Tacoma Rainiers 7, Chihuahuas 2
Key Statistics: 2B Gosuke Katoh, 2-for-4, R, 2B; SS Matthew Batten, 2-for-4; RF Patrick Kivlehan, 1-for-4, HR (19), 2 RBI; C Webster Rivas, 2-for-4; 1B Yorman Rodriguez, 2-for-4; RHP Reiss Knehr, 3 IP, 2 H, 2 K; RHP Nick Kuzia (L, 0-1) IP, H, R, 2 BB, 3 L; RHP Steven Wilson, IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K; RHP Jose Quezada, IP, 2 K
Prospect Watch: Despite outhitting Tacoma 11-10, El Paso lost 7-2. … Right fielder Patrick Kivlehan provided El Paso’s only offense by swatting his team-leading 19th homer of the year. The former big leaguer had been in a bit of a homer drought; his blast Monday was his first homer since August 19. … Gosuke Katoh had a pair of hits, including his 22nd double of the year. The versatile infielder/outfielder is having his best of the year in September. In 53 September plate appearances, the former Rancho Bernardo star is hitting .333/.396/.542. Overall, Katoh has a .284/.374/.435 slash-line that is just above league-average. … RHP Reiss Knehr started for El Paso and delivered three shutout innings. It was the first time since August 1 that Knehr worked at least three innings. That outing came in a Padres uniform against the Rockies. Knehr has thrown a career-high 94 innings this year between San Antonio, El Paso, and his work with the Padres. … RHP Jose Quezada fired a scoreless inning and punched out two batters. It was the sixth consecutive scoreless outing for the former Texas Tech righty, who was promoted to El Paso for a second stint last week. He’s thrown three scoreless innings with the Chihuahuas.
San Antonio Missions Week in Review: (lost four of six to the Corpus Christi Hooks)
Top Prospects: The Missions split the first four games of their final series of the year but lost both games over the weekend to drop the series against the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Missions finished the 2021 season at 57-63, 7.5 games out of first. Wichita (Minnesota) and Northwest Arkansas (Kansas City) will play for the Double-A Central title this week. … Eguy Rosario finished the season on a positive note, hitting .238/.333/.476 with two doubles and a homer in six games last week good for a 114 wRC+ that nearly matched his mark for the season (118). After the Missions lost top prospect CJ Abrams, Rosario played mostly at shortstop and looked capable at the position, although he is better suited to play at second long-term. Rosario finished the season with an .815 OPS, a mark that led Missions qualifiers and that ranked 12th in the league. … LHP MacKenzie Gore saw action on Friday night and showed glimpses of the guy who was arguably the best pitcher in minor league baseball just two years ago. Gore struck out a season-high eight batters in four innings but also walked three – a recurring theme that has perplexed many inside and outside the organization. Between four stops this season, Gore walked 28 batters in 50.1 innings. For context, Gore also walked 28 batters in 2019 but tossed 101 innings. Gore has not yet been added to the El Paso roster (El Paso has 12 games left) but could join them shortly. … Esteury Ruiz wrapped up his final series of 2021 with seven hits in six games, including two doubles. Ruiz limped to the finish line in September, hitting just .200/.273/.329 in the season’s final 18 games. The 22-year-old outfielder will finish 2021 with a .249/.328/.411 slash-line that is just below league-average.
