Brandon Dixon hit four home runs this week. (Photo: Jorge Salgado)

MadFriars Player of the Week: INF/OF Brandon Dixon, El Paso

It’s certainly not a surprise to see Brandon Dixon mash for the Chihuahuas. After all, he has received five big-league opportunities in the last year because of his excellent production with El Paso. Last week, Dixon assaulted Albuquerque pitching on his way to PCL Player of the Week honors. The bulk of his production came Wednesday, when he hit three homers and drove in eight runs in the victory. In five games on the week, the 31-year-old hit .417/.440/1.083 with four homers and 12 RBI. The veteran slugger is hitting .326/.396/.744 since clearing waivers and rejoining the Chihuahuas.

MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: RHP Anderson Espinoza, El Paso

Anderson Espinoza turned in perhaps the best start of his career on Saturday night. carrying a no-hitter through six innings. The 25-year-old righthander ultimately completed seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, walking one, and striking out five. He also hit a batter. It was the second time in August that Espinoza has thrown seven innings, but doing it in the elevation of Albuquerque is awfully impressive. The former top prospect has a 4.30 ERA in four August starts.

Anderson Espinoza had the best start of his career this week. (Photo: Jorge Salgado)

Chihuahuas (Lost series to Albuquerque Isotopes, 2-4)

Top Performers: The Chihuahuas got some strong production beyond the PCL’s top performers, both at the plate and on the mound. Ray-Patrick Didder, 28, also had a massive week, with seven hits in 14 at-bats and three walks while blasting a pair of home runs. The Aruba native, who was in the Miami Marlins organization last year, is hitting much better with the Chihuahuas at .282/.417/.526 than his .198 batting average and .687 OPS to open the year in Double-A. … El Paso got some strong showings from their bullpen, with Kevin Kopps, 26, leading the charge. The righty, who was promoted from San Antonio last week, was strong in his first two appearances in Triple-A, striking out five in three scoreless innings with just one walk. The Padres’ third-round pick in 2021 has posted a 2.50 ERA with 72 strikeouts across 57.2 innings this year.

Top Prospects and Others of Note: The Chihuahuas had five players who played at least four games in the series post an OPS of 1.000 or more. Third baseman Jantzen Witte33, who continues to have a solid year, had a .947 slugging percentage with three home runs and two doubles in 20 plate appearances. … Tirso Ornelas, 23, who returned to El Paso for the second time this year, had a batting average of .556 in 21 plate appearances to go along with three doubles. Finally, Oscar Mercado, 28, continued to push to get back to the big leagues, collecting three multi-hit games and a pair of triples on his way to a 1.008 OPS. … Ray Kerr, 28, continued to be extremely tough to hit in Triple-A, with a save and was unscored upon in two one-inning appearances, each with three strikeouts against only a single hit and no walks. On the year in El Paso, he has 41 strikeouts in 33 innings against 15 walks with a 2.45 ERA. (John Conniff)

Missions (Lost series to Midland Rockhounds, 2-4)

Top Performers:  In many ways, last week was the Jackson Merrill Show in San Antonio. With a steal of home and a massive home run on Thursday, the Padres’ top prospect made headlines, and by playing left field, he made news in San Diego about a possible call-up sooner rather than later. Merrill was the only Missions player to post an OPS above .800 in the series, logging an impressive 1.270 mark to go along with a .400 batting average, two home runs, and a double in 20 at-bats. In 125 at-bats with San Antonio, Merrill is batting .312 with a .883 OPS and four home runs. … On the mound, Ryan Bergert tossed five-plus scoreless innings in his start in the series, allowing only two hits and two walks while striking out four. The 23-year-old righty has struck out 30 batters in 27 innings to go along with a 3.00 ERA since being promoted to San Antonio on July 14. 

