MadFriars Player of the Week: INF Graham Pauley, Lake Elsinore
It was another excellent week for Pauley, as the Storm third baseman led the team to a series sweep in Visalia. Pauley went 7-for-20 with a double, a homer and six RBI. However, those numbers don’t show the overall impact Pauley had. He walked eight times in 28 plate appearances, striking out just once. Overall, Pauley led the club with a 1.102 OPS last week. His torrid series capped off an amazing April for Pauley. The former Duke Blue Devil finished off the month hitting .371/.482/.557 with a pair of homers.
MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: LHP Jackson Wolf, San Antonio
For the second time this month, Jackson Wolf was the top organizations’ pitching performer. Wolf threw last Wednesday and dominated Northwest Arkansas. The former West Virginia hurler earned the victory, completing five innings. Wolf allowed a run on four hits, walking one and striking out ten, a season-high for Padres prospects. Over his last nine innings, Wolf has punched out 18 hitters. Aside from a clunker in his second start, the 24-year-old lefty has pitched well. In 15.2 innings this season, he has struck out 26 hitters, relying on a bit of a velocity jump since last year while continuing to keep hitters off-balance with a funky delivery that can make picking up the ball a real challenge.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Won series over Salt Lake City Bees 4-2)
Top Performers: The Chihuahuas enjoyed their return to the Sun City as nine players hit .290 or above. Yorman Rodriguez, 25, saw action in four games at catcher and one as a designated hitter and slashed .471/.500/.647 with three doubles and three RBI. For the month, he hit .364/.410/.546, seeing most of his time at third base in the field and increased playing time with Brett Sullivan on the big club. As we’ve written here many times, Rodriguez can hit; it’s just a case of finding a defensive position. In eight minor league seasons and 2,145 career plate appearances, he owns a slash line of .310/.357/.436. … Julio Teheran, 32, had the best start in a week when the ball was flying in El Paso, giving up three earned runs in 6.2 innings with seven strikeouts against a walk. For the month, he was 2-2 with a 6.84 ERA in 25 innings with 29 strikeouts against nine walks and 34 hits.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: There were many players to choose from offensively; one who stood out was Preston Tucker, 32, the older brother of Houston Astros star Kyle Tucker, who hit .471/.500/.471 with eight singles and four walks. He is primarily a left fielder in the outfield but has occasionally played some right. He has three years of experience with the Astros, Atlanta, and the Reds with a .222/.281/.403 line in 651 plate appearances. … Recently signed shortstop Jose Iglesias got off to a great start in his first four games with three doubles, two RBI, and a pair of walks in 18 plate appearances to go along with several strong defensive plays. … Tim Lopes continued to pound the ball with seven hits in five games, including a double and a home run. For April, he led the team with 33 hits in 25 games for a .327/.409/.545 line. … Hard-throwing righthander Angel Felipe got into three games and only gave up a single run with four strikeouts in 3.2 innings against a pair of walks and two hits. Felipe has a very long arm action and can sometimes not control his offspeed, but he can also deliver the ball at 100 mph, so there is something to pay attention to. (John Conniff)
San Antonio Missions (Split series with Northwest Arkansas Naturals 3-3)
Top Performers: Wolf wasn’t the only Missions starter to shine against the Naturals. Righty Efrain Contreras worked around three walks in five scoreless, hitless innings. The 23-year-old, now more than two years beyond his Tommy John surgery, struck out six in what was, by a wide margin, his best outing of the year. The former 40-player roster member shaved more than four runs off his ERA with the effort. … Juan Fernandez, splitting time between third base and catcher, hit a blistering .526/.609/.684 across 29 at-bats, easily leading the Missions offense in most categories for the series. The 24-year-old had 10 hits, including three doubles and is now hitting .487 on the year.
