Every month, MadFriars looks at the best performers across the Padres’ minor league affiliates. May turned out better than April, with no club posting a losing record and having at least one dominant hitter to go along with some strong pitching performances.
El Paso Chihuahuas (18-13)
The Chihuahuas finally got to play in their new home park, Southwestern University Park, after being on the road for nearly all of April where several bats bounced back.
Jace Peterson got his first taste of the majors in late April and early May before returning to the minors and has made the most of it hitting .354/.455/.585 and seeing time at second, shortstop and third base in El Paso, instead of exclusively at shortstop as he did with AA San Antonio. If Chase Headley does leave at the end of the season, Peterson should be in line for a starting infield position.
RF Jeff Francoeur, a nine year veteran of the major leagues, bounced back from a bad April to hit .348/.380./554 in May. One of the reasons Francoeur is in the minor leagues was his lack of plate discipline. And although he still swings at nearly everything with only six walks in 118 plate appearances, when you hit nearly .350 with nine extra-base hits, people tend to forget about that aspect of your game. San Diego native, Brooks Conrad, also a major league veteran with five years of experience, hit .299/.352/.567 while seeing time at second and third.
One of the reasons the Padres’ may have been willing to trade catcher Nick Hundley has been the play of catcher Adam Moore, who continues to swing a solid bat with a .337/.381/.512 slash line while playing solid defense.
On the mound, El Paso and the parks around the PCL south are very much hitter friendly as the Chihuahuas had a team ERA of 4.92. The best news was that after four bad initial outings MadFriars’ top prospect RHP Matt Wisler has bounced back with two strong performances where he has only given up one earned run in 13 innings.
AAA/El Paso Player of the Month: Jace Peterson
San Antonio Missions (18-12)
Despite both being in Texas, the conditions in San Antonio are the polar opposite of El Paso where the swirling winds of Nelson Wolff Stadium makes it a pitcher’s haven.
RHP Jesse Hahn, who came over in the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for Logan Forsythe in the off-season, was very good despite pitching mainly in three to four inning increments. Hahn, who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery two years ago, is on a 100 inning limit pitch count this year but still put up numbers in May with 1.89 ERA in 19 innings. Santana High School’s James Needy also got back on track lowering his ERA two full points from April and once again doing what the six-foot-six righty does best; eat innings and not give up runs with a 2.17 ERA in four starts.
In the bullpen, closer RHP Johnny Barbato had another good month as he was a perfect nine for nine in save opportunities with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings against only four walks for a 1.38 ERA. RHP Adys Portillo was converted from a starter to a full-time reliever and it is paying off with 21 strikeouts against only five walks in 14.2 innings where he did not allow a single earned run.
Offensively the big news in the Alamo City was the play of outfielder Rymer Liriano who blasted seven home runs for a .315/.391/.550 line. He raised his batting average nearly a 100 points from April and as his timing begins to come back from a missed year due to injury expect the numbers to keep moving up. Super prospect catcher Austin Hedges‘ bat came around some more in May as his batting average went from .220 to .286 with 13 extra-base hits as compared to five in the previous month.
AA/San Antonio Player of the Month: Rymer Liriano
Lake Elsinore Storm (17-13)
RF Hunter Renfroe was the Padres’ first selection in the 2013 draft and was considered one of the more athletic players in the draft with quite a bit of raw power. That analysis proved correct this month as he blasted an organization leading nine home runs for a .314/.383/.636 slash line. He had 18 extra-base hits and 25 RBI in 30 games. He still struck out a little too much with 28 punch-outs in 30 games, but the production was strong for it to be a big negative.
The other big bat, and San Diego has had some luck in picking up players from the minor league scrap heap, was shortstop Diego Goris, who came over from the Royals organization in 2013, hit .355/.370/.589 while making only three errors in 29 games on some brutal infields in the Cal League.
On the mound, righty Adam Cimber came out of the pen to "vulture" three wins with a 2.25 ERA in 16 innings where he struck out 11 and walked only one. RHP Colin Rea continue to produce quality outings with a 2.56 ERA in 31.2 innings, which was the second most of any Storm pitcher. Top prospect RHP Joe Ross was 3-1 but his ERA was up to 4.03 after posting a 1.95 in April.
High-A/Lake Elsinore Player of the Month: Hunter Renfroe
Fort Wayne TinCaps (15-15)
The TinCaps are the youngest club that the Padres have ever sent to the Midwest League and the most unpredictable. They can easily reel off three or four wins in a row and the next night get blown out by 10 runs; you never know what is going to happen.
And in that vein the rise of first baseman Jake Bauers, who didn’t make the opening day roster, has been especially impressive. Bauers hit .379/.464/.568 and had 36 hits in 27 games to go along with walking (15) more than he struck out (14) which is very good for a power hitter. Additionally, he just turned 18 in October and is the youngest player in the league.
CF Mallex Smith, who is returning to Fort Wayne because of an outfield logjam in Lake Elsinore, is leading all of baseball with 42 stolen bases. This month he picked up his batting average from .221 in April to .369 in May and had 25 stolen bases in 30 games but was also caught nine times. 3B Dustin Peterson’s errors have slowed down from April and he continues to be unusually adept at driving in runs with 29 RBI in 29 games.
RHP Kyle Lloyd, a local product from the University of Evansville, had the least amount of publicity coming into the season but has been the TinCaps best starter since being moved into the rotation at the beginning of the month. Lloyd had a 2.63 ERA this month in 24 innings as he only gave up nine earned runs in five starts with a 27/5 strikeout-to-base-on-balls ratio. In the bullpen, big RHP Tayron Guerrero, all six-foot-seven, 190 lbs. of him, continues to frighten the opposition with the fastball. Guerrero had what you look for in a reliever, and ability to miss bats, with 18 strikeouts in only 14.2 innings as the opposition only hit .185 against him.
Low-A/Fort Wayne Player of the Month: Jake Bauers
May MadFriars’ Player of the Month: Jake Bauers
A tight race between all four playersbut in the end, Renfroe had a few too many strikeouts. Even though Peterson edged Bauers in OPS by seven one hundredths of a point, Bauers played in a much tougher park and league for hitting, in addition to posting a better batting average and on-base percentage than any of the other three.
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