Happy opening day, everyone! It feels like it’s been a century since we have covered the minors, but we are excited to be back covering the Padres’ system. Thank you for sticking with us. We hope to make this the best season we have had yet. Anyway, on to the recaps.
Chihuahuas: The Chihuahuas begin play on Thursday night as a member of the Triple-A West League. They will open a six-game set against Tacoma in the Pacific Northwest. While you are waiting for the season to start, check out our El Paso preview here.
Missions 8, Corpus Christi Hooks 3
Key Statistics: SS C.J. Abrams, 2-for-5, 2 2B, BB, RBI; C Juan Fernandez, 3-for-5, BB; DH Esteury Ruiz, 1-for-4, 2 R, BB, SB (1); LF Robbie Podorsky, 4-for-5, 2 R, RBI, SB (1); RHP Reiss Knehr (W, 1-0) 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K; LHP Tom Cosgrove (H,1) IP, 2 K; RHP Pedro Avila IP.
Prospect Watch: Welcome back, San Antonio! The Missions used a 13-hit attack to win easily in Corpus Christi. San Antonio also drew nine walks, with Robbie Podorsky being the only player who did not reach via the free pass. … Podorsky didn’t draw a walk but he did tie a professional-high with four hits – all singles – on Tuesday night. The 26-year-old outfielder was a California League All-Star in 2019 but did not play in the season’s second half due to injury. The fleet-footed outfielder doesn’t have a lot of power but in 565 professional at-bats, he has a .331/.392/.425 slash line. … CJ Abrams made his Double-A debut Tuesday and had a pair of doubles to go with a walk in the Missions’ win. The 20-year-old Abrams skipped High-A completely and barely had a cup of coffee in Low-A at the end of the 2019 season. The top prospect won’t turn 21 until October. The multi-hit effort raised Abrams’ career batting average to .394 – a number that bears significance for Padres’ fans … Reiss Knehr drew the opening day assignment and earned the win with five solid innings. The 24-year old out of Fordham University walked the leadoff hitter in the fifth, but bounced back to strike out the side to finish the outing with a resounding climax. With all the trades the Padres have made over the past year, a strong start could make Knehr a viable option for big-league innings later in the year. Knehr failed to make a full-season club out of spring training in 2019 but he finished the year strong in Lake Elsinore. He features a fastball that sits 93-95 mph and touched 98 in the Storm playoff run of 2019. … Tom Cosgrove pitched out of the ‘pen and punched out a pair of hitters in the eighth inning. The former Manhattan star struggled in nine starts with Lake Elsinore in 2019 and ended up having Tommy John surgery. When healthy, Cosgrove has a low 90’s heater and a good curve. It appears that he will work as a reliever for San Antonio.
TinCaps 8, West Michigan Whitecaps 0
Key Statistics: C Jonny Homza, 1-for-3, 3 R, 2 BB; SS Justin Lopez, 1-for-4, R, HR (1), 3 RBI; 3B Kelvin Melean, 1-for-2, BB, 3B, 3 RBI; DH Dwanya Williams-Sutton, 0-for-1, 3 R, 2 BB, HBP; LHP Ethan Elliott, 4 IP, H, 2 BB, 9 K; RHP Felix Minjarez (W, 1-0) 2 IP, 2 H, 4 K; RHP Austin Smith, 2 IP, H, 3 K.
Prospect Watch: The TinCaps blanked the Whitecaps in their High-A debut. Fort Wayne only had five hits but drew 11 walks and had two batters reach base after being hit by a pitch. …Justin Lopez homered in the third inning to give Fort Wayne a 5-0 lead. The blast to right left the bat at 101 mph. Lopez led the TinCaps (then Low-A) with 13 homers in 2019. The 20-year-old, switch-hitting infielder has a good arm and plays a very capable shortstop. Lopez will simply need to get on base more often to be considered a top prospect. He has a career .282 on-base percentage. … Jonny Homza made his full-season debut and reached base three times, including a pair of walks. The Alaska native has drawn compliments from the organization for his defense behind the plate. He will bounce back and forth between catcher and third base this season, where he is also considered a plus defender. … Ethan Elliott shut down the West Michigan offense, striking out nine in four innings of work. The 24-year-old left-hander struck out Tigers’ top prospect Spencer Torkelson in his first professional at-bat. Elliott also threw an immaculate inning in the fourth, striking out the Whitecaps in order with ease. He effectively used his fastball to all parts of the zone and overpowered hitters, despite a heater that topped out at 91 and routinely sat in the high-80’s. His low 80’s changeup was very effective as well and his slow curveball had some good bite to it. At 24, he’s probably not going to make significant gains in velocity but his ability to consistently pound the zone gives him a chance. He was with the Padres’ alternate site group prior to being assigned to Fort Wayne.
Storm 8, Visalia Rawhide 7
Key Statistics: Robert Hassell III (0-for-4, BB, R, 3 K – professional debut); 3B Euribel Angeles, 2-for-4, R, BB, RBI; C Brandon Valenzuela, 1-for-3, R, HR (1), 2 RBI, 2 BB; DH Gilberto Vizcarra, 2-for-4, 2 R, 2B, 3B; LF Matthew Acosta, 2-for-4, R, HR (1), 3 RBI; 2B Ripken Reyes, 3-for-3, R, BB, RBI; RHP Levi Thomas, 3 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K; RHP Nick Thwaits, 3 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 3 K; RHP Michel Miliano (W, 1-0) 2 IP, H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K; LHP Jose Garcia (S, 1) IP, 2 K.
Prospect Watch: The California League may be dead but both teams honored its legacy by combining for 15 runs and four homers. The Storm held on for the win on opening night. … Robert Hassell III started in center and hit in the leadoff spot. He struck out three times and walked in five plate appearances. … Brandon Valenzuela walked twice and homered in his full-season debut. The native of Hermosillo, Mexico came into the game with just one career homer in nearly 500 career plate appearances. As we wrote in our Storm preview yesterday, Valenzuela is an excellent defensive catcher who has yet to flash any significant power as a pro. Valenzuela’s development as a hitter will be one of the storylines to watch in Lake Elsinore this season. … Infielder Ripken Reyes had three hits and drove in a run out of the ninth spot of the order. The former 30th round pick hit well in his Low-A debut, and should get regular playing time with the Storm. … RHP Levi Thomas made his professional debut in Visalia and pitched well overall. He struck out six in three innings and allowed a homer. Thomas dominated last season in college before the pandemic shut down the college season.