Friday was opening night for most of Minor League Baseball, as the Storm, TinCaps and Missions kicked off their respective seasons. Winning was scarce on the season’s first full night of action, but there were more than a few standout performances. Let’s dive in.
Round Rock Express 11, Chihuahuas 3
Key Statistics: RF Luis Liberato, 2-for-5, 2 R, HR (1), RBI; LF Taylor Kohlwey, 3-for-5. R, HR, 2 RBI; DH Brent Rooker (organizational debut), 0-for-2, BB; LHP Ramon Perez (L, 0-1) IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB; RHP Evan Miller, 2 IP, H, BB, K; RHP Jordan Brink 2 IP, 3 H, ER, 4 K.
Prospect Watch: The undefeated dream is over. El Paso lost their first game of 2022 after defeating Round Rock in three straight to kick off the new campaign. … At this point, it’s fairly obvious that Taylor Kohlwey can hit. The left fielder paced the offense with three hits, including his first homer of 2022. The 27-year-old is off to a 5-for-11 start, with a double and the aforementioned homer. He’s also added four walks to the ledger. Last year, Kohlwey hit .319/.381/456 for El Paso. … Brent Rooker started at designated hitter and went 0-for-2 with a walk. It was his first game as a member of the Padres’ organization. He was acquired on Wednesday in the Chris Paddack/Taylor Rogers swap. … LHP Ramon Perez was promoted from Double-A prior to the game and made a spot start. It did not go well. Perez lasted just one inning, allowing six runs (five earned) and six hits while walking a pair. The 22-year-old Perez worked exclusively as a reliever last season, splitting his time between Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne. … RHP Jordan Brink allowed a run in two innings of work, striking out four. Brink, 29, was signed by the Padres in the off-season and received an invite to major league spring training. He has punched out eight batters while walking just one in four innings of work. … Webster Rivas pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a hit. The catcher was forced to help a bullpen that has been forced to cover 16.2 innings the last two days.
Corpus Christi Hooks 14, Missions 2
Key Statistics: CF Esteury Ruiz, 2-for-5, RBI; RF Agustin Ruiz, 1-for-2, 2 R, HR (1), RBI, 2 BB; SS Chris Givin, 2-for-3, 2B, BB; LHP Osvaldo Hernandez (L, 0-1) 0.1 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, BB; LHP Gabe Morales, 2 IP, 2 BB, 5 K; RHP Moises Lugo, 1.1 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 3 BB.
Prospect Watch: Things got real ugly in Corpus Christi; The Missions allowed nine (yes, nine) runs in the first inning and were pummeled by their intrastate rivals. … Esteury Ruiz started in center field and had a pair of hits Friday night. Ruiz saw most of his action in left field a season ago but with Tirso Ornelas and Agustin Ruiz in the outfield as well, Ruiz’s athleticism makes him the obvious choice to play up the middle. This is Ruiz’s second stint in Double-A. … Agustin, the other Ruiz on the San Antonio roster reached base three times and socked his first homer of the year. The 22-year-old hit 15 homers for the TinCaps a season ago and earned a late-season promotion to the Double-A Central League where he struggled in 35 games. Ruiz will need to reduce his strikeouts but he’s a left-handed swinging corner outfielder with some pop; something the Padres don’t have on the big league roster. … LHP Osvaldo Hernandez got the opening day assignment and it was virtually over before it started. Hernandez started the game by allowing four consecutive hits and three runs before recording an out. He then allowed a two-run homer to former UCSD shortstop Shay Whitcomb to fall behind 5-0. Hernandez walked the next batter and then allowed a double before being yanked in the first. Hernandez is currently sporting a ghastly 189.00 ERA.
Roster Moves: Prior to the game, the Missions made several roster moves. Catcher Michael Cantu was moved to the developmental list. The developmental list means that Cantu is not currently on the active roster but is still part of the 180-man stateside player pool. LHP Ramon Perez was moved up to start Friday’s game with El Paso. Infielder Justin Lopez, who was announced as part of the Missions’ initial roster, moves back to High-A Fort Wayne. He will take the roster spot that was vacated by Euribel Angeles, who was part of the Sean Manaea deal. Finally, INF/OF Korry Howell was added to the active roster. Howell, 24, was part of the package the Padres received in the Victor Caratini deal with Milwaukee. Howell hit a collective .244/.349/.455 with 16 homers and 24 stolen bases between High-A Wisconsin and Double-A Biloxi.
Dayton Dragons 6, TinCaps 5
Key Statistics: LF Corey Rosier (organizational debut), 0-for-3, R, 2 BB, RBI, SB (1); CF Robert Hassell III, 2-for-4, BB, RBI, 2 SB (1,2); C Brandon Valenzuela, 2-for-4, BB; 2B Ripken Reyes, 1-for-2, 2 R, HR (1), RBI, BB; LHP Robert Gasser (L, 0-1) 2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K; RHP Felix Minjarez, 1.2 IP, 5 K; Nick Thwaits, 2 IP, 2 H, BB, 5 K; RHP Mason Fox, IP, 3 K.
