MadFriars Player of the Week:SS Kervin Pichardo, Fort Wayne

Kervin Pirchardo hit .526 this week. (Photo: Adam Gaddy)

Don’t look now, but the Padres may have found something in 21-year-old infielder Kervin Pichardo. The 21-year-old was acquired before last season from the Phillies for reliever James Norwood, who pitched to an 8.31 ERA for Philadelphia before being designated for assignment. Coming into this year, Pichardo was essentially an organizational player, filling holes for affiliates that needed a spare infielder. He even saw time in the outfield with the Storm. This season, he didn’t make a full-season club out of spring training, but he has taken advantage of his opportunity with the TinCaps, which was never more apparent than last week.

Pichardo played all six games, hitting .526/.609/1.053 with three homers, five RBI, four walks, and just two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances. His 1.662 OPS easily led the system for the week. He will get an opportunity to lead the TinCaps to a championship as the Midwest League playoffs start on Tuesday night.

MadFriars Pitcher of the Week: LHP Austin Krob, Fort Wayne

Austin Krob finished the regular season with a bang. (Photo: Adam Gaddy)

On Saturday night, Krob, 23, put the exclamation point on his successful 2023 with another gem. The former TCU pitcher tossed six innings and allowed just one run on three hits. He walked two and struck out seven, earning the victory. The lefthander has enjoyed a breakout campaign that saw him dominate in Lake Elsinore and pitch well in Fort Wayne. In 109.1 innings between the two stops, Krob pitched to a 2.72 ERA. He allowed just five homers all year, with three coming in one start.

Chihuahuas (Split Series with the Round Rock Express, 3-3)

Top Performers: Daniel Johnson, 27, had another big week with nine hits in six games, five that went for extra bases, including one home run, and a pair of walks for a .429 on-base percentage and a 1.069 OPS. Johnson, who is from Vallejo, California, attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before transferring to New Mexico State, where he was drafted in the fifth round in 2016 by the Washington Nationals. The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder has had a few brief stints in the big leagues and is hitting much better in 75 plate appearances in El Paso than he did in 412 with the Missions; He owns a .991 OPS in the PCL compared to a .772 mark with San Antonio. … Lefty Aaron Leasher, 27, earned his third victory of the year by throwing five innings without allowing an earned run. In six starts and 26 innings, Leasher has a 3.81 ERA compared to a 7.23 line as a reliever in 23.2 frames.

Aaron Leasher continues to shine as a starter. (Photo: Jorge Salgado)

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Tim Lopes continues to put up solid numbers, hitting .375 with an on-base percentage of .464 to go along with five stolen bases in as many attempts. On the season, he has stolen 42 bases in 50 attempts, tied for the Pacific Coast League lead. … Tirso Ornelas continued his hot streak in the PCL with eight hits in six games, including his first triple of the year and three doubles. He has pushed his OPS with El Paso up to .829. … Taylor Kohlwey continues to do what he has done in four seasons with El Paso: hit. This week, Kohlwey had a .985 OPS with seven hits in six games.  In 1,465 plate appearances in Triple-A, he owns a slash line of .298/.389/.445. … Jose Espada continued to shine on the mound and didn’t allow a run in his one start and one relief appearance, logging five innings with seven strikeouts against three walks. On the season, the Puerto Rican right-hander has a 2.82 ERA between San Antonio and El Paso. … Jay Groome made it through 5.1 innings and only allowed two hits and two runs while keeping his walks to a somewhat respectable four against seven strikeouts. In the year, he has made 28 starts for the Chihuahuas and thrown 126.2 innings with an 8.31 ERA. Groome’s best month was in July, where he made five starts in 28.2 innings with a 3.77 ERA, but in August, he had one of his worst with a 9. 4. (John Conniff)

Missions (Lost Series at Midland 2-4)

Top Performers: Cole Cummings paced the Missions’ offense in the series, as five of his six hits went for extra bases. With three doubles and a pair of home runs, his .6-for-22 week was good for a 1.067 OPS; Cummings, a 2021 undrafted free agent, is slashing .276/.382/.724 in 29 at-bats in September. He hadn’t topped a .700 OPS in any previous month this season. … On the mound, Gabe Mosser collected a win with five scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking one while scattering five hits. The 27-year-old righty spent the first two months of the year on the IL. Since returning to action for the Missions in July, he owns a 4.41 ERA in 34.2 innings.

Top Prospects and Others of Note:  Graham Pauley went 7-for-17 (.412) with a pair of doubles in the series. The Duke product is a blistering 11-for-24 (.458) in seven games this month, walking as often as he’s struck out. While his slugging percentage has dropped from the stellar .629 mark he posted for Fort Wayne to a still-solid .508 mark in the Texas League, the 22-year-old has also slashed his strikeout rate to 14%. … Jakob Marsee hit .381 with a home run the week before exiting Saturday’s game and missing the series finale. Marsee owns a healthy .858 OPS in his first 16 games with San Antonio, capping a stellar debut campaign in which he’s stolen 46 bases, reached base at a .413 clip, and provided very good defense in center field. …  Connor Hollis, who has had a challenging run after leading the Texas League with a .333 average last season, went 5-for-11 with a double and triple. He sports a 1.046 OPS for the month. … Jared Kollar threw 5.1 innings and took a hard-luck loss despite allowing only one unearned run in the process. Kollar is 2-2 with a 4.53 ERA in 11 starts since joining the Missions midway through his first professional campaign. … Robby Snelling struck out five in 3.2 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) to earn a no-decision. The teenage lefty has posted a 1.82 ERA across three levels this year, asserting himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the game. … Righty Efrain Contreras had a pair of hitless two-inning appearances in the series as he continues to impress working out of the back of the San Antonio bullpen. The 23-year-old righty is looking to work his way back onto the 40-player roster after getting outrighted during the 2022 campaign. (Mark Wilkens)

