The El Paso Chihuahua’s missed the playoffs for the first time since AJ Preller took control of the parent club. While the offense feasted on the new ball, understandably the pitching staff faltered. Playing in an already hitter-friendly ballpark, the Chihuahuas posted a 5.66 team ERA while allowing a club-record 235 home runs in their sixth season since joining the Pacific Coast League. Promotions (Cal Quantrill), trades (Logan Allen), injuries (Jake Nix and Miguel Diaz), and pure ineffectiveness (Bryan Mitchell) forced the team to use 16 different starters on the season. Only Jerry Keel, Dietrich Enns, and Dillon Overton threw at least 100 innings, and no starter who threw at least 50 innings managed an ERA below 5.00.
When considering team awards, we take into account where the players made the majority of their regular-season appearances. While 40 different pitchers threw for El Paso this year, most threw more innings at other locations. With a team ERA well above five, selecting the top pitcher was a bit more challenging than normal.
While there can be some overlap in awards, the Player of the Year is the player who 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. 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 for one more shot. The Pacific Coast League has always been a hitters league, but introducing the big league ball to the circuit this year exploded offensive numbers.
2018 El Paso Pitcher of the Year
RHP Eric Yardley 0-2, 2.83 ERA, 43 G, 7 Sv, 63.2 IP, 14 BB, 52 K (unanimous)
Yes, Yardley, an undrafted free agent who once played in the Independent Pecos League, is a reliever who didn’t win a game, never approaches 90 mph with his sinker, and went longer than three innings just three times all year. He was also – by far – the Chihuahuas’ most consistent pitcher and their saves leader (albeit with just seven in nine opportunities). He allowed runs in just two of his final 12 outings. Yardley’s success hinges on his unusual delivery angle. Yardley followed the great philosophy, “if they can’t hit it in the air, it will be hard to hit a home run,” and finished the El Paso season with better than a 3:1 groundout-to-flyout ratio.
Yardley followed up his success in El Paso with a successful audition in San Diego. His sinker and sweeping breaking ball were successful, as he carried a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings with the Padres.
Top Pitching Prospect
LHP Logan Allen 4-3, 5.15 ERA, 13 GS, 57.2 IP, 63 K (unanimous)
With the pitching in such disarray the team’s best qualifying prospect is a player who hasn’t been in the organization for three months; Logan Allen. Allen arrived at Peoria last spring with an inside track for the big league rotation. Instead, he got hit hard and opened the year in El Paso. Things went no better in April, as he posted an 8.15 ERA in the month before he turned 22. He seemed to put things together and, for a stretch in May, Allen allowed three earned runs in 25 innings pitched, with 30 strikeouts against only 17 hits. A brief audition in the big leagues didn’t go well as the lefty struggled with command as he bounced between starting and relieving. The Padres ultimately decided to include Allen in their package to acquire Taylor Trammell and his struggles continued with his new organization.
When he’s on, Allen has the repertoire and demeanor to be a rotation stalwart. His fastball sits comfortably in the mid-90s, he can spin both a slider and curve, and his change-up can be a true weapon. In 2019, though, none of that worked. He’ll have an opportunity to reload with the Indians in 2020, and still has plenty of upside.
Other Players of Note
While they did not put up the best numbers, the Chihuahua’s owe a lot of their success to the workhorse efforts of Jerry Keel (151.1 IP, 114 K), Dietrich Enns (137 IP, 105 K), and Dillon Overton (115.1 IP, 103 K). RHRP Gerardo Reyes (45.1 IP, 61 K, 3.57 ERA) showed glimpses of brilliance, but just like with the Padres, he had far too many instances of missing his location. Fellow reliever Steven Wilson, who started the season by dominating for Lake Elsinore, more than held his own when he jumped directly to El Paso a year after signing for a $5,000 bonus. The 25-year-old righty struck out 42 in 35 innings for El Paso and impressed as he continued an improbable journey. Relief phenom Andres Muñoz struck out 24 and showed improved command in the 19 innings he threw in his brief stop on the way to the big leagues.