As the minor league season reaches the end of its second month, Mark Wilkens and Ben Davey take a look at the top performers of May. May saw injuries to key prospects and breakout performances from others. After two years disrupted by the pandemic, minor league ball is finally back to a more normal schedule this year, and the system got plenty of strong performances from key prospects. This list is not meant as a revision to our top prospects, but rather as a point-in-time snapshot of the top performers so far.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Pacific Coast League)
Two months in, the Chihuahuas are in third place with a 27-22 record. They had their second consecutive winning month going 14-11.
The story behind the success has been the offense. El Paso leads the league with 75 home runs, 98 doubles and a .470 slugging percentage, while they are second in runs (317), OPS (.829) and walks (230). El Paso is averaging 6.5 runs per game. The lineup has gone through considerable changes already in the first two months, but still a new hero steps up on offense.
The month was filled with exceptional individual performances. RF Nomar Mazara hit .367/.437/.633 on the month. Against right handed pitchers, the newly-promoted outfielder hit .408/.487/.745. … INF Matthew Batten had the best month of his career. He hit .306/.462/.681 with more home runs on the month (7) than in any previous year in his career (6) despite finishing the month on the COVID list. … SS C.J. Abrams made his Triple-A debut with three home runs in his first two games. He then went into a 4-for-42 slump, before ending the month with a six game hitting streak (12-for-26) to give him an uneven .267/.337/.462 line. … Fourth ranked prospect C Luis Campusano had his normal dominating offensive month. He hit .333/.446/.600 with as many walks as strikeouts (13). … Finally, LF Brent Rooker missed 10 games on the IL, but came back with a vengeance. He finished the month hitting hit .262/.351/.631 with 7 home runs and 19 RBI in 17 games.
As great as the offense did, the pitching staff struggled for consistency. RHP Reiss Knehr went 2-0 on the month and led the team with 33 May strikeouts. However, he finished the month with a 6.67 ERA. The best starter in Triple-A last year month was RHP Jesse Scholtens. While he only made three starts before ending up on the IL, he still finished with the best May ERA among starters (4.08). … The only pitcher to appear in multiple games without allowing a run was LHP Jose Castillo. The player acquired in the Wil Myers/Trea Turner trade allowed only six baserunners over eight games and struck out six.
El Paso Player of the Month: INF Matthew Batten
El Paso Pitcher of the Month: LHP Jose Castillo
San Antonio Missions (Texas League)
Sitting in second place in their division as we close out the second month of the season, the San Antonio Missions are still having an uneven year. The veteran-heavy squad some days appears ready to compete with anyone, and other days, not so much.
It may surprise some watchers of the Padres minor league system to know the highest OPS for the past month in San Antonio belongs to Connor Hollis. The former Tampa Bay Rays farmhand has slashed a blistering .396/.513/.593, driving in 20 runs and slugging four home runs. Signed as a free agent at the beginning of April, Hollis has been more than worthwhile for the Missions. … Of course, Hollis edges out Esteury Ruiz, who has made observers take notice of an extraordinary breakout in San Antonio. Now playing center field, Ruiz had a .330/.451/.598 slash line, and hit five home runs while stealing 19 bases in the past month. No prospect in May made the noise Ruiz did, getting the Padres’ Double-A affiliate some regular highlight love on social media and MiLB TV.
Also impressing at the plate was Yorman Rodriguez, who finished second on the team with 19 RBIs and hit four home runs of his own while batting .333 to continue a solid 2022 campaign.
It may be because of his fluttering off-speed stuff, but whenever Matt Waldron succeeds, he seems to do so quietly, without the buzz and fanfare of other prospects. But the Missions righty dazzled in four starts in May, carrying a 1.31 ERA in 20.2 innings of work, striking out 17 and walking three, good for a 0.77 WHIP. Also delivering solidly out of the rotation was Thomas Eshelman, whose three starts on the month netted a 3.24 ERA, a single walk, and 11 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. Out of the bullpen, Osvaldo Hernandez made seven appearances, going 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings and posting an 8:0 K:BB while Moises Lugo made six appearances (one start), and threw to the tune of a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings, striking out 18 batters while walking seven.
