It was a busy week in the Padres’ system that saw some standout performances. In addition, one top prospect experienced some growing pains that could be a cause for concern. With the second month of the MILB season opening this past weekend, three of the four full-season clubs have winning records. Last season, only the DSL Padres finished with a record above .500. Let’s take a look at the week that was down on the farm.
MadFriars Player of the Week: Robert Hassell III, Fort Wayne
The TinCaps celebrated John Conniff’s arrival in Fort Wayne with most of the team struggling offensively. How bad were things last week for the TinCaps? The team hit a collective .135/.237/.184 and scored just nine runs in their series with rival Dayton.
Robert Hassell III was the only TinCap who was not overwhelmed by the Dragons’ pitching staff. The 20-year-old hit .364/.440/.545, with a homer, five RBI, and a pair of walks. His best performance came on Saturday when he had three hits – falling a triple shy of the cycle.
“I’ve seen some good young hitters in my day, but the thing that stands out the most about Robert is his ability to barrel the ball with power the other way,” TinCaps manager Brian Esposito told John Conniff after the TinCaps loss on Saturday. “For a small-framed guy, you wouldn’t think he would be able to go up in the zone and drive the ball out of the park the other way, it’s the most impressive part about him.”
Through the first month of the season, Hassell ranks third in the Midwest League with an OPS of 1.064. He has the seventh-lowest K-rate (15.4%) in the circuit. He’s also tied for fifth in homers with five.
MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: Ruben Galindo, Lake Elsinore
This was the tightest week all season, as four other pitchers merited consideration for the award but Galindo wins by the slightest of margins. We will cover the others in the individual team sections.
Galindo, 21, started Thursday night for the Storm and pitched five innings, allowing just one run on one hit, walking two, and striking out seven. The young righty earned the victory for his effort. Galindo struggled in his first two outings this season but he did show flashes last year while with the Storm. In an outing last August, Galindo struck out 10 batters in four innings against San Jose. Last Thursday’s outing was the first time that Galindo has worked five innings as a professional.
El Paso Chihuahuas Week in Review (won series against the Reno Aces, 4-2).
Top Performers: El Paso won a series at home, improving their record to 13-11 in the process. … Catcher Brett Sullivan started the final four games of the six-game series and pulverized the Aces’ pitching staff. Sullivan went 8-for-13, with two homers, seven RBI, and four walks. The veteran backstop has never been known for his offense but while Luis Campusano was in the big leagues, the 28-year-old was the biggest benefactor. The former Ray and Brewer is hitting .327/.400/.529 with 60 plate appearances so far in 2022. Sullivan is listed as a catcher but he did see some time in the outfield for Durham last season, providing an opportunity to add some plate appearances since Campusano figures to get most of the reps behind the plate. Sullivan is currently riding a six-game hitting streak. … Outfielder Nomar Mazara had a big week as well, perhaps putting himself in the conversation for a big-league job soon. Mazara hit .318/.407/.636 with a double, two homers, three RBI, four walks, and seven runs scored. With Trayce Thompson with the parent club, Mazara leads the Chihuahuas with an OPS of 1.068. He is just short on plate appearances so he doesn’t qualify to be listed among league leaders but he should be eligible at some point this week.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: Infielder Eguy Rosario had one of his best weeks of the year, hitting .273/.333/.409 with three doubles. That type of batting line isn’t going to impress in the offensive-driven PCL but it is a significant improvement on what he has produced year-to-date. Perhaps more importantly, Rosario only struck out once in 24 plate appearances; his K-rate hovered around 35% going into the season. He left Sunday’s game with an injury so hopefully, it’s something that is not significant. … RHP Jesse Scholtens got the honor of making two starts last week and pitched well in both outings. The 28-year-old started Tuesday and worked a season-high 6.2 innings, and earned a victory in the process. Scholtens allowed three runs but didn’t walk anyone while striking out six. He then returned to the mound Sunday and battled control issues before departing with two outs in the fifth. Scholtens walked a season-high five but allowed just one run in a game El Paso won. Through the season’s first month, Scholtens ranks third in the PCL with a 2.22 ERA while pitching a league-high 28.1 innings. The Padres seem to be set on options in the starting rotation but last year reinforced that you can never have too much starting pitching, As long as Scholtens is throwing well, he should be in the conversation should the Padres need to dip into the farm for starting pitching.
