The Amarillo Sod Poodles kicked off their inaugural year with a Texas League championship punctuated by a dramatic grand slam home run by top prospect Taylor Trammell in the deciding game.
Amarillo had been without affiliated baseball since 1982 when the Amarillo Gold Sox, also a Padres’ farm club departed for Beaumont Texas. The Padres were in Amarillo from 1977 to 1982, and the Gold Sox also won the Texas League championship in their first year with San Diego. Several players that would go on to become a big part of San Diego’s first-ever World Series team in 1984 made their way through Amarillo including Dave Dravecky, Kevin McReynolds and Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn.
This year, the Sod Poodles featured some of the prospects the Padres hope will propel the club to its next extended run of success.
We use a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Double-A is where things start getting pretty real for prospects. It’s not unheard of for players to show enough at this level and earn promotions to the majors while skipping past Triple-A.
Unlike the Cal League (High-A) the Texas League has less of a reputation for being hitter-friendly, so it’s not uncommon to see pitcher production improve upon promotion, while many hitters struggle to adjust to facing advanced pitching and playing in more neutral parks.
HODGETOWN, the Sod Poodles brand new home park, is a vast upgrade over Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, but because of the elevation and the relatively short distances, it is very much a hitter’s park. Ironically, the Padres’ last Amarillo affiliate played in Potter County Stadium, where it was 355 down the lines and 429 to dead-center. People that covered the Gold Sox swear the distances were more than that and it very much played to pitchers.
2019 Amarillo Sod Poodles Player of the Year
C Luis Torrens .300/.373/.500 67 K, 42 BB 392 PA wRC+142 (Conniff, Pond, Charity &Davey)
Torrens, 23, spent all of 2017 on the major league roster after the Padres plucked him from the Yankees’ Low-A roster. The receiver got only 135 plate appearances in 56 games as he navigated a huge jump both defensively and offensively.
Torrens finally received the playing time he needed last year in High-A Lake Elsinore, doubling his previous season high in games and plate appearances. While his .280/.320/.406 line looks solid, in the context of the Cal League it equated to a below-average 94 wRC+. This season, Torrens put it together at the plate, posting an .873 OPS was the best of any Amarillo regular who played in more than 25 games. More importantly, the work he put into being a catcher, paid big dividends.
The organization rewarded him with a trip back to the big leagues in September. He’ll likely begin his final year option year in Triple-A El Paso. [Torrens exceeded the rookie limits in 2016, and thus, is not classified as a prospect.]
Others receiving votes
OF Edward Olivares .283/.349/.453 98 K, 43 BB, in 531 PA 35 SB/45 attempts wRC+123 (Jay)
Olivares, 23, is another example of the front office’s pattern of betting on lower-minors talent when trading established major league players. To the dismay of many Padres fans, San Diego sent infielder Yangervis Solarte to the Toronto Blue Jays for Olivares and pitcher Jared Carkuff, who they subsequently released. Solarte has been with four organizations and made a trip to Japan since the January, 2018 deal. Meanwhile, Olivares emerged as one of the better all-around players in the Texas League in 2019.
The right-handed hitter’s 18 home runs and 35 stolen bases were both good for third place in the Texas League, though just four of the round-trippers came on the road. His manager Phillip Wellman praised his improvement defensively. Defensively he can play center, but with both Buddy Reed and later Trammell on the roster, he saw the majority of his time in right field where his arm is more than good enough.
OF Taylor Trammell .229/.316/.381 36 K 13 BB 131 PAs wRC+98 (unanimous)
Coming into the year Trammell, 21, was rated by Baseball America as the third-best prospect in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization and the third-best overall center field prospect in baseball behind Victor Robles and Jo Adell.
Trammell struggled early in Double-A Chatanooga, so when the Reds saw an opportunity to get superstar pitcher Trevor Bauer, they sent Trammell to the Padres as part of a three-team deal that landed the immensely popular Franmil Reyes and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen with the Indians.
The left-handed Trammell is the type of player the organization wants to take a gamble on; someone with the athleticism to patrol center and power to hit the ball into the gaps. Trammell has a career on-base percentage of .363 and was two and a half years younger than those he was competing against.
Padres General Manager A.J. Preller deserves credit for his ability to insert himself into a three-team deal and acquire a Top 100 prospect at the organization’s weakest position without having to give up one of his top trade chips.
Trammell could begin the year in either Amarillo or Triple-A El Paso and could be in San Diego by the end of the summer.
Others of Note
Owen Miller, 21, made quite a jump from last year’s draft, skipping High-A after spending only 26 games in Low-A last summer. The infielder didn’t disappoint with a .290/.355/.430 slash line. He led the Texas League with 147 hits and played a solid shortstop and second base. While not as flashy as many of the middle infielders in the organization, the Illinois State product looks destined to play in the Majors. After signing as a minor league free agent and missing the first month of the season with an injury Ivan Castillo, 24, led the Texas League in hitting at .313 and the switch-hitter posted a wRC+ of 124. He’s limited to second base and most of his offensive value is wrapped up in his ability to make contact, as he walked only 20 times in 452 plate appearances. Castillo can become a minor league free agent again and with the organization’s depth in the middle of the infield, he may be playing elsewhere next year.
Hudson Potts came into the season as the Sod Poodles’ top prospect, but struggled mightily to make contact and had a strikeout rate well above his on-base percentage when he hit the disabled list in early June. The 20-year-old showed showed encouraging signs of progress when he returned in the second half and cut his strikeout rate to 20% over his final 125 plate appearances. He’ll likely return to Amarillo to open the 2020 season. … Reed, 24, shined in last year’s Future’s Game after dominating the Cal League. While he’s shown ability in spurts in Double-A since then, they have been too infrequent. When he makes contact, the 6-foot-4 former Florida Gator can do damage, but with 126 strikeouts in 121 games in one of the better hitting environments in the minor leagues, it didn’t happen often enough. After Cuban countrymate Adrian Morejon, Jorge Oña‘s $7 million bonus was the second-highest in the Padres’ 2016 international free agent spree. After two seasons where he struggled with nagging injuries, he got off to a great start with a .348/.417/.539 line in his first 25 games before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. The 22-year-old will need to show out when he gets back on the field in 2020.