Time flies, and here we are at the beginning of a new month. With so much happening at both the major league club and within the minor league system, we are glad that you have joined MadFriars for the penultimate Player of the Month piece of 2019. As always, remember this isn’t a re-ranking of the top prospects in the organization, but a look at a point in time.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A, Pacific Coast League)
With so much movement between the Padres and their Triple-A affiliate, most of the productive bats in El Paso have already spent time in San Diego this season. In July, Ty France continued terrorizing Pacific Coast League pitchers, to the tune of a .366/.449/.613 hitting line. In addition to representing the Chihuahuas in the Home Run Derby during All-Star festivities, France also managed to earn almost as many walks (12) as strikeouts (15), improving upon the plate discipline that he showed in a 34-game major league stint (25:4 K: BB).
His teammates Austin Allen and the recently demoted and then re-promoted Josh Naylor have been supplying plenty of pop as well. In just eight games, Naylor knocked six doubles and a triple, while Allen posted a .313/.348/.625 slash line for the month, including five round-trippers. Like France, Naylor and Allen have succeeded offensively while keeping their strikeout rates below 20%.
France and Naylor are currently blocked by established MLB vets, and Allen is third on the Padres’ depth chart at catcher, so the chances that these three get to prove themselves at the major league level this season remain slim. In the meantime, however, they helped El Paso score 179 runs in 26 July games, an average of 6.8 per game. El Paso went 14-12 on the month.
El Paso Chihuahuas Player of the Month: Ty France
Amarillo Sod Poodles (Double-A, Texas League)
The biggest news out of the panhandle this month was the promotion of the Padres’ no. 1 prospect to Double-A. MacKenzie Gore’s first three starts sandwiched a bad outing (giving up three homers) around a pair of 5.1 inning shutout affairs. Taking out the homers from his first game in Amarillo (which is a windy city about 3,600 feet above sea level), it’s clear that there’s still parts of his game to tighten up, but the 20-year-old is not overmatched. He talked with us about the new challenge Double-A presents.
His new teammate Ivan Castillo continued his MVP-caliber season for Amarillo, posting a .313/.336/.455 hitting line in July. Castillo’s .333 batting average leads the Texas League, and he’s among the leaders in doubles (3rd), slugging (4th), and hits (5th). Despite his contributions, his numbers were actually eclipsed this month by outfielder Edward Olivares, whose .991 OPS was 200 points higher than Castillo’s. His five dingers on the month inched him closer to what should be a 20/20 season (he already has 24 stolen bases in 2019, along with 16 bombs), all the while playing premium defense in right and center fields.
Most surprising for Amarillo this month was starter Lake Bachar, who is repeating Double-A after a tough season in 2018. For his career, Bachar has a 7.9 K/9 rate, which is lower than you’d like for a 24-year-old college arm. In July, he struck out 35 batters over five starts (33 innings) while posting a 1.91 ERA. While he still won’t show up on any Padres top 30 lists yet, he’s having the best season of his career and will help the Soddies as they head towards the playoffs.
Amarillo Sod Poodles Player of the Month: Edward Olivares
Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A, California League)
Like the Sod Poodles, the Storm benefited from promotion of a top prospect, as infielder Xavier Edwards joined the squad from Fort Wayne. After leading the Midwest League in batting average with a .336 mark, Edwards didn’t skip a beat in High-A, hitting .353 in his first 20 games. Edwards is an on-base machine with a great hit tool, and it will be interesting to see if he can unlock at least a little power. While he slugged .414 for the TinCaps (including hitting his first professional home run), he has just one extra-base hit (a triple) for Lake Elsinore.
While Luis Campusano (.853 OPS) and Allen Córdoba (.850 OPS) had solid months for the Storm, Gabriel Arias is swinging the hottest bat. His .949 July OPS was his highest single monthly total of his professional career. His .434 BABIP is a tad on the unsustainable side, but the 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop struck out at a 20.5% rate in July, well below his 28.3% career mark. If Arias – long lauded for his defensive prowess – can continue this upward offensive trend, the sky is the limit.
Since Gore was promoted to Double-A, Luis Patiño is now the most prominent starting pitcher in Lake Elsinore. In three starts, he pitched to a 1.19 ERA, striking out 29 in 22.2 innings while walking just four. He’s walked a few more batters this year (3.6 BB/9 this year, compared to 2.6 BB/9 in Fort Wayne in 2018), but is still striking out hitters at an elite pace (11.5 K/9). He finished the month by throwing a career-high 8.1 innings of shutout baseball, giving up three hits and striking out nine. Aaron Leasher had a solid month as well, posting a 1.44 ERA in four outings, striking out 25 hitters in as many innings.
