MadFriars’ May Players of the Month

Cody Decker playing for the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre

The leaderboards among San Diego Padres minor league players for May include a slugger with the longest track record of success in the organization and an unknown 18-year-old who wasn’t even with a team until midway through the month. Such is the nature of tracking prospects. As we do every month, here’s a look at the Players of the Month at each level from the team at www.MadFriars.com.

El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A)

In April, Austin Hedges, one of the clear top prospects in the organization, delivered the best performance for the Chihuahuas. In May, it was 28-year-old masher Cody Decker who provided most of the El Paso offensive firepower. The 2009 22nd-rounder hit .310, with nine homers to push his slugging percentage for the month to an eye-popping .690. The UCLA product has appeared primarily as a first baseman and DH throughout his career, but also logged a few innings at third base this year and at catcher in the past. Without a spot on the 40-man roster, it’s not clear what his path to the big leagues might be, but Decker continues to do all he can – on the field, behind the video camera, and with wardrobe selection – to keep himself on the radar.

Aside from Decker, the Chihuahuas managed only 11 homers all month. Four of them belonged to Rymer Liriano. The long-time prospect, who will only turn 24 in June, posted a strong .292/.376/.469 line, collecting significant at-bats in the leadoff spot through the first half of the month. He possesses the tools to be disruptive offensively and defensively, and with Hunter Renfroe struggling mightily in Double-A, takes on increased importance for the organization looking ahead.

Left-handed corner player Alex Dickerson had a solid month, hitting .293. Though he had only two homers, his .475 slugging percentage trailed just Decker.  Catcher Rocky Gale continues to flash surprising offensive value, hitting .325 as the number one guy at the position for the first time in his career. The club might be better served getting him onto the 40 man roster to serve as the back-up in the big leagues so Hedges can get back to his development in the minors.

The ageless Jason Lane was El Paso’s most effective pitcher despite a curious line. The one-time big league outfielder, now 38, posted a team-best 2.81 ERA over 32 innings in five starts. The impressive run prevention came despite racking up more walks (12) than strikeouts (10).

Minor league vet Jay Jackson, originally a Cubs draftee in 2008, worked his way into the closer role after joining the Chihuahuas on April 30. The 27-year-old righty’s 2.08 ERA was the best among players who spent the whole month in Triple-A, with promising peripherals that include 19 strikeouts and only 5 walks in 17.1 innings.

El Paso Player of the Month: Cody Decker

San Antonio Missions (Double-A)

Under normal circumstances, it would be great news that the Padres have a player who plays a position of need tearing it up in Double-A. But circumstances around Trea Turner aren’t normal. Still two weeks from officially getting shipped to the Washington Nationals, the 21-year-old shortstop put an exclamation point on his time in the organization by hitting .368/.438/.575 with a team-best four homers in May. The power is a pleasant surprise, but Turner has also delivered on the bases, where he was 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts, and defensively. Without his impending departure, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t at least be in El Paso by the time of his first anniversary in professional baseball.

Center fielder Travis Jankowski continues to reassert himself as a legitimate prospect after a lost season in 2014. The 23-year-old cooled off a bit in May, but still posted a strong .313/.370/.444 line at the top of the order. The left-handed hitter missed a few games at the end of the month, but has made a case to move up to Triple-A after the draft and after Melvin Upton, Jr. finishes his rehab assignment.

After the pitching staff stumbled through the first month, they rebounded nicely in May. Justin Hancock led the charge, allowing four runs total in six starts. The Ohio native is consistently hitting the mid-90s with his fastball and put away more hitters once he got ahead of them, recording 30 strikeouts against 13 walks over 36 innings.

Bryan Rodriguez and Colin Rea almost matched him for the month. Rea had a 1.50 ERA in four starts to build on his stellar April before he hit the disabled list with back spasms. Rodriguez, a big 23-year-old who has always flashed intriguing talent that he has struggled to turn into on-field success, had an equally impressive 1.45 ERA across 31 innings.

Tayron Guerrero, the lanky fireballer who has wrestled with his mechanics working his way through the system, was nearly unhittable as a part-time closer in May. The 24-year-old righty didn’t allow an earned run in 10.2 innings and recorded 16 strikeouts. His eight walks remain a concern. His 40-man roster mate, Casey Kelly continued his gradual recuperation from Tommy John surgery with a 1.13 ERA in 16 innings. By the end of the month, he had moved into the starting rotation and stretched out to four innings of work. He is likely looking at another 80-or-so total innings of work in 2015.

San Antonio Player of the Month: Trea Turner

Lake Elsinore Storm (Advanced-A)

There aren’t many middle infielders who swing the bat with authority from the left side of the plate. That’s one of the reasons it’s fun to dream on Fernando Perez. The 21-year-old second baseman bounced back from a dreadful April to pace the Storm with a .284/.366/.569 line. He led the club with seven homers and had 15 extra-base hits in 123 plate appearances. Though he has plenty of strikeouts in his game, Perez is actually capable of even more production at the plate and could ultimately hit for higher average while maintaining the power.

Centerfielder Auston Bousfield kept up his strong debut season until heading to the disabled list at the end of the month. The Ole Miss product hit .341 out of the leadoff spot in May. He had a stellar .414 on-base percentage, but with only one double and one triple all month, his slugging percentage lagged. Providing above-average defense in center and both speed and strong instincts on the bases (he was 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts), Bousfield is quickly emerging as an interesting prospect.

When Zech Lemond fell to the Padres in the third round in last year’s draft, the club pounced. Although he served primarily as a closer in college, the righty from Houston has a repertoire that could work well as a starter. May offered a glimpse of what he can do when he trusts his fastball consistently. Lemond worked to a 2.87 ERA across 37.2 innings in six games. While his 27 strikeouts still lag behind what you’d expect from someone with his stuff, he also cut his walk rate down, issuing only nine free passes.

Lake Elsinore Player of the Month: Fernando Perez

Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low-A)

Duanel Jones‘ improbable resurgence continued through May. The Dominican third baseman, who turned 22 in middle of the month, hit .302/.368/.573 with a team-best six homers. His performance, after two years struggling in Lake Elsinore, was enough to earn him a promotion straight to Double-A at the end of the month.

While Jones has been great all year, the most stunning performance came from 18-year-old Ruddy Giron. The shortstop didn’t join the club until May 18, but he certainly made up for lost time. Giron, who had the bat knocked out of his hands in Arizona last year, introduced himself with a 6-for-6 game in his full-season debut, and just kept rolling from there. In 16 games, he hit .431 with an absurd .723 slugging percentage. While he obviously won’t continue to own the league like that, he has legitimate tools to be a difference maker.

The TinCaps pitching staff bounced back to some extent after a frustrating April. Ernesto Montas, the 23-year-old making his stateside debut this year, tallied a 3.28 ERA over 35.2 innings. The righty from the Dominican Republic only recorded 14 strikeouts in that span, but he walked just four opponents all month. Lefty Thomas Dorminy and Indiana native T.J. Weir both contributed important innings as well. Dorminy struck out 27 in 31.2 innings on his way to a 3.98 ERA for the month, while Weir had a 3.74 mark while swinging between the rotation and bullpen.

Fort Wayne Player of the Month: Ruddy Giron

System Player of the Month: Trea Turner

While Wil Myers was showing what a force he can be at the plate in the big leagues before his wrist injury, it’s going to be tough to watch Turner go at the end of next week.