Brandon Dixon continued to shine after his promotion to El Paso. (Photo: Jorge Salgado)

MadFriars Player of the Week: INF Brandon Dixon, El Paso
It was a fine week for the veteran Dixon, as he led the system with a 1.364 OPS in his first series in Triple-A. Dixon went 10-for-22, with three doubles, a pair of homers, four RBI, and two stolen bases as he didn’t miss a beat following his promotion from the Missions. The slugger has big league service time with the Tigers and Reds and spent last year in Japan. He opened the season in San Antonio and spent a bulk of the year on the injured list. When he has been healthy, he has been an offensive stalwart. Overall, between San Antonio and El Paso, Dixon has a 1.189 OPS and has hit 12 homes in just 33 games.

MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: RHP Jairo Iriarte, Lake Elsinore
Iriarte turned in one of his best starts of season Friday night when he shut down the Rawhide. The 20-year-old righty fired six innings and allowed just one run on six hits, walking one and striking out eight. Iriarte struggled in August as he battled fastball command. That was not an issue last week. He should get one more start against Rancho Cucamonga in the final week of the season and perhaps he will take a turn in the playoffs. After tossing just 30 innings last year as he recovered from an arm injury, Iriarte has thrown 87 this season.

Jay Groome dealt for El Paso last week. (Photo: Jorge Salgado)

El Paso Chihuahuas (Split series with Salt Lake Bees 3-3)

Top Performers: El Paso’s typical offensive barrage at home didn’t quite happen as the club scored a combined one run over their first two games  LHP Jay Groome got the start in the second of those games and struck out six, which was a personal high for him since joining the Padres system, but he also needed 90 pitches to get through the four innings. … The lack of offense suddenly turned in the third game when a Colombian flare was sent to El Paso.  Rehabbing big leaguer Jorge Alfaro joined the club for the last four games and had a hit in each contest, including a double and two home runs.  He scored five runs and had four RBI.  … That first game also saw RHP Pedro Avila turn in his best outing of the year.  He struck out eight while allowing only two baserunners.

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Rehabbing big leaguer RHP Pierce Johnson threw three times over the week.  He worked three scoreless innings striking out five and did not allow a hit or a walk. … In the one loss in the last four contests of the week, the normally reliable Jose Castillo took a blown save.He allowed four runs in 1.2 innings on seven hits.  The seven hits he allowed were as many as he had allowed in all of August. … RHP Michel Baez continued his trek to get his ERA down.  He threw a scoreless inning on Wednesday before allowing a run on three hits over two innings on Saturday.  It was the first time since July 2 he has gone more than one inning.  The outing also finally lowered his ERA below 9 (after the eight earned runs in 0.1 innings on August 10).  … After dominating Double-A, RHP Moises Lugo got his first taste of Triple-A action this week.  After being greeted by a home run in his very first inning, he settled down and tossed two scoreless outings.  In 2.2 innings, he has allowed just one hit, the home run, while striking out three. … RHP Matt Waldron used his knuckleball to hold the Bees to just one earned run over ten innings in a pair of starts. He allowed just nine hits and struck out six.  … For the second time in a row, LHP Ryan Weathers only pitched every fifth day but came out of the pen to work one inning.  This time he threw a scoreless inning, allowing two hits.  He is currently at 117.2 innings for the year after throwing 104.2 last season. (Ben Davey)

San Antonio Missions (Lost to Corpus Christi Hooks 1-5)

Top Performers: Connor Hollis, 27, had seven hits in six games with three walks with a home run. He was promoted to Triple-A in early August and hit .279/.362/.410 in 69 plate appearances, but returned to the Missions at the end of the month. The former Houston Cougar star has been the Missions’ most consistent contributor throughout the season with overall numbers of .324/.429/.452 with 29 extra-base hits in 93 games. He’s mainly played third base in Double-A, but according to his manager Phillip Wellman his best position is second base. … It wasn’t a great week for the Missions’ starters, but reliever Kevin Kopps had a nice outing in not allowing any runs in his sole appearance with a pair of strikeouts and three walks. Kopps has a devastating slider/gyro ball, but it’s a swing-and-miss pitch that depends on him having the outside part of the plate. How far he can come with a two-seamer on the inside part of the plate will go a long way in determining how far he can go.