El Paso Player of the Week: C/DH Brett Sullivan
El Paso Pitcher of the Week: RHP Jesse Scholtens
San Antonio Missions Week in Review (split series against Springfield Cardinals, 3-3).
Top Performers: The Missions had a chance to win the series but were shut out on Sunday to end the hope. … The Missions didn’t hit well for the week; their collective .630 OPS was the second-worst in the 10-team Texas League but Esteury Ruiz continued his solid run thus far. The outfielder hit .238/.385/.476 with a pair of doubles and just one strikeout. Ruiz hit just .211 on balls in play last week which explains the low average. The 23-year-old has hit well over .400 on balls in play this season so he was bound for some regression. He is also sporting a 14.3% K-rate that matches the career-low he produced in the DSL way back in 2016 when he was a member of the Royals’ organization. … Outfielder Tirso Ornelas had a nice week that included his second homer of the season. In six games, Ornelas hit .304/.333/.478 with a double, a homer, and three RBI. Like Ruiz, Ornelas put the ball in play all week, striking out just twice. Through the first month of the season, the 22-year-old is sporting a career-low K-rate of 18.3%. His overall slash-line of .313/.352/.418 looks good at first glance but thanks to a paltry 2.8% walk rate and a .104 ISO, it’s actually just below league average. If Ornelas can be a little more selective at the plate, he still has a chance. … RHP Ryan Lillie made two relief appearances but actually led the team in innings pitched last week. The Murrieta native and former UC Riverside pitcher did his best work of the season on Sunday when he fired three shutout innings in relief. Lillie walked a pair and notched three strikeouts. Lillie was drafted in the fifth round by the Marlins in 2017 and has worked primarily as a starter in his career. Last season, Lillie made eight appearances for Chattanooga, the Double-A squad of the Cincinnati Reds.
Others of Note: Matt Waldron threw his best game of the year, firing five shutout innings on Thursday, and earned his first win in the process. The knuckler was effectively wild for Waldron; he walked three but did not allow a ton of hard contact. After breaking out last season in Fort Wayne, the former Nebraska Cornhusker and Cleveland Guardian prospect has struggled in Double-A. He has allowed a lot of hard contact but when he is on, he can work deep into ballgames. The results haven’t been where Waldron would like but he has gone at least five innings in three of his four starts. … RHP Kevin Kopps struggled a bit with command but was able to work two scoreless outings. Kopps walked three batters in two innings without allowing a hit to go with a pair of strikeouts. Outside of one blown save, Kopps has not allowed a run in six of his seven innings, but he will need to limit the walks going forward; he has issued five free passes this season.
San Antonio Player of the Week: OF Esteury Ruiz
San Antonio Pitcher of the Week: RHP Ryan Lillie
Fort Wayne TinCaps Week in Review (lost series to the Dayton Dragons, 5-1).
Top Performers: The Fort Wayne restaurant scene was bustling with activity as John Conniff descended on the Summit City but on the field the TinCaps lost five of six and struggled to stay competitive. … While Hassell had himself a week, the rest of the TinCaps offense struggled mightily. Outfielder Corey Rosier was the only other hitter to post an OPS above .680. The former Mariners prospect went 5-for-23 with a double, triple, and three walks. When the TinCaps offense has thrived (and it was prior to this week) Rosier has been the table-setter at the top of the lineup. Rosier has a 20.4% walk rate this season and his .398 on-base percentage ranks tenth in the league. … LHP Jackson Wolf won the only game of the series for the TinCaps, pitching five shutout innings on Thursday, allowing just two hits, two walks, and striking out a career-high seven batters. The former West Virginia southpaw has notched 21 strikeouts in 14.1 innings to go with a 4.40 ERA in four outings. Wolf finished the game that rehabbing LHP Blake Snell pitched in. … RHP Ryan Bergert nearly matched his West Virginia teammate when he threw five innings and allowed just one run Wednesday night but ended up taking the hard-luck loss. The 22-year-old has been dominant so far this season for the TinCaps. Bergert has struck out nearly 40% of the batters he has faced and opposing hitters are batting just a meager .167 against him. Bergert missed his final college season after undergoing elbow surgery shortly after playing in a college summer league.
