MadFriars Player of the Week: INF Brandon Dixon, El Paso
It’s really not a surprise that Brandon Dixon was promoted from San Antonio to El Paso and continued to hit. After all, the 30-year-old has amassed about a season’s worth of plate appearances at the big league level. He’s also produced a solid .841 OPS in 198 games at the Triple-A level in past years. But last week in El Paso was bonkers, even for a player with big league experience. The former Tiger and Red went 11-for-28 with four homers, 13 RBI, and a 1.415 OPS. All three stats led the Padres’ system for the week. The veteran was perhaps miscast this season in Double-A, and when healthy, he dominated, hitting 10 homers in 25 games. Since moving up the PCL, his overall numbers (.375/.446/.804) are actually better than they were in the Texas League.
MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: RHP Henry Henry, San Antonio
The 23-year-old righty got the Missions close to history last Wednesday when he fired five no-hit innings. The bullpen couldn’t hold onto the no-hitter, which would have been San Antonio’s third of the season. Henry did walk five, but kept Springfield hitters off-balance all day and earned the victory for his efforts. Henry has transitioned back into the rotation, and the overall results have been excellent. Henry has a 2-1 record with a 3.44 ERA in nine starts. In contrast, he pitched to a 6.57 ERA in 24 relief outings this season. The 6-foot-5 hurler has always shown tantalizing hints of velocity and spin, but rarely for extended times since coming stateside for the first time in 2016.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Beat Albuquerque 6-1, including a doubleheader sweep)
Top Performers: With just over two weeks to go, the Chihuahuas climbed into a first place tie. The offense scored 61 runs in the seven games series, scoring at least six runs in every game. … CJ Hinojosa had 10 hits on the week. More impressively he had three straight two hit games starting Wednesday and all six of those hits were doubles. By contrast, he had six doubles in all of August. … Kyle Martin had 12 hits in the seven game series. He had two doubles and a home run on the week. In September Martin is hitting .368/.415/.632. Despite not signing with the organization until June, he has 15 homers on the year.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: Chihuahua’s de facto ace, right-hander Pedro Avila, had another strong start. He tossed five innings allowing two runs and striking out four. This was his fifth straight start allowing two or fewer runs. … Michel Baez faced five batters this week and struck out four of them. He has not allowed a run in seven of his last eight appearances. … Lefty Jay Groome made two starts. After being wild but striking out six over five innings in his first start, he was knocked around on Sunday. In 10 innings this week, Groome allowed six runs on 14 hits, walking seven and striking out eight. … Ryan Weathers has pitched out of the bullpen the past few weeks, but his season-long struggles have continued. In two appearances this week, Weathers allowed five earned runs on seven hits over three innings. He is now sitting at a 6.85 ERA for the year. (Ben Davey)
San Antonio Missions (Split series at Springfield Cardinals 3-3)
Top Performers: After splitting their penultimate series of the season, San Antonio sits at 29-34, last in their division for the second half. They are nonetheless preparing for the postseason after winning the first half. Their trip to Springfield was driven offensively by Connor Hollis, who has returned from a brief promotion to El Paso with two goals in mind: a batting title, and a championship. His performance last week, batting .474 in 19 at-bats with a home run and seven runs batted in has him on his way to one of those goals, with a .332 average on the season that gives him an eight-point cushion among eligible batters. … It was an encouraging week for Joshua Mears, who slashed .364/.440/.591 in 22 at-bats with a home run. It has been an adventure in 2022 for Mears, who has played in Fort Wayne, Peoria, and San Antonio while mashing home runs and striking out at an equally awe-inducing pace. … Yorman Rodriguez mashed a pair of home runs and struck out only three times in 24 at-bats, batting .292 with a .929 OPS, playing a solid first base and providing a powerful bat to match.
On the mound, Brandon Komar struck out eight batters in 5.2 innings, earning the win in his start while allowing one earned run on four hits. Komar is 4-4 with a 6.45 ERA since arriving in San Antonio via promotion from Fort Wayne. … Jordan Guerrero is back on the mound after surgery last summer, and struck out four over two scoreless appearances, totaling two innings with only one baserunner via walk.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: Jorge Oña had a solid week at the plate, mashing a home run and going 6-for-18 (.333) at the plate while driving in five runs. … Tirso Ornelas wasn’t as fortunate on the road trip, going 4-for-22 (.182) with a double, walking three times while striking out twice. … Jackson Wolf allowed six runs (five earned) in five innings, walking three and striking out five in his Double-A debut. (Mark Wilkens)
Fort Wayne TinCaps Week in Review: (Lost at Lake County Captains 2-3)
Top Performers: Brandon Valenzuela, 21, only played in three of the TinCaps’ five games (Sunday’s scheduled season finale was rained out), but he was a force with five hits, three of them for home runs. Although he hit more home runs (10) than he has in his four-year career, it was a down year offensively for the native of Hermosillo, Mexico. The good news is he ended September with his best numbers at .286/.355/.643 in 31 plate appearances. … Efraín Contreras, 22, also ended his season strong, throwing six shutout innings with six strikeouts against four walks and scattering four singles. On the season, Contreras, who is from El Paso’s cross-border sister city Ciudad Juarez, was put on the 40-man roster last winter. He missed all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery and had difficulty with his command this season, posting a 5.91 ERA in 53.1 innings, giving up 64 hits but also striking out 64 against 25 walks.