Ryan Bergert. (Photo: Joe Alexander)

Top Prospects and Others of Note:  In a very tough week at the plate for the Missions, the only other player who had a decent go of it was Justin Farmer, who went 3-for-10 in the series with three walks and a pair of stolen bases, earning a .762 OPS. Unfortunately, this was Farmer’s swan song with the Missions, as he was released Monday after slashing .157/.202/.202 in 89 at-bats since being promoted from Fort Wayne. … Veteran lefty Daniel Camarena tossed three scoreless innings in his start, allowing two hits, walking one, and hitting a batter while striking out one. In 62.1 innings for San Antonio this year, Camarena is 1-6 with a 6.79 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 16 walks. … Gabe Mosser threw five scoreless innings in his lone start in the series, allowing four hits while walking one and striking out four. The 27-year-old righty is 0-2 with a 4.66 ERA in six appearances (five starts) for the Missions, striking out 13 and walking six in 19.1 innings. (Mark Wilkens)

 TInCaps (Won series against Dayton Dragons 4-2)

Jakob Marsee now has Fort Wayne in his rearview mirror. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Top Performers: After winning the MWL Player of the Week award two weeks ago, Graham Pauley hit three more home runs over his last four games. Pauley surged to tie for the team lead with 16 home runs on the season in just 45 games. His production with Fort Wayne was good enough for a .329 ISO and a league-leading 169 wRC+. Pauley finished his final week in Fort Wayne, going 10-for-23, with a pair of doubles, three homers, and a .435/.458/.783 line. … After allowing five runs over three innings on August 10, Victor Lizarraga returned to have arguably his best start of the year. The 19-year-old did not allow a run over six innings. He struck out five while allowing only one free pass. While Lizarraga only tops out at about 92 mph, he makes up for it with an excellent slider/change combo that keeps hitters constantly guessing. Lizarraga earned just his second win since June 4.

Robby Snelling has kept rolling with Fort Wayne. (Photo: Adam Gaddy)

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Last week’s Midwest League Player of the Week,Jakob Marsee, collected four more multi-hit games to give him nine in the last 12 games. He ended the week 9-for-25, with two doubles, two home runs, and three walks for a .360/.429/.680 line. Marsee, one of a wave of players moving up to San Antonio this week, leaves High-A as the league-leader wit 91 runs, a .413 on-base percentage and 87 walks, second with 109 hits, third with 41 stolen bases, and 11th on the circuit with 13 home runs. … As surprising as Ethan Salas‘s promotion to Double-A was, he did have more success in his second and final week with Fort Wayne. The left-handed hitting catcher reached base safely in all five games, collecting five hits and walking twice. Salas will leave Fort Wayne with a .200/.243/.229 line over nine games. … Robby Snelling finished his tenure with the TinCaps with another fine performance. He allowed two runs over six innings, striking out seven. He has 27 strikeouts over his last four starts (22 innings) and allowed more than two earned runs just once in his seven starts with Fort Wayne. After posting a 1.57 ERA and 10.28 K/9 in Lake Elsinore, he had a 2.34 ERA and a 10.4 K/9 with Fort Wayne. … In his final week in High-A, Nathan Martorella did not light the world on fire as he had hoped. August has been his worst month of the year, hitting .169/.315/.271. On the positive side, he did reach base seven times over the last four games with four walks and two doubles. Despite not hitting a home run all month, Martorella leaves the MWL just two off the league lead.  …  Nerwilian Cedeno had six hits on the week, none bigger than Wednesday’s walk-off three-run home run. The 21-year-old would collect another homer on Sunday and finished the week batting .250/.345/.583. After struggling to stay healthy all year, the switch-hitting infielder seems to be finally coming into his own and is hitting .271/.386/.414 in August. … After having his worst professional start on August 11, Austin Krob rebounded nicely. The TCU product struck out seven over 5.1 innings of one-run ball. It was the sixth time in eight starts with Fort Wayne that he has allowed two runs or less in a start. In his first full year in the minors, Krob has a 2.87 ERA in 91 innings between Low and High-A.  … Recently promoted starter Henry Baez was roughed up in his first High-A outing. He allowed five earned runs over 4.1 innings. He had been Lake Elsinore’s best pitcher going 7-3 with a 3.24 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 83.1 innings.  … David Morgan got in his first game after being promoted from Lake Elsinore. He tossed a perfect 2.1 innings striking out three.  …. Flame-throwing Cole Paplham entered three games in his first week in High-A. He tossed three scoreless innings picking up a save on Friday. Between Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne, the undrafted free agent has only allowed one earned run since July 19. (Ben Davey)

Storm (Won series against Inland Empire, 4-2)

