MadFriars Player of the Week: C/DH Ethan Salas, Lake Elsinore
Ethan Salas continues to be a revelation with the Storm, and has certainly lived up to the enormous hype surrounding the 17-year-old. He kept up the hot hitting in Northern California, going 10-for-24 with a double, three homers, and six RBI. Last week’s series was the proverbial cherry on top of an amazing month for the young catcher. Salas finished July with a ridiculous .366/.416/.720 slash-line with seven homers. His 1.136 OPS nearly doubled the .632 mark he produced in June. The Padres have split Salas between catcher and designated hitter and the results have been remarkable thus far. Among all Cal League hitters with 200 plate appearances this year, Salas’s .912 OPS ranks fifth.
MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: LHP Austin Krob, Fort Wayne
While Robby Snelling has deservedly received a fair share of attention this summer, lefthander Austin Krob has nearly matched his success. Last week, Krob had the best outing of any pitcher in the system, tying a career high with seven innings pitched. He didn’t allow a run and West Michigan notched just four hits against him. The stellar outing lowered his ERA in five starts since his promotion to High-A to an even 2.00. The 23-year-old, drafted out of Texas Christian in the 12th round last year, is slightly outperforming his peripherals, but with just a 7% walk rate, he’s been quite effective for both the Storm and TinCaps this year.
Chihuahuas (Swept series from Round Rock Express 6-0)
Top Performers: The Chihuahuas got a lot of offense, with seven players posting an OPS of 1.000 or better, but they also got plenty of good pitching as they swept the Texas Rangers affiliate. … Recently acquired outfield Ben Gamel, 31, had a big week with nine hits and four home runs for a .450 batting average and a 1.572 OPS in 23 plate appearances. On the season between El Paso and Tampa’s Triple-A Durham affiliate, the Florida native is hitting .282/.401/.494 in 295 plate appearances with 26 extra-base hits and 13 home runs. Defensively, the left-hander is a corner outfielder who has experimented playing first base this year. … On the mound, Jay Groome, 24, had his best week of 2023. In two starts, the lefty threw 11.2 innings with 14 strikeouts and only allowed four walks. He was a little hittable, yielding 11 hits, but he still only gave up four earned runs. On the season, Groome has thrown 100.1 frames for the Chihuahuas, leading the club by more than 20 innings. After posting ERAs of 8.63 in May (24 innings pitched) and 10.13 in June (24 innings pitched), he has a 3-0 record in July with a 3.77 ERA in 28.2 innings as he works to put himself back in the conversation for a spot start in the big leagues.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: Eguy Rosario, 23, had a big week with a .462 batting average and a pair of home runs, with six hits and four walks for a .588 on-base percentage. So far as he’s worked back from injury this year, he’s mainly seen time at third and second base, with one game at shortstop. … Oscar Mercado, 28, another midyear minor league signee, had a big week with a 1.023 OPS. Mercado is another potential outfield corner option the Padres may have from the right side. … Brett Sullivan, 29, was 4-for-7 with a pair of walks in two games with the Chihuahuas before being recalled to the big club. The left-handed hitting catcher will allow San Diego to play Luis Campusano and Gary Sanchez on the same day, and he also has experience playing third base and left field. … On the mound, Matt Waldron, 26, had a solid start going five innings with seven strikeouts and only allowing two runs. Most impressively, he didn’t allow any walks. … Nolan Watson, 26, allowed just one run over his five inning start, with six strikeouts in five innings against just one walk. … Ray Kerr, 28, continued to get outs, picking up a pair of wins and a save in three appearances and three hitless innings of work. He’s appeared in eight games with San Diego this year with a 5.63 ERA, but in the hitter-friendly PCL, he has a 5-0 record and 2.61 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 31 innings against 15 walks. (John Conniff)
Missions (Lost series at Corpus Christi Hooks, 2-4)
Top Performers: It wasn’t a great week for the Missions, as only Marcos Castañon posted an OPS north of .700 with a .238/.333/429 slash line that included a pair of doubles and a triple. Since being promoted from Fort Wayne in mid-July, the UC Santa Barbara product has roughly the same production in his first 15 games in Double-A (.810 OPS) as in 77 games with the TinCaps (.843). … On the mound, right-hander Jose Espada continues to excel in a swingman role for San Antonio. A signee from the American Association after he fell out of affiliated ball to open last year, the 26-year-old has relied on impressive breaking stuff to get plenty of swings and misses. This week he appeared in two games and didn’t allow a run in four and third innings with seven strikeouts against four walks and three hits. On the season, Espada has a 2.55 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 60 innings against 30 walks.