Every month, MadFriars looks at the best performers across the Padres minor league system. Each full-season affiliate had a winning record in June with Lake Elsinore leading the way at 16-11. Several high-profile players broke out during the month, giving plenty of reason for optimism for the future.
Note that while short-season rookie leagues started in June, most players there still had fewer than 10 games played. We will wait until there is a full month of information and review them in July.
Dean Anna, the MadFriars player of the month in May, continued to rip the ball at the plate, posting a triple-slash line of .369/.466/.523. He ranks among the Pacific Coast League’s top five in a variety of offensive categories. But it was first baseman – and aspiring catcher – Cody Decker who paced Tucson at the plate, mashing a system-high seven homers and a team-best 1.052 OPS. The 2009 draftee has rebounded from a dreadful start to the year and now has 31 extra-base hits.
Much of the Tucson pitching staff spent at least some of June with the big league club. After getting torched in two Major League appearances, Burch Smith returned to Triple-A and posted a strong 2.74 ERA to earn a second shot to move up. The hard-throwing righty yielded 21 hits in 23 innings but had 21 strikeouts to go with it. El Cajon native Sean O’Sullivan was the one stabilizer for Tucson’s rotation, posting a 3.34 ERA in six starts. Signed as a minor league free agent in the offseason, the 25-year-old was the only other starter to post an ERA below six as the ball really started to fly out of PCL parks in the summer heat.
June Player of the month: Cody Decker
It took Matt Wisler a couple starts to find his footing in the Texas League, but the 20-year-old righty got on track in June. In five games, he posted a 2.89 ERA and struck out a batter an inning over 28 frames. While the Ohioan was settling in, fellow 2011 draftee Matt Andriese was getting ready to move on. The big righty had one hiccup to end the month, but over his first four starts in June allowed only three runs in 20.1 innings. He was promoted to Tucson after representing the Missions in the All-Star game.
As impressive as both starters were, the biggest news of the month was the reemergence of Keyvius Sampson. The “other” high profile high schooler signed at the top of the massively disappointing 2009 draft class scuffled last year and got off to a brutal start in Tucson. However, he returned to San Antonio at the end of April and has been improving ever since. For June, the 22-year-old Floridian posted a strong 2.20 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 28.2 innings. He didn’t allow an earned run over his final 19.2 innings and delivered his best professional game in his last outing of the month.
The Missions offense was not good in June. Jeudy Valdez posted the best OPS on the team, but that was an unimpressive .762. The once-promising shortstop continues to struggle to make consistent contact at the plate, and is likely to lose playing time to Jace Peterson in the very near future.
June Player of the Month: Keyvius Sampson
After watching his double play partner get promoted following a blistering May, Jace Peterson turned up the dial himself in June. Another product of the remarkable 2011 draft class, the former college football player torched Cal League pitchers for a .379/.446/.632 line in June. His all-around skills were on display as well as he stole 12 bases without getting caught and committed only three errors in the field.
As the weather heats up, the ball really starts to carry at many Cal League ballparks. That makes James Needy’s strong showing that much more impressive. The big 22-year-old San Diegan posted a 3.55 ERA, which was skewed high by a rough outing in hitter’s haven High Desert. In his first four starts of the month, Needy surrendered only three runs in 20.2 innings. His strikeout rate has been climbing each month and his walk rate keeps falling. That’s a recipe for further success.
June Player of the Month: Jace Peterson
All those first-round arms in Fort Wayne continue to make it a fascinating team to watch. In June, Joe Ross and Walker Weickel took steps forward, Zach Eflin continued to produce, Max Fried struggled a bit and Michael Kelly fell off the table and had to move backward. But the story of the month among the TinCaps was Justin Hancock, who gave up only one run in 18 innings to earn a promotion. The ninth-round pick from the 2011 draft finished his stay in the Midwest League with a circuit-best 1.73 ERA.
As Hancock departed, 2012 supplemental-rounder Walker Weickel started to put things together, turning in back-to-back five inning shutout performances in which he finally demonstrated both command and control of his pitches. For the month, he finished a 3.05 ERA and a much-improved 19:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20.2 innings. Fellow high school pick Zach Eflin had another strong showing with a 2.57 ERA, while Joe Ross barely allowed a runner an inning on his way to a 2.92 ERA. The most eye-popping stat of the month belonged to Leonel Campos, who struck out 20 in 11.1 innings of work.
June Player of the Month: Justin Hancock
June MadFriars Player of the Month: Jace Peterson
Peterson has all the tools to be a valuable top-of-the-order hitter in the Majors, and has done a great job of honing them into skills in the relatively short time he has concentrated on baseball. The 23-year-old should be in San Antonio shortly. While he will need to make additional refinements to continue to advance, he has demonstrated an ability to do so quickly at each stop. He just noses out Justin Hancock, who made the jump to High-A effortlessly and posted a 0.62 ERA in 29 innings across two levels. They are two of a number of impact players from the 2011 draft class which could go down as the best in organization history.