Top Prospects and Other Key Prospects: Duncan Snider worked with traffic on the bases all game, but allowed just one run in 4.1 innings of work in his start. The 25-year-old righty has walked a tightrope all season, posting a solid 3.31 ERA despite a 1.78 WHIP. … Kevin Kopps had maybe his best professional week out of the bullpen, striking out eight without a walk over five scoreless innings. The 26-year-old has struggled to make his gyro-ball offering play, but is landing it in the zone a bit more consistently to draw more swings-and-misses when it’s off the plate. … Nolan Watson turned in a club-high eight innings over a pair of outings – one start and one relief – in the series. The righty gave up his first earned run of the season and now sports a 0.53 ERA. … At the plate, Pedro Castellanos went .333/.379/.481 for the week while starting all six games. The minor league free agent signee continues to dig back from a rough first week in the system and now has his OPS up to .714 on the year. … Outfielder Daniel Johnson went 6-for-21 and matched Fernandez with five runs scored. (David Jay)
Fort Wayne TInCaps (lost series to Great Lakes Loons 1-5)
Top Performers: Several top prospects had another disappointing week in Fort Wayne as the club narrowly avoided a sweep by the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate. … Lefty Bodi Rascon worked five scoreless innings and struck out a season-high six batters. The 22-year-old Texan has fought his command at times early in the season, but after allowing just two hits last Tuesday, opponents are hitting just .194 against him on the year. … Garrett Hawkins gave up one earned run in his start, just as he had in his two other appearances this season. The righty from Saskatchewan struck out five over four innings and lowered his ERA on the season to 2.45. … Offensively, outfielder Joshua Mears paced the club with a .923 OPS and was the only TinCaps hitter with multiple extra-base hits even though he only had 13 at-bats on the week as he collected a pair of home runs and now has a share of the the club lead with three. In typical Mears fashion, he also struck out seven times in four games bringing his season total to 27 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: While it was a tough week, even with Adam Mazur out of commission and newly-promoted Jesus Gonzalez hitting the IL, the starters remained the strength of the team. Righthander Jairo Iriarte once again racked up six strikeouts in his start. However, due to three walks and four hits allowed, Iriarte was unable to go more than three innings. … Victor Lizarraga gave up a pair of runs over four innings without a walk and Ryan Bergert worked five innings of two-run ball but didn’t get any support from the offense. … Aaron Holiday remains a strong force out of the bullpen. The righty threw three innings over a pair of outings, allowing one earned run while striking out three. … No batter found consistent success all week. After missing nearly a week with an illness, Jackson Merrill went just 2-for-21 in the series. More troublesome was that Merrill, who had been the hardest batter in the league to strike out before missing time, struck out six times after his return. … Center fielder Jakob Marsee had three hits, all singles, over six games, but drew seven more walks to fuel a .385 on-base percentage. The Central Michigan alum swiped two bases and now has seven on the season out of the leadoff spot. … Brandon Valenzuela made only three starts on the week, but by picking up two hits in Sunday’s game, including his first home run of the season, posted a .222/.364/.556 line in 11 plate appearances. A month into the season, the switch-hitting catcher has an .845 OPS. (Ben Davey)
Lake Elsinore Storm (swept series at Visalia Rawhide, 6-0)
Top Performers: It’s safe to say the Storm have the number of the Visalia Rawhide. After the Storm cruised into Valley Strong Ballpark and throttled the Rawhide all week long, they are now 9-0 this season against Visalia and 16-5 overall. Despite the hot start, the Storm only have a one-game lead over second-place Rancho Cucamonga, who they will play at The Diamond this week. … Last week, we speculated that outfielder Samuel Zavala could be ready to break out after he put together some good at-bats in the series against Modesto. The 18-year-old outfielder did exactly that, posting his best series of the season, hitting .368/.500/.579 with a double, a homer, and a team-high eight RBI. On the basepaths, Zavala stole a pair of bags in two attempts. The hot stretch pushed Zavala’s overall slash-line of .212/.364/.348 to just above league average. Zavala’s K-rate and walk rate in 2023 are very similar to what he produced in his brief Cal League stint last season. … On the mound, the Storm received several excellent outings from their league-best pitching staff. The best work came on Saturday night from righty Manuel Castro. The 20-year-old threw a career-high six innings and didn’t allow a run. He allowed two hits and struck out three. The 5-foot-8 righty struggled in his first pass at the Cal League last summer, but he’s been fantastic out of the gate for the Storm in 2023. In 14 innings with Lake Elsinore, he has a 1.29 ERA.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: Infielder Rosman Verdugo had a quiet series for the Storm, hitting .176/.348/.294. The infielder has hit well with runners in scoring position this year but has struggled a bit in his first exposure to full-season baseball. He finished April with a .221/.308/.368 slash-line – 10 percent below league average. … While his overall numbers don’t stand out, outfielder Kai Murphy has been a very steady contributor for Lake Elsinore. Murphy went 8-for-22 with a double for the Storm in their series win. His .826 OPS ranked fourth on the club. The former Arizona State Sun Devil signed with the Padres as an undrafted free agent last year. He’s been part of the rotation in the Storm outfield, producing a pair of homers and an impressive wRC+ of 124 in 18 games. … Catcher Anthony Vilar only played in three games against Visalia but when he did, he continued to pound Cal League pitching with a .462/.462/.615 line with two doubles and an RBI. The 24-year-old has been the breakout player of the system after spending all of last year in Fort Wayne as a sparingly-used backup. Through the first full month of the 2023 season, Vilar leads the Cal League with a 1.242 OPS. David Jay caught up with him this week, profiling his prolific first month in the Cal League. … Righthander Henry Baez opened the series on Tuesday with an excellent start, firing five innings while allowing a run on two hits, walking two and striking out seven. The 20-year-old Baez finished April with a 2-0 record and a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings. … Lefthander Jagger Haynes has worked on a starter’s routine albeit with abbreviated outings. On Thursday, Haynes recorded four outs – all via the punchout. Haynes allowed an unearned run and a hit. Haynes has yet to throw more than two innings so far this season but has looked sharp in a small sample. He has a 2.08 ERA in 4.1 innings as he approaches a bump up in his pitch counts on the way back from Tommy John surgery. (Kevin Charity)