After winning the PCL Pacific-South division four times in a row, the Chihuahuas missed the playoffs by three games in 2019. They did finish the season with 80 wins for only the second time in their six-year history. The team started the season incredibly strong, including a stretch when they went 18-1. As is often the case in Triple-A, the roster turned over often as players like Luis Urías, Francisco Mejía, Ty France, and Josh Naylor, shuttled back-and-forth to San Diego. Despite the plethora of promotions, the Chihuahuas still hit a MiLB-record 258 home runs.
When considering team awards, we took into account where the players made the majority of their regular-season appearances. 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. The PCL usually features 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 17-year gap between the team’s oldest player, Chris Stewart and its youngest, Andres Muñoz.
The PCL has always had a well-earned reputation as a hitters’ league. This year, the decision to deploy the big league ball across Triple-A took that to an absurd extreme.More than 40 PCL hitters finished the year with a slugging percentage above .500.
2019 El Paso Position Player of the Year
3B Ty France .399/.477/.770 76 games, 27 2B, 27 HR, 89 RBI (unanimous)
On August 10, Ty France collected four hits, including three for extra bases. In doing so, he raised his batting average back over .400 and reached enough at-bats to qualify for the PCL batting title. In the next few days, multiple articles would be written about how he might become the second player in modern minor league baseball to hit .400 across a full season. Instead, he went 1-11 over his next three games, fell to .399 and then got called up. This meant that he didn’t hit .400, and would not qualify for the title anyway.
Despite that, Ty France delivered one of the most dominant offensive seasons the game has seen this century. He spent parts of four months in the minors, never producing an OPS less than 1.000 in any of them. His “worst” month in July saw him hit .366/.449/.613 – an OPS that would be good for second in the PCL for the year. While he ended up not qualifying for the title and spending 2.5 months with the Padres, he still did enough in half a season to be named the Triple-A MVP.
Top Position Prospect
C Austin Allen – .330/379/.663 67 games, 27 2B, 21 HR, 67 RBI (unanimous)
While Allen struggled to find consistent playing time with the Padres, when he was in Triple-A he destroyed the baseball. Allen, who has now hit 20+ home runs in three straight season, did so in nearly half as many games this year while setting career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging.
While Allen’s offense has always made him one of the most feared prospects in the Padres’ system, his defense also took a step forward in 2019. Early in his career, Allen struggled to throw out runners, allowing at least 100 stolen bases in both 2016 and 2017. That number improved drastically in 2019. In 650 innings behind the plate in El Paso, Allen allowed only 51 steals and delivered a career-best 24% caught stealing rate. The thought has always been if Allen can be even a league-average catcher, his offense can make him a valuable big-leaguer. The offense is definitely there, and 2019 was the first time his defense started to catch up.
[NOTE: While Luis Urías logged more time in El Paso than San Diego this year, he also eclipsed rookie eligibility during the season and will not be eligible for our prospect lists this winter.]
Other Players of Note
The Chihuahua’s had 10 different players hit .290 or higher. CF Michael Gettys led the team in games (128), runs (97), doubles (29), triples (5), home runs (31), and RBI (91). The former second-rounder also flashed his plus tools in center, ranking top 10 in outfield assists for most of the year. However, his 168 strikeouts also led the entire organization and his 30.5% strikeout rate pushed his overall production rate down below league average. … Seth Mejias-Brean bounced around the infield all season, hitting .316/.371/.455 in 117 games. The minor league free agent’s effort earned him his first promotion to the majors … 3B Jason Vosler had a career season in his first year with the Padres, hitting 20 home runs with an .890 OPS. … 1B Aderlin Rodriguez (.321/.363/.634) and 3B Esteban Quiroz (.271/.384/.539) both missed considerable time throughout the season, but when they were healthy were clutch performers. … CF Travis Jankowski continued to show plus defense and got on-base and a strong .393 clip, but his utter lack of power ultimately caused the organization to lose confidence in him.