Daniel Johnson enjoyed his first taste of the PCL. (Photo: Jorge Salgado)

MadFriars Player of the Week: OF Daniel Johnson, El Paso

When the Missions began the season, their roster featured a collection of minor-league veterans brought in from outside the organization. As the calendar has shifted to August, all of a sudden, the Missions have the most prospect-rich team in the system. As a result, former big-leaguer Daniel Johnson, who had posted an OPS just over 1.000 since July 1 in the Alamo City, was promoted to El Paso last week. In his first-ever action in the Pacific Coast League, the Vallejo, California native hit the ground running. In six games with the Chihuahuas, Johnson hit .368/.500/.684 with two homers, five RBI, five walks, and a pair of stolen bases. Johnson doesn’t have much of a path to the big leagues with San Diego, but he has shown an excellent speed/power combo in the upper minors this season. 

MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: RHP Bobby Milacki, San Antonio

Typically, the system’s starter with the best outing winds up with the honors here, but Bobby Milacki’s performance out of the Missions’ bullpen deserves recognition. Milacki made two appearances last week and won them both. In the two outings, he pitched a total of seven innings. He allowed one solo homer total, pitching a 1.29 ERA for the week. He didn’t walk anyone, and he notched five strikeouts. Milacki posted a 0.14 WHIP, and opposing batters hit just .048 against him. He also took home the Texas League Pitcher of the Week for his effort. The 26-year-old veteran of several organizations has pitched a career-high 72 innings this year and has reached the upper minors for the first time. He’s gone 5-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 14 appearances (four starts) since being promoted to San Antonio. 

Chihuahuas (Lost to Sacramento River Cats 4-2)

Top Performers: El Paso returned to win the last two after losing the first four games at home. Ray-Patrick Didder, 28, had a .357 batting average with five walks for the week and three stolen bases in as many attempts. The Aruba-born veteran has been the everyday shortstop for the Chihuahuas since his promotion in July, though he logged time at all three outfield spots during his stint with San Antonio. Originally signed by the Braves in 2012, Didder’s .792 OPS for the year is a career high. … Ray Kerr, 28, got in three games, won one, saved another, and extended his Triple-A scoreless outing streak to 14 games. The hard-throwing lefty has held Pacific Coast League hitters to a .189 average on the year.

Ray-Patrick Didder had a solid week offensively. (Photo: Jorge Salgado)

Top Performers and Others of Note: Eguy Rosario, 23, had a walk-off home run and finished the week with a .375 on-base percentage. Three of the six hits he collected went for extra bases. Tirso Ornelas, 23, has gotten a hit in every game with El Paso since he returned to the Sun City and had eight hits with three doubles and a home run in six games for the week. Ornelas currently has a 17-game hitting streak between San Antonio and El Paso. … Aaron Leasher, 27, had another solid start for the Chihuahuas, going five innings and only allowing a single run. As a starter this season, he has a 3.94 ERA in 16 innings compared to a 7.23 ERA coming out of the bullpen in 23.2 frames. (John Conniff)

Missions (Beat Amarillo Sod Poodles 4-2)

Bobby Milacki. (Photo: San Antonio Missions)

Top Performers:  At the plate, the Missions were led by Juan Fernandez, who went 3-for-10, with two of his hits leaving the yard, giving him a hefty 1.317 OPS for the series. After batting .176 in July, Fernandez has bounced back in August, slashing .227/.321/.424 in 66 at-bats. … Ryan Bergert threw six three-hit innings in his lone start of the week and now owns a 2.45 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) for the Missions in 2023. The 23-year-old, who the Padres drafted in the sixth round in 2021, has kept his performance remarkably consistent since his promotion from Fort Wayne, striking out 29% of opposing hitters while seeing only a tiny uptick in his walk rate to 11.9%. Opponents at both levels have hit just .195 against him this year as he prepares to go past 100 innings of work for the second straight year.

Top Prospects and Others of Note:  Among the recent call-ups to San Antonio, none stood out quite like Jakob Marsee, who went 5-for-17 (.294) with a home run and two stolen bases, posting a .949 OPS for the week. The center fielder owns an .843 overall OPS on the 2023 season, but has really turned up the dial in the second half of the year. … Cole Cummings went 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run. In 294 at-bats in 2023, Cummings owns a .669 OPS. … Ethan Salas went 3-for-18 (.167) with a walk-off double in his first taste of Double-A action. …. Jackson Merrill was 5-for-21 (.238) in the series. … Robby Snelling allowed one run in 3.2 innings but ran his pitch count up by walking five batters, cutting his outing short. (Mark Wilkens)