Lake Elsinore Player of the Month: Luis Patiño
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Single-A, Midwest League)
With the aforementioned Allen and Campusano already raking for their prospective clubs (and we didn’t even get a chance to mention that Luis Torrens had a .921 OPS for Amarillo), it might be easy to overlook Blake Hunt. Like Campusano, Hunt was a prep catcher taken in the 2017 draft, with Campusano (39th) going a few picks before Hunt (69th). Hunt has the current edge on Campusano defensively, and he’s working on shrinking the gap on offense, as he put together a .793 OPS, his highest of the season (though he bested that mark twice in 2018).
Trying to fill a Xavier Edwards-sized hole in the TinCaps lineup will not be easy, and it will be interesting to see how Tucupita Marcano rises to the occasion. [Subscribers can read his explanation for his remarkable bat-to-ball skills.] After hitting just .219 in June, he bounced back to a .278 average in July. Michael Curry, the 26th round pick in 2018, has provided the power for Fort Wayne, which has the third-fewest homers (48) in the Midwest League. Curry’s seven extra-base hits are impressive, but Dwanya Williams-Sutton has taken OBP to another level, getting hit 12 times in July, leading to a .254/.477/.373 line).
The star of the TinCaps, however, is Joey Cantillo. The 19-year-old Hawaiian lefty has seen an uptick in velocity, hitting the mid-90s. While his 2.79 ERA for the month might not look as dominant when compared to the numbers we’ve seen from Gore, Cantillo finished his last three starts by allowing 4 runs in 18 innings, posting a 24:3 K: BB rate. It case you want to know how crazy Cantillo’s performance has been, he put up a great month, and his season ERA actually climbed to 2.05.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Player of the Month: Joey Cantillo
Tri-City Dust Devils (Short Season, Northwest League)
Sean Guilbe paced the Dust Devils’ offense in July. An overslot signee last summer, Guilbe hit five homers in 89 plate appearances while splitting time between left field and third base. His team-best .893 OPS was buoyed by the first monthly strikeout rate below 30% in his young career. Jordy Barley, 19, struggled to turn his immense talent into on-field success through two seasons in the AZL, but he is making strides a level up. The dynamic shortstop hit .261/.311/.468 for the month, fueled by a huge weekend at the end of the month. While competitive balance pick Logan Driscoll missed much of July with a hamstring injury, he did damage in his limited action and is positioned for a big final month. While few pitchers log significant innings totals in the Northwest League, righty Ignacio Feliz posted a strong 2.92 ERA over a team-high 24.2 frames. Acquired from the Indians in the offseason, the righty struck out 23 and held opponents to a .205 average. He’ll need to cut down from the 12 walks he issued. Reliever Mason Fox didn’t allow a run in eight July outings, striking out 22 over 11.2 innings of work.
Tri-City Dust Devils Player of the Month: Sean Guilbe
Arizona League Padres (Rookie League)
Many young hitters at the Peoria Sports Complex had big months in July, but none topped sixth overall pick, C.J. Abrams. The left-handed hitter dominated with a .367/.408/.667 line, striking out just nine times in 98 plate appearances. His speed translated into eight stolen bases and six triples as the Georgia native showed no signs of difficulty jumping to the professional game. Fellow high school draftees Joshua Mears and Hudson Head posted OPSes of .863 and .835 respectively, well above league average. On the other roster, Junior Perez, who turned 18 during the month, smacked 18 of his 31 hits for extra bases, posting a .620 slugging percentage. Shortstop Yeison Santana reached base at a .459 clip while turning in strong defense. Working on short pitch counts, Moises Lugo posted a 2.25 ERA and didn’t walk a batter while striking out 21 in 20 innings while diminutive Cuban righty Edgar Martinez struck out more than any Padre in the AZL with 27 over his 20.1 innings. Carlos Guarate, 18, paced the AZL-1 club with a 2.49 ERA as he held opponents to a .235 average.
AZL Padres Player of the Month: C.J. Abrams
MadFriars Player of the Month: Luis Patiño
Remember the big international signing spree that AJ Preller and Co. went on in 2016? Well, one of the benefits of casting a wide net is being able to take a flyer on a converted shortstop out of Colombia that was barely six feet tall. Patiño, now an entrenched Top 100 prospect in baseball, and coming off of an appearance at the Futures Game in Cleveland during the All-Star weekend, was well worth the flyer. After going 8.1 innings his last start in July, it’s apparent that the Padres are loosening the reins here. He should surpass his previous innings mark of 83.1 innings in his next outing.