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: While he didn’t connect on an extra-base hit and drew just one walk, Jackson Merrill went 8-for-24 and swiped a pair of bases against the Hooks. The talented middle infielder struck out just twice on the week and is carrying a 7.4% strikeout rate since arriving in Double-A. … Ryan Bergert worked a strong outing on Sunday, allowing just one run on three hits over 4.1 innings. The righty needed 74 pitches as he struck out five and walked three. The 23-year-old will need to find a bit more command with his breaking ball to land it for called strikes as he settles into the Texas League. Through his first three outings, he has an 11:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11.1 innings. … Kevin Kopps worked three scoreless outings, picking up a save as he worked around two hits and a walk in his 3.1 innings. The righty had a stellar month out of the Missions bullpen, striking out 14 against just four walks in 11 scoreless innings. Jairo Iriarte, Justin Lopez, and Adam Mazur each had two scoreless relief appearances. (John Conniff and David Jay)
TinCaps (Split series at Western Michigan)
Top Performers: After enduring arguably his worst career outing last week, Robby Snelling delivered one of his best at West Michigan. He tossed a six-inning shutout, didn’t walk a batter, and matched his career high with nine strikeouts. Almost as impressive, Snelling threw only 24 balls over his six innings. This was the first time in his four High-A starts that he did not walk a batter. The 20-year-old lefty has a 2.89 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 18.2 innings since his promotion. Overall, this year Snelling is 7-2, with a 1.92 ERA and 10.4 K/9. … Going into the week, first baseman Nathan Martorella had only two home runs in his last 21 games. He changed that by hitting two against the Whitecaps as five of his six hits on the week went for extra bases. Martorella regained the league lead in home runs with 16. The 22-year-old from the central California coast now has an .861 OPS on the year, good for third in the Midwest League, and has walked almost as often as he has struck out.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: Honorable mention for the week goes to third baseman Graham Pauley who hit three home runs and led the team with seven RBI and seven runs. Pauley, who had four home runs in 62 games in Lake Elsinore, now has nine in his first 27 games for the TinCaps. He leads the team with a .561 slugging percentage. Overall, the 22-year-old is hitting .293/.399/.494 with 13 home runs and 15 stolen bases in his first full year with the organization. … Lefty Bodi Rascon turned in his sixth straight start allowing one earned run or less. This one might have been his best as he did not allow a hit over five innings. He did end up allowing two unearned runs thanks to walks and errors. He finishes the month with a 1.50 ERA over four starts. … The team saw a multitude of players hit the IL, so lefty Miguel Cienfuegos helped by coming back from a rain-shortened started on two days rest. Between the two games, Cienfuegos went 7.1 innings allowing four runs and striking out seven. … After going 0-for-16 last week, infielder Nerwilian Cedeno had a hit in every game this week and eight hits overall. Those hits included two doubles and a home run to salvage his first month back from a wrist injury. … For the first time in his career, Carlos Luis homered in back-to-back games. They were his first home runs in six weeks, but the total brings Luis to just one away from his career high. … Kai Murphy, in the first full week of action after his promotion, had six hits and a walk over his six games. … Jakob Marsee had two hits and stole his team-leading 34th bag on Sunday in the series finale. Those two hits broke a 0-for-20 streak dating back to last week. He did at least walk four times this week. After starting the month on fire, the speedy, center fielder will finish hitting .253/.377/.379 with 10 stolen bases. (Ben Davey)
Storm (won series against the Stockton Ports, 4-2)
Top Performers: The Storm continued their push toward a playoff spot by winning a series in Stockton. At 16-14 in the second half, the Storm are two games behind Inland Empire. … It was another good week for Samuel Zavala, as the now-19-year-old continues to excel offensively in his first full season in the Cal League. The left-handed hitting outfielder hit .381/.519/.571 with a double, a homer, and six RBI. Zavala finished July with a 1.099 OPS and six homers. On the season, Zavala has drawn a league-high 75 walks – 18 more than the next player. … Henry Baez started Thursday night and pitched five solid innings, earning the win in the process. He struggled a bit with command, issuing four walks, but allowed just one hit to go with seven strikeouts. The 20-year-old completed five innings in each of his starts in July and he won each start he made. He finished the month with a 2.81 ERA.