TinCaps (Lost at Great Lakes Loons 4-2)

Top Performers: It was a tough week for many TinCaps with so many promotions and new faces. One bright spot was Austin Krob. The lefty tied his career-high with eight strikeouts and did not walk a batter for the first time since June 6. Over his last two starts, Krob has allowed two runs across 11 innings, striking out 15. With his next appearance, Krob will eclipse the 100-inning mark for the first time (he threw 36 last year between TCU and the Padres). … With the promotion of Nathan Martorella to Double-A, Fort Wayne needed a new run-producing first baseman. In his second game with the club, new first baseman Griffin Doersching hit his first High-A home run and in the four games he was in the TinCaps lineup, Doersching drove in five of the team’s 13 runs. The big 25-year-old did strike out seven times in 16 trips to the plate.

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Dylan Lesko‘s first inning in the Midwest League was something of a wake-up call as the Padres’ top 2022 draft pick gave up four runs before most fans had reached their seats. The 19-year-old rebounded though, making it through three innings and allowing five earned runs on five hits. While he walked two, he struck out six, including the final three hitters he saw on the night. In 24 innings this year, Lesko has 38 strikeouts. … After a rough first start of his own in Fort Wayne, 20-year-old Henry Baez rebounded nicely in his second outing. Despite permitting four baserunners, he did not allow a run over three innings, striking out one. After only throwing 30.2 innings last year in the ACL, Baez is over 90 innings with a 3.47 ERA and 8.74 K/9 at the two Single-A levels this year. … After a dazzling start in Fort Wayne last week, Victor Lizarraga had another tough outing. On the positive side, the 19-year-old did tie his season high with six strikeouts. However, he allowed four runs (three earned) over five innings with three walks. Lizarraga has walked nine batters in 15 innings this month. … With the TinCaps only winning two games in the series, there wasn’t much use for their closer, Cole Paplham. He did pick up the save in his only appearance, striking out two over a scoreless inning. Paplham has not allowed a run since being promoted to Fort Wayne two weeks ago.  … For Samuel Zavala, it was a week to forget. The top outfield prospect in the Padres’ system had 19 plate appearances in his first week in Fort Wayne. While he did walk in 21% of them, he struck out nine times and went hitless in 15 at-bats. Before his promotion, Zavala hit .267/.420/.451 with the Storm. (Ben Davey)

Storm (Split at Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 3-3)

Romeo Sanabria kept up his offensive pace at a new level. (Robert Escalante)

Top Performers: The Storm won both games over the weekend to salvage a series split against the Quakes. With 12 games left in the season, the Storm are five games behind first-place Inland Empire. The two teams will square off in the final series of the year. The Storm will open their last homestand on Tuesday. … The Storm roster has been ravaged by numerous promotions in the second half. However, that has opened up opportunities for other players. Last week, Nick Vogt took advantage of those opportunities. In six games, he went 10-for-24 with four doubles, a triple, and three RBI. The former UCSB outfielder’s 1.129 OPS led the team and pushed his mark for the month to .795. … The Storm’s best pitching performance came from Alejandro Lugo, who pitched well in a pair of outings. On Tuesday, Lugo tossed 2.2 innings and allowed an earned run on four hits. He was much sharper on Sunday, again pitching 2.2 innings. In each outing, he struck out five. In 5.1 innings, he pitched to a 1.69 ERA. 

Top Prospects and Others of Note: After the ACL concluded, the organization finally freed slugger Romeo Sanabria from the desert, and in his first full week in Single-A, he made his mark. The first baseman hit .318/.444/.545 in six games with five doubles and five walks. In 50 games in the ACL, the 21-year-old led the circuit with a 1.060 OPS and 53 RBI. … After a rough series against Inland Empire a few weeks ago, fourth-rounder Homer Bush Jr. bounced back with an excellent series. The former Grand Canyon star went 7-for-22 with two doubles, three runs, five RBI, four RBI, and three stolen bases. Through 16 games with the Storm, Bush has delivered a 120 wRC+. … First-rounder Dillon Head struggled in his Single-A debut. The 18-year-old, drafted in the first round last month, went 2-for-20 with two walks and two RBI. The struggles aren’t surprising or alarming. Head played high school baseball in the Chicago area a few months ago. With 12 games left this season, he should get some advanced seasoning before heading to the instructional league. … Infielder Rosman Verdugo had a quiet week, hitting just .136/.208/.273. After Verdugo posted a .818 OPS in a promising July, he returned to Earth in August. In 20 games this month, the 18-year-old has a meager .532 OPS in his first full season as a professional. (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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