MadFriars’ July Players of the Month

Chris Paddack gears up to throw some pitches. (Photo credit to Grant Wickes)

El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A)

While San Diego struggles to find a short-term solution to their second base issues, Padre fans have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Top 100 prospect Luis Urías from El Paso. Last month, however, the Chihuahuas’ infielder hit just .244, so they may have to wait longer. The 21-year-old’s strikeout rate has gone up every month, topping out at 26.1% in July. Urías is still very young for the league, and his penchant for drawing walks kept his OBP at a very serviceable .372, but the Padres might wait until he gets his stride figured out before he gets a shot at the bigs.

With their spark plug scuffling, the Chihuahuas have needed to turn to a pair of catchers to ignite their offense. Brett Nicholas, who before this year was in the Rangers organization, has been the most consistent bat in the lineup, posting an .877 OPS in July, along with seven doubles. He’s spent time at first base since the arrival of Top 100 prospect Francisco Mejia. In his first six games, the 22-year-old batted 6-for-18 (.333) with a double and three walks after he was acquired from Cleveland.

While many of the players on the Chihuahuas may have question-marks attached to their résumés, none seem more MLB-ready than Brett Kennedy. While he lacks the ceiling of a front of the rotation starter, the just-turned-24-year-old Fordham graduate limited Triple-A hitters to a .112 batting average against in July – no small feat in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He doesn’t have the gaudy strikeout numbers of some of the more hyped arms in the system, but he allowed two runs or fewer in all four of his starts in July, en route to a 1.80 ERA.

El Paso Player of the Month: Brett Kennedy

San Antonio Missions (Double-A)

Let’s rip the band-aid off quickly: Fernando Tatis Jr. is injured, and although he should recover in time for the beginning of next season, it’s more than a little disappointing not to be able to see what he could have done in a full Texas League season. As it stands, he finishes with a .286/.355/.507 slash line in 88 games. Mind you, he hit just .177/.231/.333 in April, so in his last 64 games, he was hitting an extremely impressive .327/.400/.572. And he doesn’t turn 20 until January. The hype is very real, and it is very likely that he spends time with the big league club next year.

Some of the most consistent starting pitching has come from the Missions rotation this year, and July was no exception. Logan Allen posted a 2.51 ERA in five starts, with a 27:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32.1 innings. The 21-year-old finished the month leading the Texas League in strikeouts (122), ERA (2.62), and WHIP (1.02). Jacob Nix, who got promoted to El Paso after an injury to Colin Rea, had a 2.96 ERA in four starts, putting up a 21:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24.1 innings. Both Nix and Allen figure to be in the running for rotation spots in San Diego next spring.

While closer Andres Muñoz fell just short of throwing a scoreless July (he allowed a pair of earned runs in his final appearance of the month), and Josh Naylor had more walks (20) than strikeouts (13) while hitting four homers, the most impressive performance on the squad belonged to Chris Paddack. The 22-year-old Texan struck out just under a batter an inning and posted a 1.30 ERA in five outings. His starts have become must-see affairs, and as the Padres negotiated potential trades at the recent deadline, it was reported that he was highly coveted by other organizations.

San Antonio Player of the Month: Chris Paddack

Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A)

Much was made of Buddy Reed’s hot start this season in the Cal League, which ultimately led to his selection in the Futures Game during the All-Star break. After OPSing .868 in seven July games for the Storm, he was promoted to San Antonio (where he hasn’t experienced the same success, hitting just .155/.231/.190 in his first 15 games). Since his departure, the burden of the offense has fallen to third baseman Hudson Potts.

Potts leads the Cal League in doubles (he hit nine in July), and his four homers and .559 slugging percentage in July have pushed him into the top five in those categories as well. He doesn’t turn 20 until October, but the 24th overall pick in the 2016 draft has impressed many with his power. He’s cut his strikeout percentage down a little from last year (26.8% to 24%), and is walking a little more (8.6% after just 4.9% last year). If he can continue to curb those K’s and hit with power outside of the High-A, he may be the Padres third baseman of the future.

While top prospects arms like Michel Báez and Adrian Morejon have struggled to stay healthy, and Reggie Lawson and Nick Margevicius had trouble keeping runs off the board in July, Pedro Avila had the most productive month of any Storm pitcher. The righty posted a 2.13 ERA in five outings, striking out 23 and walking 8 in 25.1 innings. He’s introduced a slider to his repertoire and the early results are encouraging for the 21-year-old Venezuelan.

