MadFriars' May Player of the Month: Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Many of the Padres’ key prospects had impressive showings in May. So while, as always, the MadFriars player of the month series isn’t a re-ranking of the organization’s 20 top prospects, many of the names certainly belong on the list.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A)
When we saw Franchy Cordero in El Paso in mid-April, he was scuffling badly, and looked especially lost against left-handed pitching. May was another story entirely. The 22-year-old Dominican tore up the PCL to the tune of a .351/.413/.543 slash line and got his strikeout rate down below 30 percent. His showing was strong enough (and a third starting outfielder hit the big league disabled list) that Cordero got the chance to make his big league debut. The premium athlete still has some significant gaps in both sides of his game, but there are few better athletes in the organization.
Had the big league club needed a corner outfielder, they would have had several alternatives. Nick Buss, Jabari Blash and Jose Pirela all had strong showings in May. After never collecting more than 10 homers in any season his previous decade of professional baseball, Pirela collected that many in May. Pirela also spent much of the month experimenting defensively at first base. While Buss – and virtually every minor league player – doesn’t stand a chance of getting the Twitter love Jabari Blash receives from the Padres’ blogoshpere, the left-handed hitting minor league free agent signee posted a .942 OPS for the month, 10 points lower than the big man from the Virgin Islands.
The PCL is a rough place to pitch, and the organization didn’t exactly stack the roster with tons of pitching depth. That led to a pretty brutal staff 5.33 ERA for the month, with only 193 strikeouts and 119 walks in 255 innings. Dinelson Lamet got more than a little unlucky, as half the runners who reached base against him scored. But the talented righty still struck out more than one hitter per inning and clearly demonstrated that his track record over two years was legit in his big league debut.
Walker Lockett and Phil Maton, the top starter and reliever left in El Paso at this point, both had solid bounce-back months in May. Lockett posted a 3.49 ERA over 28.1 innings in six starts, cutting his WHIP down to a manageable 1.38 for the month. Maton struck out 17 in 12.1 innings, locking up seven saves in the process. He finished the month with a stretch of six scoreless outings in which he whiffed 11 in 6.1 frames.
El Paso Player of the Month: Franchy Cordero
San Antonio Missions (Double-A)
After posting an 800 OPS in 10 games with Lake Elsinore to open the month, Ty France was promoted to San Antonio and promptly caught fire. The former SDSU Aztec posted a .368/.405/.574 slash line, a departure from his traditional patience-first approach at the plate. Playing both first and third base, the former 34th-rounder provided a much-needed presence in the middle of the order for the Missions.
Perhaps the most telling thing about Luis Urias at this point is that his .355/.455/.427 line might qualify as a bit of a disappointment. In his final month of play before turning 20, there is no remaining doubt that Urias has the best bat-to-ball skills the organization has seen since the end of the 2001 season. After a power spike in April, the Mexican-born second baseman had only seven extra-base hits last month. Don’t bet against another bounce in his in-game power. Outfielders Alberth Martinez and Franmil Reyes were the other two players with an OPS north of .800 for the month. Martinez is a bit of a forgotten man after losing last year to injury, but has a skillset to profile as a future big league backup outfielder.
While the Padres made their first wave of pitching promotions late in the month, the club opted not to move the top performers at Double-A and High-A. That worked out quite well for San Antonio, whose staff led the Texas League in virtually every category for the month. Michael Kelly, Kyle Lloyd, and Brett Kennedy were totally dominant in the rotation, combining for a 1.92 ERA with 95 strikeouts while allowing only 104 total baserunners in 103 innings. Lloyd had the highlight of the month with the system’s first nine-inning no-hitter in over three decades.
In the bullpen, big Trey Wingenter struck out 17 and allowed just one run in 10 innings, settling into sharing the closer role quite nicely. Sidewinder Eric Yardley posted a 0.66 ERA over 13.2 innings, lefty Brad Wieck struck out 17 of the 40 batters he faced, Rafael DePaula continued to shine, and Cesar Vargas reasserted his health and readiness working 15.2 scoreless frames across nine relief outings.
San Antonio Player of the Month: Kyle Lloyd
Lake Elsinore Storm (Advanced-A)
After getting off to a slow start in April – perhaps attributable to his back – Michael Gettys was visibly more comfortable at the plate through May when he hit primarily in the third slot, and it showed in his stat line. The premium athlete saw a spike in his walk totals and hard contact, putting together a .274/.400/.411 line with eight stolen bases in nine attempts. That level of offensive productivity, paired with his elite-defensive abilities in center make Gettys a tantalizing talent.
Josh Naylor returned from his DL stint without missing much of a beat. The big first baseman showed his intriguing combination of raw power and solid bat-to-ball skills, tallying a .343/.418/.486 line over 79 plate appearances, striking out only 13 times.
With only two meaningful offensive contributors, the burden fell once again to the best pitching staff in the Cal League. And, once again, there were plenty of capable arms to rise to the challenge. Joey Lucchesi continued to post impressive numbers, leading the rotation in starts, innings, strikeouts and WHIP. Though Eric Lauer made only four starts, he was stellar in them, posting a 1.11 ERA and striking out 28, against only seven walks, in 24.1 innings. Jesse Scholtens made the most of his mid-month promotion with a 2.65 ERA in his first three starts in the Cal League.
As good as the rotation was, the bullpen was even better. As a unit, they posted a 2.50 ERA across 105 innings and struck out 119 against only 37 walks. Righty Gerardo Reyes and massive lefty Jose Castillo – the two pitchers who came over with Wil Myers from Tampa – combined to allow just five runs in 20 outings.
Lake Elsinore Player of the Month: Michael Gettys
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low-A)
After starting out slow in the cold weather, Fernando Tatis, Jr. found his groove in May. Still just 18 years old, the talented infielder went .295/.364/.505 for the month, leading the TinCaps with four homers and that 869 OPS. Drawing on wisdom from his former-big-league dad. Tatis has focused on hard contact rather than homers, and let the good results follow. Jorge Oña came back from the DL in style, hitting exactly .300 in his second month of professional U.S. baseball. The Cuban national talked with us about his adjustments to the game at this level, but his bat is continuing to do most of the talking.
Amid all the teenage position players, Rod Boykin is something of a forgotten man. Drafted as an athletic project out of high school in the 12th round back in 2013, the Alabama native has frequently struggled to stay healthy and to make contact. Even with 30 strikeouts in May, though, the speedy outfielder hit .263/.352/.463 to join Tatis as the only TinCap with an OPS above .800.
Logan Allen returned to Fort Wayne to open the year because he missed some time last year and because there were older guys ahead of him in line for Lake Elsinore. But the now-20-year-old clearly has nothing left to prove in Low-A. For May, the lefty posted a 1.26 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 28.2 innings of work. Opponents hit .190 against him and tallied just a .252 on-base percentage.
Fort Wayne Player of the Month: Fernando Tatis, Jr.
System Player of the Month: Tatis
While several individual lines were better for the month, when you look at the league and age context of what Tatis did in May, it’s hard not to be wowed. The teenager was still striking out at too high a clip, and he’ll need to settle into his patience, but his combination of current skills, future upside, and mental makeup are exactly the package you look for in future cornerstone players. As impressive as his month was, there’s plenty to make you believe it’s just a glimpse of what could lie ahead.
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