Top Prospects and Others of Note: While Salas has received most of the accolades for Storm catchers this season, Oswaldo Linares has improved greatly since returning for his second stint with the Storm this season. Linares played in four games and posted an .820 OPS in Stockton, trailing just Salas and Zavala among Storm hitters. The 20-year-old has played some second base in order to get his bat in the lineup more frequently. Linares finished July with a solid .304/.448/.413. … The Storm received a couple of reinforcements via the Padres’ 2023 draft class, and one reached an early-career milestone. Infielder Jay Beshears homered Saturday night – the first of his young career. He was drafted in the sixth round, out of Duke University. … Infielder Nik McClaughry, who was drafted in the tenth round of this year’s draft from the University of Arizona, appeared in three games and went hitless. … Righty Dylan Lesko‘s second start as a member of the Storm did not go as well as his first. Lesko allowed three runs in two innings and took the loss. On a positive note, he did punch out four batters for the second consecutive start. After two outings, Lesko has a 5.40 ERA with Lake Elsinore. … Henry Williams took his usual turn on Saturday night and took the loss. Williams worked five innings and allowed three runs on four hits while walking four. The 21-year-old, like Lesko, is in his first season after Tommy John surgery. Williams has struggled a bit with inconsistency. On July 1, he pitched six scoreless innings in a win over Inland Empire. After that start, he allowed 11 earned runs over his next 9.2 innings. The righthander has stayed healthy this year but he will need to find some more consistency over the season’s final full month. (Kevin Charity)
ACL Padres (2-3 for the week)
Top Performers: Yet again, Romeo Sanabria pounded the ball, going 8-for-18 with a double and two more home runs to maintain a share of the league lead with eight on the year. The big lefthanded hitter had a 1.333 OPS for the week, which, remarkably, is only a bit above his 1.150 mark for the season. Now 21 years old, the Florida native would seem to have little left to prove at the lowest level of professional baseball. … Luis Gutierrez turned in one of his best starts yet, allowing just one earned run over five innings of work. The lefty, who turned 20 on Monday, found a new changeup grip earlier this season and has been figuring out how to deploy the pitch more effectively. He’s turned in three strong outings this month, but failed to get out of the first inning in his fourth. Overall, he has struck out a quarter of the batters he’s faced while opponents have a .260 average against him.
Top Prospects and Other Key Contributors: Outfielder Homer Bush, Jr. had a stellar week, going 7-for-19 with a pair of doubles and a homer while striking out only twice. The 21-year-old fourth-rounder swiped a base in each of his five games on the week. … First-rounder Dillon Head made his professional debut Monday night a memorable one as the 18-year-old outfielder from Chicago had a single, double and drew two walks. The Padres slid Bush over to left field in deference to Head, but had him hit ahead of the left-handed batter in the lineup. … Carlos Rodriguez, yet another intriguing catcher in the low minors for the Padres, finished the week 6-for-11 with four walks. Though he had a rough night behind the plate with three throwing errors Monday, the 20-year-old is well-regarded as a receiver as well. … It was a rough week for the pitching staff in Peoria as no other Padre arm worked more than two innings and posted an ERA below six. Lefty Javier Chacon worked a pair of innings allowing just one unearned run as he continues to work his way back from the IL to rejoin the Storm. (David Jay)
[Editor’s Note: In Friday’s Daily, we relied on an incorrect box score that indicated Chacon had thrown four innings. The League has updated the box to reflect Alejandro Lugo‘s work over the final two frames.]