Each month, MadFriars looks at the top performers at every level of the system. While we certainly work to provide context on the long-term significance of the production, this list is not an update to our Top 25 Prospects list, but rather a point-in-time check-in on players. Mark Wilkens and Marcus Pond co-author this monthly feature.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A West)
As the Chihuahuas prepare to play an extended season for the first time, it will also likely be their first losing season. In fact, it would be the first losing season for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate since the 2012 Tucson Padres lost 88 games. August also saw manager Edwin Rodriguez step down unexpectedly.
Amidst a tough season and some turmoil at the top, there still have been noteworthy performances in El Paso, headlined by Luis Campusano. Campusano, the 22-year-old catcher who became known to Padres fans long before he donned the pinstripes, elevated an already impressive season with an August in which he slashed .373/.458/.765, slugging six home runs even as he was limited to 51 at-bats.
It was a great month as well for Matt Batten, the 26-year-old who has seen time everywhere from shortstop to center field. He slashed .320/.381/.388 in August, while stealing four bases, keeping him at fifth overall in the Triple-A West.
On the mound, Parker Markel notched a pair of saves and a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings while striking out 18 against eight walks. Steven Wilson, who would be Rule 5 eligible this winter, earned a 2-0 record and 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings, striking out 25 and walking eight.
El Paso Chihuahuas Player of the Month: Luis Campusano
San Antonio Missions (Double-A Central)
The position of “ace” in the Missions pitching staff has been a bit of a revolving door this season. When a breakout performance by Reiss Knehr – and injuries at the big league level – warranted a call up to San Diego, Adrian Martinez stepped up and outperformed Knehr to earn league player of the month honors in July. The 24-year-old from Baja California continued to thrive in two August starts, striking out 13 batters in 11 innings to lower his ERA to 2.34, earning a promotion to Triple-A. Enter Moises Lugo, called up from Fort Wayne. After accumulating a 14.1 K/9 rate and a 3.58 ERA in 17 starts for the TinCaps, he was promoted to Double-A and hasn’t missed a beat. The 22-year-old Dominican righty can hit 96 with his fastball and seems to have recovered from some shoulder soreness that bothered him in July.
Offensively, the Missions have scuffled a bit lately, dealing with a season-ending injury to CJ Abrams and a mid-season trade that sent Jack Suwinski to the Pirates organization. Fortunately, San Antonio has been able to get production from a pair of familiar names in Esteury Ruiz and Allen Córdoba. Ruiz got off to a dismal start in 2021, putting together a .237/.313/.325 slash line in May and June before a hand injury sidelined him for over a month. Since returning at the end of July, however, Ruiz has heated up, putting up a .907 OPS, averaging an extra-base hit every other game, and swiping 15 bags. After really struggling to find an infield position for him, the Padres seem content to let him try his luck in left field and see if his elite speed and quick bat can carry him upwards in the organization.
Córdoba, taken by AJ Preller back in the 2016 Rule 5 draft, put together a 12-game hitting streak in August and walked more times (10) than he struck out (6). The 25-year-old, who made his MLB debut in 2017, should be doing well at the Double-A level, and it’s good to see him doing just that. Carlos Belen, a hard-throwing reliever who began his career in the Padres organization as an infielder, put up a 0.61 ERA across nine games (14.2 innings) while striking out eleven and walking just two.
San Antonio Missions Player of the Month: Esteury Ruiz
Fort Wayne TinCaps (High-A Central)
The TinCaps have recently benefited from a series of promotions from Lake Elsinore, including Robert Hassell III, but those new talents will begin to pay off over the season’s final month. Ethan Skender, earned his own promotion to San Antonio via an August in which he slashed .357/.481/.500. The 24-year-old Skender was drafted in 2016 and is playing his first full season of professional baseball due to various injuries and the pandemic. Also impressing at the plate was Zack Mathis, who slashed .306/.427/.452 for the month. Mathis was added as free agent after the 2020 draft out of LSU.
On the mound, Danny Denz made the most of six starts, posting a 1.38 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 26 August innings. The 23-year-old lefty posted a 22:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and only allowed four runs on 15 hits for the month. Acquired as an undrafted free agent last year, Denz played collegiately for Memphis. Big Connor Lehmann, part of the Saint Louis Billikens delegation in the Padres organization, went 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA in five starts, with a 1.21 WHIP. The 25-year-old Lehmann was drafted in the 7th round in 2019 by the Padres. Taiwan native Wen-Hua Sung earned a pair of saves in 10 appearances, with a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings to go with 18 strikeouts. The 25-year-old Sung signed in 2016.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Player of the Month: Danny Denz
Lake Elsinore Storm (Low-A West)
Let’s cut right to the chase – there’s nobody in the Padres organization that can light up a box score or a scout’s notebook quite like 20-year-old Robert Hassell III. Through July, the speedy centerfielder slashed an impressive .309/.406/.451 while swiping 26 bags in 32 attempts. In his curtain call before getting promoted to Fort Wayne, he upped the ante, hitting .378/.448/.608 in August. He leaves the Low-A West League seeming to have tapped into a bit more power while maintaining a 17.2% strikeout rate, and establishing him as one of the premier prospects in the Padres organization.
Also promoted from Lake Elsinore were catcher/first baseman Brandon Valenzuela and infielder Euribiel Angeles. While Valenzuela certainly fits the mold of a slugging catcher, he gets on base at a high rate and is difficult to strike out, putting together a .900 OPS in the month of August. Angeles has a quick bat and seems to almost always make some sort of contact, as evidenced by the fact that he is among the minor league leaders (across all levels) in hits. Though he currently lacks power and could stand to walk a bit more, his stock is on the rise.
Among other noteworthy performers whowill be staying at Lake Elsinore for the time being, reliever Alek Jacob went from being a 16th round pick out of Gonzaga to racking up 12 strikeouts in 10 August innings. Jason Reynolds also threw 17.1 innings out of the bullpen for Lake Elsinore, striking out almost a batter an inning and walking just three en route to a 1.04 ERA.
Lake Elsinore Storm Player of the Month: Robert Hassell III
ACL Padres (Arizona Complex League)
There’s been a flurry of changes at the Peoria Sports Complex, first with the arrival of the 2021 draft class, and then the departures of some of those players due to promotion, many after the Lake Elsinore Storm COVID-19 outbreak. But it was a player in his second season in the desert – 2019 26th round selection Pierce Jones – who put up a slash line of .348/.529/.652. Jones also managed a double and two of his three home runs in the past month.
After a torrid start to his pro career, James Wood came back to Earth a bit, slashing .298/.385/.404 in August after a monster 1.314 OPS in July. The Padres’ second-round selection, the 6-foot-7 Wood has made 15 starts in center field, and one in right field. Top pick Jackson Merrill continues to look comfortable against professional pitching, but like Wood, cooled off a bit in August, slashing .292/.356/.369.
On the mound, Ryan Bergert has managed five scoreless innings to kick off his professional career, the first three coming in August. Bergert was drafted in the sixth round by the Padres this summer, and the 21-year-old is being brought along carefully after elbow surgery while playing collegiately at West Virginia.
ACL Padres Player of the Month: Pierce Jones
MadFriars August Player of the Month: Luis Campusano
Campusano simply destroyed the PCL in what should be the penultimate month of his minor league career as he hit for average and power. Whether or not he is with San Diego or another organization next year, the second-round pick from 2017 is unlikely to be back in the minors next year after the performances that he put at and behind the plate for the past three months.