San Antonio Missions Player of the Month: Esteury Ruiz
San Antonio Missions Pitcher of the Month: Matt Waldron
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Midwest League)
It’s been a tough year for the TinCaps, who remain tied for last place in their division.
May was a tough, tough month at the plate for the TinCaps. Of qualified batters, Jarryd Dale managed the best slash line, putting up a .259/.376/.318 line in 85 at-bats. The Aussie shortstop slugged three doubles and a triple. Next was Corey Rosier, whose .228/.349/.326 line isn’t as impressive as his 11 steals in 25 games for May. He also led Fort Wayne with two home runs, and tied for the lead with 10 RBIs.
Although his 21 at-bats were below the number needed to qualify, it’s worth noting Adam Kerner hit .281 with a home run, a pair of doubles, and an .810 OPS, making the USD product quite handily the best offensive weapon of the month in a small sample size.
Pitching was a strong suit for Fort Wayne, with a pair of lefthanders leading the way. Noel Vela, who fanned 33 batters in 21.2 innings pitched, going 2-2 with a 3.74 ERA and walking 10 batters. The 6-foot-7 Jackson Wolf also had a strong month with 28.2 innings pitched in five starts, going 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA and a 37:11 K:BB.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Player of the Month: Corey Rosier
Fort Wayne TinCaps Pitcher of the Month: Noel Vela
Lake Elsinore Storm (California League)
Despite a rash of injuries, the Storm still lead the division with a 28-18 record. They finished the month at .500 (13-13).
The Storm have been without their top two prospects essentially all month. Last year’s first round pick SS Jackson Merrill has been on the IL since April 24 with a broke wrist, while second round pick OF James Wood got into three games in May before also hitting the IL.
Without them, the offense struggled to maintain consistency. While the team still leads the league in walks (263), and lead all of baseball with 102 steals, they are second to the last in the league in home runs (34), and have a .372 SLG. Most of that slugging came from INF Lucas Dunn. The eighth round pick from last year hit .297/.387/.495 in May with 12 extra base hits and seven stolen bases. He had hits in 13 of the teams first 15 games. … Speaking of stolen bases, 2B Max Ferguson stole 16 more in the month of May giving him 34 total on the season. While the .207 batting average is concerning, he walked 29 times in May and still managed a .420 OBP. Ferguson led all of baseball in both walks (49) and steals (34) at the end of the month. OF Tyler Malone walked 11 times in 10 games and had a .930 OPS despite only hitting .208.
The Storm pitching staff led the way. RHP Aaron Holiday, who the Padres acquired in the Sean Manea trade, has been brilliant for the Storm. In May he went 12.1 innings allowing only two runs with six hits and 13 strike outs. He had a 1.46 ERA with a .136 average against and 0.97 WHIP. … The highest profile pitcher, RHP Victor Lizarraga, had one extremely rough outing, which hurt his overall numbers. The 18 year-old from Montgomery High School in Chula Vista rebounded by not allowing an earned run over six innings in his final start of the month. … Last months breakout starter, RHP Garrett Hawkins, led the team with 23 strikeouts and a 14.1 K/9 rate, but hitters hit .358 off of him leading to an 8.59 ERA.
Lake Elsinore Storm Player of the Month: INF Lucas Dunn
Lake Elsinore Storm Pitcher of the Month: RHP Aaron Holiday
MadFriars Player of the Month: Esteury Ruiz
Normar Mazara and Ruiz’s teammate Connor Hollis both had great months, but Estuery Ruiz was outstanding at the plate, on the basepaths and was a plus defender in center field for the Missions. Ruiz’s increased plate discipline started to became evident last year and after a second straight dominant month he is now the number seven overall prospect on our updated Top 20 for 2022.
MadFriars Pitcher of the Month: Noel Vela
While his May wasn’t quite as impressive in some ways as it was in April when he had a 0.59 ERA, the lefty Noel Vela also threw more innings, 21.2 to 15.1, issued less walks, 10 to 13, and had more strikeouts, 33 to 17. He’s made a lot of progress, his main goal going forward is to become more efficient and go deeper into games.