September is the month for major league call-ups and the minor league playoffs. We take a look at the performers who finished their seasons strong in the last Player of the Month piece for 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)
The Chihuahuas were unable to stretch their playoff streak to five consecutive seasons, despite Ty France and Austin Allen putting up some impressive numbers in the month of August. In limited time (30 games combined), each slugged over .800 and combined for ten homers and 41 RBI. Both were called up in the middle of the month to the big squad and will get some playing time to finish out the season with Luis Urías slumping and Francisco Mejía injured.
Newcomer outfielder Rodrigo Orozco, freshly promoted from Amarillo, posted a .307/.382/.489 line with El Paso. Orozco, acquired from Toronto in the Socrates Brito trade, had just a .667 OPS in Amarillo this season, but has speed and is selective at the plate. In two rehab appearances, Jacob Nix looked sharp, allowing just one run in 11 innings while striking out 12 and walking one.
El Paso Chihuahuas Player of the Month: Austin Allen
Amarillo Sod Poodles (Double-A, Texas League)
While some of the top names in the farm system remained relatively quiet (MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño combined to make only four starts and work 14.1 innings), the recently-promoted Ronald Bolaños provided consistency to the Sod Poodles rotation. Bolaños posted a 2.66 ERA across 23.2 August innings. The Cuban righty, who wasn’t a big strikeout pitcher in his first two seasons in the Padres organization, has added velocity this season and has struck out more than a batter an inning at Lake Elsinore and Amarillo to earn his September call-up
All eyes in Amarillo were on Taylor Trammell, newly-acquired in the Franmil Reyes trade. Though he showed his ability in spurts, he sputtered to a .617 OPS in his first month as a Sod Poodle. With Ivan Castillo and Edward Olivares slumping in August as well, the Soddies relied on catcher Luis Torrens, who posted a .318/.394/.523 slash line. Third baseman Hudson Potts also posted his lowest monthly strikeout rate of the season (17.4%) in route to slugging .468 with five homers in August.
Amarillo Sod Poodles Player of the Month: Ronald Bolaños
Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A, California League)
Despite the Cal League losing its reputation as a hitter’s paradise, most of the Padres’ exciting young offensive talent played in Lake Elsinore in August. Already dazzling with the glove, Gabriel Arias continued to break out with his bat, with an OPS of .892 while striking out at just a 20.5% clip. Tirso Ornelas, who had a horrific .566 OPS in his first three months with the Storm, came back strong after a stint in the Arizona League and saw his OPS rise to .788 in August. Even 5-foot-9 Eguy Rosario, who hit just .239 for the Storm last season, put it together for a .931 OPS in August while swiping six of nine bases.
Continuing his eventual Co-Cal League MVP season, Luis Campusano put up a .322/.408/.522 hitting line, walking more (13) than he struck out (11). He finished the regular season with a .906 OPS – 196 points higher than it was in Fort Wayne a year ago – all while playing 77 of his 110 games behind the plate (31 were as DH, with two coming at first).
While Joey Cantillo didn’t have the High-A debut he might have been hoping for (4.61 ERA in 13.2 innings) he still managed to strike out 16 over 13.2 innings. Fellow lefty Aaron Leasher put in some serious work as well, posting a 2.25 ERA across 24 innings.
Lake Elsinore Storm Player of the Month: Luis Campusano
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low-A, Midwest League)
The jury is still out on whether or not A.J. Preller’s penchant for pushing young talent early on will lead to a playoff contender at the major league level, but it isn’t a recipe for a contending minor league team; the young TinCaps missed out on the playoffs again. Still, it’s fun to see strong starts from 18-year-olds Jesus Gonzalez and Carlos Guarate, a pair of Venezuelan hurlers that were both born in 2001 and were the two youngest players in the Midwest League. They debuted for Fort Wayne in August, making the most of their lone starts by allowing a combined two runs in nine innings of work, while striking out seven.
On the offensive side, Ripken Reyes, the 30th-round pick of the 2019 draft (and a University of San Diego alumni), posted an .876 OPS in 14 games for Fort Wayne while striking out just 10% of the time. Justin Lopez rebounded from a rough start to go .286/.336/.457 in the final month of the season, but it was Michael Curry who carried the load for the young TinCaps. The 22-year-old outfielder laced eight doubles and a home run in August, while sporting a .897 OPS.
Ryan Weathers, who started off the season hot, but was ice cold in June, posted a 4.44 ERA and a 7.4 K/9 rate in the season’s final month. The 19-year-old former first-round pick has recovered some of the velocity he lost earlier in the summer, sitting around 92 MPH with the fastball, with a slider that’s about 10 MPH slower. He finished his first full season campaign in pro ball with a 3.84 ERA and an 8.4 K/9 rate, while walking just 1.7 batters per nine.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Player of the Month: Michael Curry
Tri-City Dust Devils (Short-season, Northwest League)
The Dust Devils finished the month with an 18-9 record to push themselves into the Northwest League playoffs, mainly on the back of several strong pitching performances. No one was better than left-hander Ethan Elliott, a fourth-year senior pick in the tenth round from Lincoln Memorial University, who struck out 20 in 18.1 innings against no walks with a 1.47 ERA. Right-hander Jason Blanchard, another senior selection in this year’s draft in the ninth round from Lamar University, was impressive in relief. He didn’t give up an earned run in 15 innings and finished with a 19:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
At the plate, former Helix High outfielder Jack Stronach, who we profiled earlier, bounced back from a slow start professionally to hit .304/.388/.464 with seven extra-base hits in 20 games. Infielder Kelvin Melean, who is in his third tour with the Dust Devils at only 21, also had a strong month hitting .314/.427/.407, and led the team in on-base percentage.
Tri-City Dust Devils Player of the Month: Ethan Elliott
Arizona League Padres (Both squads, Rookie League, Arizona League)
Joshua Mears, a second-round pick from high school in Washington, got better every month and capped off his pro debut hitting .313/.405/.531 with seven extra-base hits, three of them home runs, in 17 August games. Only 18, the physically imposing Mears is already 6-foot-3, 235-pounds and may have played himself into a spot in the Midwest League next spring. Switch-hitting Mexican native Brandon Valenzuela, 18, also had his best month hitting .349/.481/.372, with 11 walks against only nine strikeouts.
On the mound, a trio of Venezuelans was dominant, led by 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander Luarbert Arias, striking out 32 batters against only five walks in 23.2 innings, the most on both clubs. Frank Lopez was also strong with 27 strikeouts in 18.2 innings against seven walks for a 2.41 ERA. Left-hander Jesus Gonzalez had 18 strikeouts against four walks in 17.2 innings.
AZL Padres Player of the Month: Joshua Mears
MadFriars Player of the Month: Luis Campusano
Campusano plays the most difficult defensive position on the field and was the main cog in the Storm’s offense for August. In the offseason, you will be reading quite a bit more about Campusano, who may be one of the top catchers in the minor leagues.