Prospect Watch: The TinCaps fell behind early and entered the ninth inning trailing 6-1. In the ninth, Fort Wayne scored four runs, thanks to five consecutive walks. They had the bases loaded but Jarryd Dale struck out to end the game. … Robert Hassell III did his part out of the two-hole by reaching base three times. The former first-rounder had a pair of singles and drew a walk. On the basepaths, he stole two bags but Fort Wayne went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Hassell III struggled a bit in his late-season cameo in the Summit City after tearing apart the Low-A West. … Catcher Brandon Valenzuela stroked a pair of singles and drew a walk for good measure. Valenzuela broke out offensively with the Storm last year and hit well in his late-season promotion to Fort Wayne. The switch-hitting catcher is also an excellent receiver and can play capably at first base. … 25-year-old Ripken Reyes connected on his first homer since 2019 and drew a walk Friday night. The former USD Torero missed much of last season with an injury but he has been an on-base machine when he has been able to get into the lineup. In 378 plate appearances as a professional, Reyes sports a .300/.427/.413 slash-line. … LHP Robert Gasser started for the TinCaps and struggled with his command out of the gate. Gasser pitched just 2.1 innings and walked a career-high four batters. Gasser’s command was excellent last season with the Storm but perhaps the cold weather had a detrimental impact on the young lefty. Temperatures hovered around 40 degrees in Dayton. Former undrafted free agent Felix Minjarez took over Gasser and struck out all five batters he faced. Minjarez has appeared at the High-A level each of the last three seasons. He sits in the low 90s with his fastball but he has been a very capable reliever for the organization. The Riverside native appeared in 42 games for the TinCaps last year and pitched to a 4.19 ERA. … Nick Thwaits also struck out five batters in his two innings of work out of the bullpen. The 22-year-old Thwaits grew up in Fort Recovery, Ohio – approximately 65 miles from Dayton. Thwaits struggled mightily in Lake Elsinore last season as a starter, but he is starting the 2022 season in the ‘pen.
Storm 12, Inland Empire 66’ers 0
Key Statistics: SS Jackson Merrill, 2-for-6, 3 R, 2 2B; CF James Wood, 3-for-5, 3 R, HR (1, 2), 5 RBI; RF Matthew Acosta 2-for-4, R, 2 RBI; C Jared Alvarez-Lopez, 2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI, BB; 1B Carlos Luis, 2-for-4, BB, RBI; RHP Garrett Hawkins, 4 IP, 3 H, 6 K; RHP Matt Sparling (W, 1-0) IP, K; RHP Jairo Iriarte, 2 IP, H, 3 K; RHP Matt Swilley, IP, H, BB.
Prospect Watch: Welcome to the California League, James Wood! The 19-year-old outfielder made his full-season debut and put on a show for the crowd in San Bernardino. In his second at-bat, Wood launched a fastball 427 feet to the deepest part of San Manuel Stadium for his first homer of the season. Later in the evening, Wood slammed a second homer off of left-handed hurler Joey Walsh then went out to right field. When the smoke cleared, Wood had his first multi-homer game as a professional and five RBI. Wood also drew a walk and had an infield single. Wood’s power potential is tantalizing and if Friday night is any indicator, Wood could be special. … Jackson Merrill had a pair of doubles and scored three runs in the Storm win. Merrill stroked both doubles to the opposite field, showing some impressive pop. Merrill hit well in the ACL out of the gate but faded just a bit down the stretch. The former first-rounder has an impressive hit tool and should be able to stick at short. … 21-year-old Jared Alvarez-Lopez got the opening night assignment and had two hits and caught a shutout; not too shabby for another youngster making his Cal League debut. Alvarez-Lopez spent 2019 and 2021 in the desert after being drafted in the 17th round in 2019, out of high school in the Houston area. He finished last season in a 1-for-40 slump which ruined his overall numbers in the ACL. … Lost in the James Wood show was an impressive debut from Garrett Hawkins. The right-hander pitched four clean innings, allowing just three hits and six strikeouts without a walk. Kyle Glaser of Baseball America reported that Hawkins was sitting 93-96 mph with his fastball with most of the pitches being on the higher end of that scale. Hawkins played his college ball at the University of British Columbia. He struck out 27 in 15.1 innings in the ACL last season. … Matt Swilley pitched a scoreless inning, working around a walk and a hit. Swilley, 31, played his high school at El Camino in Oceanside. He was drafted out of high school by the Rays in the 21st round of the 2009 draft. He struggled in the lower minors and was ultimately released. Swilley’s last official action in affiliated ball came in 2013.