Connor Hollis has been one of the top players for the Missions this season. (Photo: San Antonio Missions)

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Webster Rivas, 31, continues to perform when given a chance, wherever the organization puts him.  He had three hits and drew five walks in 12 plate appearances against Corpus. Except for a brief 24-game cameo in the majors last year, Rivas has spent 12 years in the minors with a .261/.330/.364 slash line in over 2500 plate appearances. With Chandler Seagle on the injured list, he’s recently had more opportunities behind the plate. … The good news is Henry Henry threw five innings and struck out seven against three walks in his start this week. The bad news is he also gave up five earned runs. The Missions, in need of starters, pressed him back into the rotation. Henry hadn’t been a starter since 2018 in short-season Tri-City. This season  he has shown some promise while ranking third for San Antonio with 70 innings and 74 strikeouts. The problem is he is also leading the pitching staff in walks with 47 and has a 5.40 ERA. Despite being in the system for six years, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Dominican is still only 23 and has touched 100 mph on his fastball a few times this season. (John Conniff)

Fort Wayne TinCaps (Lost to West Michigan Whitecaps 1-5)

Lucas Dunn had four extra-base hits this week. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Top Performers:  The TinCaps limped out of their final homestead of the year with only a stellar pitching performance by lefty Jackson Wolf, 23, preventing them from losing all six. … Offensively, Fort Wayne was paced by Lucas Dunn, 23, who had seven hits, three of them for doubles, a triple, and three walks for a .292/.370/.500 slash line. Dunn was an eighth-round selection in 2021 out of the University of Louisville, where he hit .266/.358/.451 in his senior year but also demonstrated an ability to play six different positions on the field; all but catcher and first base. With the Padres system, he’s caught two games, but the majority of his time with the TinCaps has been at third base (55), with a little at second (12) and first base (10). After hitting .293/.423/.507 with the Storm, he hasn’t yet replicated that success in High-A, hitting .221/.348/.333. … Wolf made his last start at Parkview Field for 2022 a good one, going six and a third innings with six strikeouts against three walks and giving up only two runs. After a bad June, where he had a 6.87 ERA in 18.1 innings, he has posted a 3.66 ERA in 71.1 innings, with 71 strikeouts against 25 walks since the start of July. 

Switch-hitting catcher Brandon Valenzuela had a solid week offensively. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Top Prospects of Note: After giving up 15 earned runs in his first two starts in High-A, lefty Bodi Rascon, 21, had a solid bounce-back start, going five innings and only allowing a single run on a solo home run against five strikeouts and two walks. The 6-foot-5 Texan was a 14th-round overslot signee by the Padres in 2019. He was seen then as a player with much more potential than he was currently showing, as his body was still developing. … St. John’s University alum Ethan Routzahn got in three games for Fort Wayne this week and didn’t allow a run in four innings while striking out a pair against two walks. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Routzahn was the closer for the Red Storm in 2021 and had a 1.19 ERA in 22.2 innings before signing a free agent deal with San Diego. … At the plate, Mexican native Agustin Ruiz had seven hits in six games for a .304/.320/.348 line, and his countryman Brandon Valenzuela had one of his better weeks at the plate in a long time with six hits in six games, three of which were doubles and four walks for a .261/.370/.391 line. (John Conniff)

Lake Elsinore Storm Week in Review (Beat Visalia Rawhide, 5-1)

Jackson Merrill has made plenty of loud contact for Lake Elsinore. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

Top Performers: The Storm returned home after a long road trip and beat up on the Rawhide, winning five of six. … Catcher Juan Zabala led the Storm with a 1.233 OPS, going 7-for-15 in the process. The 23-year-old backstop had four doubles and tied for the team-lead with eight RBI. The former Dodgers farmhand has settled into a role with the Storm, providing solid offense behind the plate. He has amassed 260 plate appearances in the Padres’ system this year which is a new career-high. … Shortstop Jackson Merrill had a nice series hitting .385/.429/.654 with a double, two homers, and eight RBI. The former first-rounder has been excellent for the Storm this season, when healthy. He broke his wrist earlier in the year then missed additional time with a minor hamstring issue. He struck out just four times in 28 plate appearances against the Rawhide. … 13th-rounder Graham Pauley continues to hit well in his pro debut. The Duke product hit .333/.520/.556 with a double, a homer, six walks, and just two strikeouts. In two weeks in the Cal League, Pauley has an excellent .997 OPS.

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Outfielder Samuel Zavala went 6-for-19 with a double, a homer, and a pair of stolen bases. The 18-year-old has performed capably since being promoted to Lake Elsinore, producing league-average offense and a solid 14.7% walk-rate. … Marcos Castañon had a quiet series for the Storm. The power-hitting third baseman hit .190/.370/.333 with a homer. He did draw five walks in the process. With a week left in the regular season, Castañon will look to add on to his career-high home run total. He has 22 this season. … After Craig Stammen worked a rehab inning Tuesday, righty Duncan Snider came in and fired 6.2 innings. Snider earned his sixth win of the season as he allowed just one run on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and he struck out eight. The 24-year-old has a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings with Lake Elsinore. (Kevin Charity)

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.

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