28.1 IP), Rowan Wick (1.99 ERA, 22.2 IP), and Tyler Webb (2.16 ERA, 41.2 IP). Carter Capps also made multiple appearances, and pitched fairly effectively (one earned run in nine innings despite seven walks), but has already left in free agency. All in all 15 different Chihuahua players collected a save with Rowan Wick (9) and Robert Stock (8) leading the way.