Every month, MadFriars looks at the best performers across the Padres minor league affiliates. July was especially rough at the bottom end of the system, where Fort Wayne, Eugene and the Arizona League entries combined to finish 12 games below .500. But in the midst of the team struggles, there were some important individual performances by key prospects.
Jaff Decker is one of the system’s biggest enigmas. After a strong showing as a 20-year-old in High-A in 2010, a combination of injuries and poor performances cost him over the last two seasons. April and May saw more of the same from the outfielder, but he turned it around in June and in July he was one of the organization’s best performers. Now 23, Decker hit .340/.402/.543 in 26 games for the month, showing his trademark patience without waiting himself into pitchers’ counts. Despite not looking the part, Decker is a strong defender in center or anywhere else in the outfield and is rewarding the Padres for putting him on the 40-man roster this offseason.
Only Dean Anna provided consistent backup for Decker in the Tucson lineup in July. Anna continues to do everything he can to earn a shot at the majors, hitting .304/.374/.471 for the month and leading the club in virtually all offensive categories.
Tucson’s starting pitchers had a rough month as Matt Andriese, Robbie Erlin and Anthony Bass combined to post an ERA above five. With Burch Smith and Sean O’Sullivan spending time in the big leagues, it was once again journeyman Brandon Kloess who provided the most consistency in Triple-A, posting a 3.86 ERA over 28.2 innings in seven appearances. The back end of the bullpen, headlined by Brad Boxberger, Miles Mikolas, Brad Brach and Kevin Quackenbush churned out over 50 exceptional innings, helping the club to a .500 record for the month.
July Player of the month: Jaff Decker
Keyvius Sampson re-emerged as a top prospect with a monster performance in June. In July, he was even better. The 22-year-old righty simply dominated in six starts, posting a 1.95 ERA. He struck out 44 hitters in 37 innings and allowed only 27 base runners to make a strong case for a return shot at Tucson.
While Sampson was stellar, he wasn’t alone in the Missions’ rotation. Matt Wisler, still barely two years removed from the start of his professional career, pitched to a 2.67 ERA across five starts. The Ohio native struck out 22 in 27 innings and only allowed opponents to hit .215. Hitters had even more trouble with fellow righty Donn Roach, who yielded only 13 hits in 27.1 innings. Though he just tallied 12 strikeouts, the sinker-baller extraordinaire netted more than four times as many grounders as fly balls for the month.
The Missions offense got a major boost in July with the return of Tommy Medica. The slugging first baseman/DH, who missed two months with a rib cage injury, didn’t miss a beat when he got back. He paced the club with a .301/.383/.602 line, blasting six homers among his 17 extra-base hits in 28 games. Medica’s simple swing allows him to make hard contact against any pitch, and his presence in the middle of the Missions lineup is a difference-maker.
July Player of the Month: Tommy Medica
Any month that includes two trips through the high desert will be rough on a pitching staff, and indeed the Storm rotation struggle through. James Needy’s 3.77 ERA was the best of the bunch, though he only struck out 19 in 31 innings. The rest of the pitching staff combined to post an ERA above 5.00.
While the pitchers got knocked around, the offense didn’t take advantage of the favorable conditions very well. Outfielder Kyle Gaedele rebounded from an ice cold June to hit .316/.393/.505, leading the club by a wide margin in each of the three categories. First baseman Lee Orr, who tied Gaedele with four homers in July, was the only other hitter with an OPS above .800.
July Player of the Month: Kyle Gaedele
Luis Domoromo was among the system’s hottest hitters in spring training, but fouled a pitch off his shin right before breaking with Lake Elsinore, and limped – literally and figuratively – through the first two months of the year. In July, everything came together for the 21-year-old Venezuelan. Domoromo posted a .341/.375./534 line, good for first in average and slugging percentage. His on-base percentage was just a few points behind Rodney Daal’s. Daal continued an up-and-down campaign, hitting .298/.377/.571 in July after a brutal June.
On the mound, Zach Eflin was once again the most productive of the four number one draft choices on the TinCaps staff. The 19-year-old Floridian posted his third straight month with a sub-3.00 ERA despite striking out only 15 hitters in 30 innings. The big righty did have his best walk rate of the season, helping him to a 2.40 ERA over five starts.
July Player of the Month: Luis Domoromo
It’s been a rough season for the Emeralds so far. With many of the top picks from 2012 jumping past the Northwest League and many of this year’s picks still in the desert, the club has been populated by few big names. However, the biggest name on the roster, 2013 first-rounder Hunter Renfroe, has shown all five of his tools for Eugene. Though he will swing-and-miss a lot, the Mississippi State Bulldog posted a .317/.345/.573 line in July and hit a team-best four homers in 20 games. 2012 pick Ronnie Richardson was constantly on base at the top of the lineup, posting an eye-popping .485 on-base percentage thanks to both strong contact and great strike zone recognition.
On the mound, 11th-rounder Erik Schoenrock headlined the rotation, delivering a 2.76 ERA across six starts after signing a $100,000 bonus. The lefty struck out 29 over 29.1 innings and held opponents to a .234 average. Third-rounder Bryan Verbitsky, working with a tighter pitch count after a lifetime high in innings for Hofstra University this spring, posted a 3.00 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 21 innings, though his 14 walks are a point of concern.
July Player of the Month: Hunter Renfroe
With bookend 6’4” slugging corner outfielders Franmil Reyes (.321/.380/.488) and Jose Urena (.291/.387/.570), it’s easy to look past Rod Boykin. You shouldn’t though. The 18-year-old, who the club nabbed in the 12th round out of high school in Alabama, is a premium athlete with lightning-fast hands at the plate. He hit a team-best .397 in July, platooning in center field. Lefty-swinging shortstop Franchy Cordero was also fantastic setting the table in Surprise. The speedy Dominican hit .347 with enough line-drive power to collect four triples in 75 plate appearances and swiped nine bases without getting caught.
Adrian De Horta has dazzled in his pro debut. The 18-year-old, who was scouted as a potential first baseman as well, gave up only two earned runs in six July starts. The eighth-rounder, who got a significantly over-slot bonus to bypass Cal State Fullerton, struck out 26 in 18.1 innings, issuing only two walks.
July Player of the Month: Adrian De Horta
July MadFriars Player of the Month: Tommy Medica
Medica has emerged as one of the most consistent offensive forces in the Padres upper minors. Heading into the season, the club hoped to get Medica some time behind the plate, where he played in college before a sever shoulder injury. That may be off the table for now, but if he keeps hitting at this pace, it won’t matter where he plays.