Lake Elsinore Player of the Month: Hudson Potts

Fort Wayne TinCaps (Single-A)

The TinCaps outfield corps may be among the most interesting in the Padres system. Jeisson Rosario and Tirso Ornelas are a pair of 18-year-olds who have shown solid plate discipline, but have also recently began developing more power. Though Ornelas missed half of the month with a right wrist injury, Rosario slugged .436 with eight extra base hits, by far his best numbers of any month this season. Speedy left fielder Robbie Podorsky is more than four years older than both of them, but the McNeese State alum posted a .909 OPS despite not hitting any homers.

On the pitching side, MacKenzie Gore racked up 23 innings in five outings, easily the most innings he’s thrown in his brief professional career. He seems to have gotten past his blister issues (at least for now, knock on wood), and while his 3.13 ERA is promising, it’s worth getting excited about the 30 strikeouts he recorded during those 23 innings.

While Gore and rotation-mate Osvaldo Hernandez (who owns an 1.03 ERA for the month of July) have been putting up solid numbers, it’s Colombian righty Luis Patiño who has been gathering hype around the Midwest League. In July, he posted a 10.2 K/9 rate, and hit 98 MPH on the radar gun during a game for the first time. Like Paddack, there were reportedly teams interested in him at the trade deadline, but the Padres wisely opted to hold onto the promising 18-year-old.

Fort Wayne Player of the Month: Luis Patiño

Tri-City Dust Devils (Short-Season)

The short-season Dust Devils began play in the middle of June, playing their games at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, Washington. Many of this year’s college draft picks have paced the Northwest League club, including outfielder Grant Little (74th overall pick), shortstop Owen Miller (3rd round), and Dwanya Williams-Sutton (5th round).

Miller has gotten off to a solid start, striking out just 11.8% of the time, while putting up an .817 OPS, but it’s the Padres 8th round pick from 2017 who has been turning heads and filling box scores. Olivier Basabe, a 21-year-old out of Faulkner University, hit .353/.407/.529 en route to the best offensive performance of the month. The 5-foot-11 Venezuelan has also shown versatility in the infield, playing solid defense at second base, third base, and short.

On the pitching side, 20-year-old reliever Dan Dallas has struck out 23 hitters in 13.2 innings, and starter Henry Henry has rebounded after a shaky start in Fort Wayne to open the season, posting a 2.95 ERA in his first eight outings for the Dust Devils. The newest arm to keep an eye on will be Omar Cruz, who racked up 30 strikeouts in 20 innings in the Arizona Rookie League, to earn a recent promotion to Tri-City. In his first two starts, the 19-year-old from Mexico struck out 14 hitters in 9.2 innings and posted a 0.93 ERA.

Tri-City Player of the Month: Olivier Basabe

AZL Padres (Rookie League)

The Padres are once again fielding two clubs in the Arizona Summer League, and the organization’s focus on dynamic up-the-middle players has been on show there once again. 18-year-old Tucupita Marcano posted a .927 OPS for the month while splitting time evenly between second base and shortstop. The Venezuela native who is named for his hometown struck out in only eight percent of his plate appearances. While Xavier Edwards missed much of the month with a wrist injury, he came back on fire for the other AZL squad. The Padres’ second pick in June posted an .878 OPS and swiped four bases in nine games back. Infielder Sean Guilbe received the equivalent of a fifth-round bonus to sign early in the month. The early returns make that look like a wise investment. The 19-year-old out of the Philadelphia area hit .300/.475/.617 with 12 extra-base hits in 18 games, though his 26 strikeouts are a bit of a warning flag.

With limited pitch counts and a harsh environment, the AZL is a tough place for pitching to shine. Luarbert Arias, 17, made a strong statement by posting a 2.14 ERA across 21 innings in his second professional month. While 18-year-old Joey Cantillo’s ERA jumped to 4.00 for the month on the back of one bad outing, the 2017 draftee struck out 26 in 18 innings while inducing twice as many grounders as fly balls.

AZL Player of the Month: Sean Guilbe

System Player of the Month: Chris Paddack

Yes, yes, Paddack also claimed this title last month, when he pitched well enough to earn his promotion from Lake Elsinore to San Antonio. Trust me, I’d like to add a little variety and make things interesting, but Paddack is hotter than anyone in the loaded Padres system. His ability to locate the fastball and fool them with his plus changeup keep hitters uncomfortable, and as he works on adding a third pitch that he is comfortable using regularly, he should continue to see success on his way to the major leagues.