Top Performers: So, you are saying there is a chance? The Storm swept a doubleheader on Saturday to pull within four games of a playoff spot. With 18 games left, the Storm hit the road this week with six games in Rancho Cucamonga. After that, they return to finish the home portion of their schedule before ending the season with six games at Inland Empire. If the Storm are going to repeat as California League champions, they will have some control over their fate down the stretch. … At the plate, the Storm offense was paced by Griffin Doersching, who led the club with a 1.078 OPS in his final week in the Cal League. The 25-year-old had eight hits in the series, including four doubles. In 23 plate appearances, Doersching struck out just twice. After striking out at least 23 times in the first three months of the season, the first baseman has punched out just 25 times since July 1. If you subtract Doersching’s miserable April, when he hit just .147/.266/.250, Doersching has produced a solid wRC+ of 127 for the Storm this year. … After struggling in the desert, righthander Enmanuel Pinales has made the most of his opportunity in the Cal League. Pinales started one of the games on Saturday and kept Inland Empire off-balance. The 22-year-old threw six innings and allowed just one run on six hits, striking out five without allowing a walk. Pinales is a bit of a late bloomer; he signed with the Padres as an international free agent in January of 2022, soon before his 21st birthday. In six outings (three starts) with the Storm, Pinales has produced a 1.83 ERA. 

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Outfielder Tyler Robertson found his stroke in his final week as a member of the Storm after a slow start to August. Against Inland Empire, Robertson hit .267/.300/.600 with a homer, a triple, and six RBI. In 56 games with the Storm, Robertson hit .265/.355/.417 overall. … Samuel Zavala also delivered solid production for the Storm. The 19-year-old outfielder posted a .796 OPS for the week, including a double and a home run. Zavala also drew four walks in six games in the series and leads the league with 89 walks this season. … After an electrifying first week in full-season ball, 2023 fourth-rounder Homer Bush, Jr. had a quiet series against the 66ers. Bush hit.238/.238/.286 in five games with a double and three stolen bases. …Dylan Lesko pitched well again Friday night, but this time he took the hard-luck loss for his effort. He pitched four innings and allowed just one run. He walked three and struck out five before giving way to the bullpen. In his final two starts as a member of the Storm, Lesko tossed eight innings, allowing just one run. He walked four and struck out 12. (Kevin Charity)

ACL Padres (2-3 on the week)

Top Performers: In the final full week of the complex league, no Padres hitter came to the plate more than 15 times. However, in limited action, Daniel Montesino went 5-for-12 with a double and a pair of walks for a 1.000 OPS. The 19-year-old corner outfielder/first baseman has had a generally disappointing campaign as he returns from 2022 Tommy John surgery, hitting just .248/.329/.324 across 42 games and never really came close to working his way out of the desert. The Venezuela native, who posted the DSL club’s best slugging percentage in a decade in 2021, has yet to homer in his stateside debut and has struck out 25% of the time. The strong finish could be important as Montesino looks to rebuild his status. … Righty Jonney Rosario spun four scoreless innings of relief to pick up a win Saturday. The undersized righty struck out four while allowing just a pair of hits in the best outing of his first stateside season. The 19-year-old has struck out 39 in 33.2 innings while showing bigger velocity than he did across two seasons in the DSL.

Top Prospects and Other Key Performers: First rounder Dillon Head connected on his first professional homer, but otherwise had a quiet week going 3-for-14 with one walk. The lefthanded outfielder completed his complex league stint with an .884 before becoming the first high school pick from this year’s first round to get sent to full-season ball. … Alain Camou only got into two games on the week, but had a pair of 2-for-3 showings. The 19-year-old, who has a contact-first approach from the left side, goes into the season finale with an .749 OPS. … Aldo Leija, 19, one of last year’s standouts on the mound for the DSL squad, finally worked his way back to game action twice in the final week as he recovered from an early-season injury. The righty from Mexico gave up just one hit over three innings while striking out four. Watch for the club to try to get him some offseason work to prepare for the 2024 campaign. … After missing one turn through the rotation, Zack Qin worked a scoreless inning of relief in his final appearance of the year. The 18-year-old lefty finishes his debut campaign with 34 strikeouts and 33 hits allowed in 32 innings.

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