Top Prospects of Note: Agustin Ruiz, 22, continued his late surge with a solid final week with six hits in five games, including a double and a pair of home runs. He started the year in San Antonio and was sent back to the Summit City after hitting .237/.352/.382 for the Missions. He struggled mightily for the first six weeks after the demotion, but rebounded to finish the year with a line of .224/.328/.405 in Fort Wayne. Last season he posted a .809 OPS for the TinCaps. He finished strong in nine September games with 12 hits, four of them for extra bases. … Switch-hitter Josttin Diaz, 20, had five hits in five games, including a pair of home runs and two walks. Diaz only played third base and was at designated hitter for one game after joining Fort Wayne, but played all around the infield in the ACL this season, where he hit .246/.317/.413. … Two late-season call-ups from the Storm had their best outings with the TinCaps led by lefty Bodi Rascon, who threw six innings with six strikeouts against no walks and only allowed a solo home run. Rascon signed for an over-slot bonus in 2019, and the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Texas is beginning to grow into his body. Canadian right-hander Garrett Hawkins, also 6-foot-5, and a solid 235-pounds, also had his best High-A outing striking out four against no walks, but most importantly, needed only 72 pitches to get through six innings. He carried a shutout through the first five frames before getting tagged for three runs in his final inning. (John Conniff)
Lake Elsinore Storm Week in Review (Won at Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 5-1)
Top Performers: The Storm completed the regular season by winning five of six against the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate. The series win means the Storm will finish the 132-game regular season with a 77-55 record. They begin a best-of-three playoff series against Inland Empire on Tuesday. … Outfielder Samuel Zavala finished the regular season on a positive note. The left-handed hitting outfielder went 8-for-23 in the six-game set, connecting on a double, a triple, three homers, and six RBI. Zavala paced the Lake Elsinore offense with a 1.381 OPS for the week. The 18-year-old will finish the regular season with an impressive .254/.355/.508 slash-line – good for 18 percent above league average. The young outfielder has established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in the Padres’ system. … First baseman Nathan Martorella played in five games, hit a pair of homers, and drove in four runs. The left-handed hitting Martorella was the Padres’ fifth-round draft pick in July, out of the University of California-Berkeley. He has shown some power in his short time in the system and a good eye at the plate. He walked in 16.7% of his plate appearances with the Storm with a solid 20% K-rate. … Outfielder Jakob Marsee had a nice series, hitting .250/.379/.542 with two homers, three RBI, and seven stolen bases. The former Central Michigan outfielder posted an impressive .209 ISO in his short time in Lake Elsinore, in addition to 12 stolen bases. … Right-hander Matt Boswell made a pair of outings out of the bullpen and pitched four scoreless innings in the process. Boswell allowed just one hit and a walk, striking out five. In his pro debut with the Storm, the former South Alabama pitcher struck out 17 batters in 16.2 innings.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: The fact that the Storm won their series against Rancho Cucamonga despite slow weeks from infielders Marcos Castañon and Jackson Merrill is a testament to the depth of their lineup. … Castañon hit just .150/.261/.350 with a homer and nine strikeouts in 21 plate appearances. The 23-year-old infielder finished the regular season with 23 homers with the Storm – the most by any Low-A player in 2022. We profiled Castañon’s successful season earlier today. … Jackson Merrill had a solid OPS of .812, but that ranked sixth among Storm hitters that received playing time. Merrill had a double, a triple, and four walks in the series against Rancho. The infielder from Maryland will finish his first full professional regular season with a .325/.387/.482 slash-line. … Right-hander Victor Lizarraga finished the regular season on a high note, as he won his final regular season start of the season. Lizarraga completed 5.1 innings and allowed a run on six hits, striking out six without walking a batter. After a poor outing on August 13 against the Quakes, the 18-year-old bounced back, allowing just four earned runs over his last 17.1 innings. The right-hander seems like a good bet to get the ball on Thursday in game two of the Storm’s playoff series against Inland Empire. (Kevin Charity)