Other standout performances: To say that 2021 was a rough year for reliever Mason Fox would be an understatement. Fox opened the year as a non-roster invitee to spring training and figured to have a shot at a big-league callup at some point. Instead, Fox struggled with control all year and spent some time on the development list. However, Fox did have a nice end to the 2021 season. The 24-year-old righty made two appearances last week and allowed just one earned run in 3.1 innings, striking out seven while walking three. The free passes were plentiful for Fox this season. In 29.2 innings, Fox walked 24 batters and his 10.92 was the highest for any Double-A Central pitcher who threw at least 20 innings. Despite the free passes, Fox’s K/9 of 12.74 demonstrates that his stuff is still good enough to compete, but he will need to locate better to have any chance in 2022.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Week in Review (lost all six games to the Dayton Dragons)
Top Prospects: Fort Wayne limped to the finish line, losing all six games in Dayton. The losing streak dropped the TinCaps record to 54-66 which was last in the High-A Central’s East Division. 2021 marked the fifth straight losing campaign for the TinCaps. They did play for the Midwest Championship in 2017 but finished the regular season at 68-72 that season. … Robert Hassell III had a rough final series in Dayton, notching just two hits in 25 plate appearances. Hassell did draw four walks in the five games played and struck out six times. Hassell III, 19, had a three-homer performance in his second High-A game but failed to match the consistency he showed all year in Lake Elsinore. Of course, it’s really nothing to be concerned about. Hassell is about four years younger than the average High-A Central player. Hassell should return to Fort Wayne to start 2022. … After going hitless in the first two games of the series, infielder Euribiel Angeles finished the year on a high note by hitting safely in the season’s final four games, drawing a pair of walks in the process. Angeles didn’t have the same success with Fort Wayne that he did with Lake Elsinore but his .264/.369/.361 slash-line was still above league average. He did increase his walk rate to a solid 9.3% in 18 games with Fort Wayne. The 19-year-old Angeles will finish his first full season with an excellent .329/.392/.445 slash-line between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. … Catcher Brandon Valenzuela saw action in five games in Dayton and went just 3-for-18 with four walks. The 20-year-old backstop from Hermosillo, Mexico broke out offensively with the Storm this year, hitting .307/.389/.444 with 30 extra-base hits, including 21 doubles and six homers. He came into 2021 with just one career homer and 11 doubles in 426 plate appearances. Valenzuela produced an excellent wRC+ of 120 in 15 games with the TinCaps, buoyed by a likely unsustainable 23% walk rate. His strikeout rate rose north of 30% (it was just 21.2% in Lake Elsinore) and ISO (slugging minus average) dropped to .082 in Fort Wayne. Despite some increased struggles at a higher level, Valenzuela’s performance is a huge win for an organization that seemingly lacked depth behind the plate in the lower minors. Valenzuela is a solid receiver and his ability to get on-base, coupled with his switch-hitting ability makes him the top catching prospect in the organization, other than Luis Campusano.
Other Top Performers: RHP Wen-Hua Sung pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday, marking the first time he completed two innings since May 8. Sung didn’t allow a baserunner and struck out five of the six batters that he faced. Sung used a low-90s fastball and a splitter that resulted in a plethora of strikeouts. Sung struck out 46 batters in 25 innings for the TinCaps in 2021. His K/9 of 16.56 ranked third in the High-A Central (min. 20 innings). Sung also walked 15 batters in 25 innings so he will need to find the strike zone more often at the next level. Once again, Sung will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. He turned 25 on September 2.
Lake Elsinore Storm Week in Review (Won five of six against the Inland Empire 66’ers)
Top Performers: The Storm impressively won five of six to finish on a high note. The current incarnation of the Storm is full of 2021 draft picks so currently they do not feature a player on our preseason prospect list so we will look at the top performers from the final series of the season. … Undrafted free agent Cole Cummings made the Low-A West his personal playground last week, pacing a Storm offense that averaged seven runs a game last week, despite being shutout in the one game that they lost. Cummings hit a ridiculous .368/.538/.895 with two doubles, a triple, and two homers. Cummings drove in 11, scored eight runs, drew seven walks, and struck out just four times. The 23-year-old Cummings starred at UC Santa Barbara and went to high school in Corona, California – just 20 miles from The Diamond. Between the ACL and Lake Elsinore, Cummings hit .311/.426/.563 in his first 36 professional games. … 20-year-old Pierce Jones had a nice week for the Storm and ended the season in grand fashion. In the bottom of the eighth inning on Sunday, Jones slammed a fastball over the left-field fence for a grand slam. Jones went 5-for-16 in the four games he played in the series, finishing the year on a high note. Jones was drafted by the Padres in 2019, out of high school in the Chicago area. His 10 games with Lake Elsinore mark the first time he has played outside of the complex league. … RHP Alek Jacob pitched three innings in the series against Inland Empire and allowed just one unearned run while striking out three batters. Jacob, 23, was drafted by the Padres in the 16th round, out of Gonzaga University in July. Jacob was the WCC Pitcher of the Year and a second-team All-American in 2021. He also threw a no-hitter in which he struck out 12 batters. Jacob pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 2021 in the Padres’ system and did not allow an earned run in 13 games, 12 of them coming with the Storm.