Others of Note: The last two weeks for Joshua Mears painfully illustrate the peaks and valleys of professional baseball. Two weeks ago, Mears racked up all kinds of property damage in Lansing as the hulking outfielder hit five homers, several of which hit the video board in left field and another that traveled 500 feet. Mears was our MadFriars Player of the Week, in addition to winning the Midwest League Player of the Week. This week, it was the polar opposite.
Mears went 0-for-24 with 18 strikeouts in the series against Dayton. In the final three games, he struck out 11 times in 12 plate appearances. The cold streak is obviously concerning but the previous week illustrated what he is capable of doing when he is clicking.
“He was unbelievable in finding the barrel in Lansing, and there were some two-strike home runs and this group saw it,” said TinCaps manager Brian Esposito prior to Sunday’s game.
“These guys were better in their execution of the pitches, the arms were a little bit better, and they challenged him, and Joshua needs to be challenged. You learn the most valuable lessons when you face guys that are good and will challenge you and how to grow.
“Guys are not going to just throw pitches over the middle of the plate, they are going to try to force you to expand the zone, and he’s going to learn how to commit to his plan and make adjustments.”
Mears’ rough week saw his batting average drop from .275 to .187. His K-rate stands at an alarming 47%. Mears will be the player to watch as they open up a 12-game road trip on Tuesday in Wisconsin.
Fort Wayne Player of the Week: OF Robert Hassell III
Fort Wayne Pitcher of the Week: LHP Jackson Wolf
Lake Elsinore Storm Week in Review (won series against Inland Empire 66ers, 5-1).
Top Performers: Break up the Lake Elsinore Storm! The Low-A squad won five of six against Inland Empire. At 15-6, the Storm have the best record in the Padres’ farm system and a two-game lead over Rancho Cucamonga in the South Division of the Cal League. … INF/OF Lucas Dunn continues to lead the Storm offensive attack and for the week, Dunn went 5-for-15 with a triple, a homer, three RBI, and five walks. Dunn, who has appeared at first base, second base, and third base this season, is third in the Cal League with a 181 wRC+ and his .494 on-base percentage ranks second. … Outfielder Justin Farmer had a big week, hitting .348/.400/.522 with a double, homer, and four stolen bases. The 23-year-old Farmer had a six-game hitting streak going but a hitless day on Sunday broke his run. The former Florida Gulf Coast outfielder is one of the older position players on the roster but he has shown good speed and a little bit of pop. Through the season’s first month, Farmer has a solid 14.2% walk rate. … The Storm received tremendous work from their rotation and that included another nice outing from southpaw Jesus Gonzalez. The 20-year-old pitched five shutout innings on Sunday, allowing just one run on three hits, striking out a season-high five. The 5-foot-10 lefty hasn’t missed many bats so far but Sunday’s effort was a step in the right direction.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: With Jackson Merrill on the seven-day injured list, outfielder James Wood is unquestionably the top draw on the Storm roster. Wood had a relatively quiet week, hitting .211/.444/.263 with a double and seven walks. Wood only struck out four times so he continues to make considerable improvements in his control of the strike zone. Wood’s SwStr of 7.4% would be the sixth-lowest in the Cal League if he had enough at-bats to qualify among league leaders. If he continues to make contact, he will terrorize Cal League pitching. … Infielder Carlos Luis only played in four games but he managed to belt three doubles and a monster home run on Sunday to conclude the series. The 22-year-old has been a bit of a slow riser in the system but he has grown significantly and is starting to find his power stroke in games. Luis has been stateside since 2018 but hasn’t seen significant playing time in any season. Luis is hitting .291/.328/.473 in 14 games. His career-high in games played came way back in 2018 when he played 45 games with the rookie league AZL Padres. … It seems appropriate to call Garrett Hawkins the breakout star of the Padres’ pitching prospects thus far in 2022. Hawkins finished five innings for the second straight start and allowed just one run on five hits and tied his season-high in strikeouts with seven. Hawkins has struck out at least six in all four of his starts. Perhaps more impressively, Hawkins has walked one batter all year. His 1.5% walk rate is the lowest in the Cal League.
Lake Elsinore Hitter of the Week: OF/INF Lucas Dunn
Lake Elsinore Pitcher of the Week: RHP Ruben Galindo