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)
For the first time in their existence, the El Paso Chihuahuas finished the season with a losing record. Not only that, they had the worst record in the new Triple-A West, finishing at 51-79, good for a .392 winning percentage. One of the challenges for the Chihuahuas was how many prospects that would have been in the upper minors were included in trades the Padres made, leading El Paso’s roster to lean heavily on minor league free agent acquisitions.
However, there were still strong performers for the Chihuahuas, including a few with big Septembers. High on that list was Gosuke Katoh, the Rancho Bernardo High star who was a second-round pick of the Yankees. Katoh slashed .364/.424/.623 in September, raising his average for the season over .300. The 26-year-old Katoh impressed with his bat as well as his defensive versatility. Matt Batten also went out on a high note, slashing .308/.351/.375 in September with a pair of home runs, his highest monthly total of long balls. Batten, a 32nd round pick in 2017, finished his season batting .293 with 28 stolen bases while playing mostly shortstop, second base, and some left field. Olympian Patrick Kivlehan bounced back from a tough summer, posting an .836 OPS and hitting three home runs, while Taylor Kohlwey continued his steady hitting, batting .304 in September to finish the season at .311.
While his ERA for September was 4.76, Steven Wilson, struck out 21 while walking only three over 11.1 innings, posting a record of 2-0. The 27-year-old Wilson finished the year with a 4-0 record, 3.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and struck out 71 batters in 42 innings while walking 14. Adrian Martinez also bounced back from a rough debut in Triple-A, posting a 3.28 ERA across his final six starts.
El Paso Chihuahuas Player of the Month: Steven Wilson
San Antonio Missions (Double-A Central)
The San Antonio Missions finished their first year back as a Padres affiliate by going .500 in the month of September, but below .500 for the season. After a promising start to 2021, the offense never fully recovered from losing top 100 prospect CJ Abrams to a fractured left tibia and trading Jack Suwinski to Pittsburgh in the Adam Frazier trade. Eguy Rosario was the only player to OPS higher than .800 in September (.813), and infielder Allen Cordoba was the only player to hit above .300 (.304). After starting the season in Fort Wayne, outfielder Agustin Ruiz hit three September homers for San Antonio before leaving to play for the Mexican team in the U-23 World Cup but looks like he needs further seasoning at the Double-A level.
On the pitching side, MacKenzie Gore made a pair of starts to close out his 2021 season. He lasted five and four innings and struck out an impressive eight batters in each outing. While he only gave up three runs in those nine innings, he also gave up a whopping eight walks. Reliever Jose Quezada was a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities, posting a 1.50 ERA in five relief appearances. The righty out of Texas Tech earned a promotion to El Paso and didn’t see much of a dip in performance, striking out 9 in seven innings en route to a 1.29 ERA. 22-year-old Moises Lugo made the jump from High-A to Double-A and continued to have a bit of a breakout, throwing 7.1 innings across four short outings while striking out ten against three walks.
San Antonio Missions Player of the Month: Jose Quezada
Fort Wayne TinCaps (High-A Central)
The TinCaps finished at the bottom of the High-A Central’s East Division with a 54-66 record. It was a long year for Fort Wayne, with offense particularly hard to come by until reinforcements got the call up from Lake Elsinore late in the year. Going into next season, however, Fort Wayne promises to be a much more exciting squad, as some of the talent that finished the year on the TinCaps will likely begin next season there.
At the plate, September was a great month for Tirso Ornelas, who slashed .400/.479/.550 in 60 at-bats. Ornelas, a native of Tijuana, finishes on a high note after an up-and-down 2021 season back in Fort Wayne.
On the mound, 2020 undrafted free agent Chase Walter had a strong September, pitching 5.2 innings while striking out 13 batters and pitching to a 3.18 ERA. Wen-Hua Sung went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five appearances, with a 14:6 K: BB in six innings of work. In six appearances (two starts), Felix Minjarez managed a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings, striking out 16 while walking only four. Also impressing was Edwuin Bencomo, the 22-year-old righty from Rio Chico, Venezuela, whose September saw him earn a 0.93 ERA and 2-0 record while pitching to a tremendous 11:0 K: BB in 9.2 innings.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Player of the Month: Edwuin Bencomo
Lake Elsinore Storm (Low-A West)
The big news out of Lake Elsinore for the month of September was mostly about who was leaving; departures of Robert Hassell III, Brandon Valenzuela, and Euribiel Angeles to High-A Fort Wayne meant that the Storm offense would be without its main cogs. Corner infielder Cole Cummings stepped up big as an undrafted free agent signing out of UC Santa Barbara. At 23-years-old, he’s a bit older than most of the league, but a 1.123 OPS across 51 plate appearances should get him a chance to hit against better competition next spring. Despite losing playing time to Valenzuela earlier in the season, catcher Gilberto Vizcarra showed that he was no slouch, stepping in and posting a .390/.429/.559 slash line.
The pitching side for the Storm continued to be the more developing side, with standouts being much more difficult to identify. Luarbert Arias put up some obscene numbers, whiffing 20 across 10.2 innings (that’s a 16.9 K/9 rate), posting a 0.84 WHIP, and kept hitters to a .162 batting average. But although he was able to keep his walk numbers down (only three), he gave up three homers. Jason Reynolds was especially adept at keeping runs off the board, as the 23-year-old out of Lehigh allowed just one run in 12.1 innings while striking out 13. Lefty Robert Gasser, the 71st overall pick out of the University of Houston in July, was impressive, striking out nine in as many innings across three outings. Look for him to move up the system quickly in 2022.
Lake Elsinore Storm Player of the Month: Cole Cummings
ACL Padres (Arizona Complex League)
While the affiliates struggled in the standings, the Padres’ entry in the Arizona Complex League made for some exciting viewing, as the team’s 2021 draft class and undrafted free agents made their debuts.
On the mound, Ryan Bergert closed out a scoreless first season of professional baseball, adding eight more empty frames to his season total in September, and added a 10:0 K: BB ratio for good measure. The 21-year-old Bergert was the club’s sixth-round pick in this year’s draft out of West Virginia. Ninth-rounder Garrett Hawkins went 3-0 with 8.2 innings of his own scoreless work, walking two while striking out 16. 17-year-old Victor Lizarraga hit a groove in September, with three appearances without allowing a run in 8.2 innings as well.
At the plate, Justin Farmer continued to mash, slashing .303/.415/.636 with three homers and 10 RBI for the month. The 22-year-old signed as an undrafted free agent this summer. In only six games for the month, James Wood let loose on pitchers all over the Valley of the Sun, slashing .522/.593/.870, with a pair of doubles, two home runs, and 10 RBI. He also walked four times compared to six strikeouts. The 19-year-old Wood draws attention for his 6-foot-7 frame, but has shown himself to be a more complete player than a novelty, and also holds his own in center field.
ACL Padres Player of the Month: James Wood
System Player of the Month: Tirso Ornelas
The 2016 international free agent signee certainly hasn’t had the trajectory the team hoped for after a big debut in 2017, but he finally seems to be getting comfortable with the swing changes he has struggled with since the organization asked him to adjust late in 2018. The corner outfielder will need to show he can keep the end-of-year performance up over a sustained stretch next year, but he cut his strikeout rate, upped his walk rate, and got to his power very well over the final month.