TinCaps (Split series @ Dayton Dragons)

Victor Lizarraga delivered down the stretch for Fort Wayne. (Photo: Adam Gaddy)

Top Performers: The TinCaps needed some help but ultimately made the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Henry Baez, 20, is slotted to toe the rubber in Game 1. … With his club needing a victory, Victor Lizarraga shined in the last game of the regular season, striking out six over six scoreless innings. After struggling through the first half of the year, he is ending it on an impressive run, as three of his final four starts have been six-inning shutouts. In his two September outings, Lizarraga has 15 strikeouts to only one walk while holding opposing batters to a .191 average across 12 innings. … With Pichardo cleaning up at the bottom of the TinCaps lineup, Tyler Robertson set the table at the top. Over the six games, Robertson went 10-for-24, including a pair of triples and a home run, and drew two walks for a .417/464/.708 line while collecting his 31st stolen base despite spending nearly two months on the Injured List with a hamstring injury earlier this year. The 23-year-old is hitting .343/.375/.552 in 17 games since joining Fort Wayne, despite a surge in his strikeout rate.

Tyler Robertson continues to make loud contact. (Photo: Adam Gaddy)

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Last year’s top draft pick, Dylan Lesko, hopes the TinCaps’ playoff run lasts long enough for him to get at least one more start. A day after turning 20 on September 7, Lesko labored in his regular-season finale. While he only allowed two hits over four innings and struck out five, he walked six and struggled with command and control. Even with the six walks, he limited the damage to one run. Over his last two starts, batters are hitting .107 off him, while he has 14 strikeouts in nine innings. … When Baez starts the first playoff game in Fort Wayne in six years, he will look to flush the memory of his last start. Baez allowed five runs on six hits in three innings. He has allowed 12 earned runs in 15 innings in four appearances for Fort Wayne. He did face tomorrow’s opponent two weeks ago and had his best High-A outing, not allowing a run over three innings. Across two levels, Baez is 7-3 with a 3.84 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 98.1 innings. … Carter Loewen appeared in two games this week. He earned the win in one and the save in the other. He faced 10 batters in the week and struck out six of them. As he works through his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Loewen has given up just two earned runs on seven hits over 13.1 innings over the last month with an impressive 17:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  … Despite going hitless in the previous two days, Nerwilian Cedeño collected 13 bases over the first four games. He had home runs in back-to-back games, scored three runs, and knocked in six. After missing much of the first half of the year with a wrist injury, the 21-year-old switch hitter has had an up-and-down campaign. … Griffin Doersching has benefitted from the move to High-A. He had six hits and walked four times during the series. Last year’s eighth-round pick has a .906 OPS in his two weeks with the TinCaps after posting a .770 mark with the Storm. His four home runs in 14 games and 151 wRC+ have impressed, but his 40.4% strikeout rate is a warning sign. … Albert Fabian had five hits over five games, including two home runs. The 21-year-old finished with a .242 average of 16 home runs for the second straight season but did shave more than 7% off his K rate this year. … Samuel Zavala missed the final three games of the regular season with an oblique strain and is considered day-to-day. (Ben Davey)

Storm (Lost series to Inland Empire 66ers 4-2)

Top Performers: The Storm entered the final week with a chance to advance to the playoffs, but they lost and were eliminated in the first three games of the series. The club finished the regular season at 63-66. … Despite the series loss, the Storm had several excellent performances offensively, none better than infielder Jay Beshears. The former Duke infielder played in four games, hitting .444/.444/.667 with two doubles, a triple, and five RBI. Beshears, 21, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2023 draft. He will wrap up his first pro season with a .618 OPS. … On the mound, 21-year-old Jose Luis Reyes had an excellent start to complete his first voyage into full-season ball. The Mexicali native started Wednesday’s game and ultimately took the no-decision. He threw 5.2 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Reyes got an opportunity for the Storm thanks to some injuries and promotions; he’s shown flashes of potential. In 37.1 innings with Lake Elsinore, he pitched to a 3.86 ERA. 

Top Prospects and Others of Note: Nik McClaughry had another solid week as he wrapped up his pro debut on a hot streak. The 2023 10th-rounder went 7-for-18 with a pair of doubles and five RBI. He finished the week in San Bernardino with a .955 OPS. The Northern California native delivered a .985 OPS in eight September games. … First baseman Romeo Sanabria put an exclamation on a very good season. The 21-year-old went 4-for-14 with three doubles, resulting in an OPS of .944. The Miami native dominated the competition in the ACL this season, posting an OPS of over 1.000 and eight homers in 53 games. He received a late-season promotion to Lake Elsinore and delivered a .858 OPS in 16 games with the Storm. Dillon Head hit .304/.333/.522 with a double and two triples in his final series of 2023. The first-round pick from the Chicagoland area impressed in his pro debut with elite speed and solid bat-to-ball skills. Between the ACL and Lake Elsinore, Head will finish the season with a .763 OPS. … Infielder Rosman Verdugo struggled in the final series of his second pro campaign, hitting just .136/.174/.182 against the 66ers. The 18-year-old put together an uneven campaign for the Storm, showing flashes of breaking out but also had periods where he struggled immensely. He finished second in the league with 31 doubles, but overall, he delivered an OPS of .640. He put things together in June and July, looking poised for a breakout, but hit just .162/.246/.248 in August/September. Despite the struggles, Verdugo still possesses a lot of talent offensively and will not turn 19 until February. (Kevin Charity)

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