Many of the Padres top prospects had some solid showings in June, including a few that may have even had breakthroughs. As always, this isnt a re-ranking of the organizations 20 top prospects, but there may be some new ones by next year.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A)
In 2016, El Paso was powered by a quartet of high-profile prospects who are very much a part of the Padres future. Not so much in 2017, when the roster includes a number of minor league veterans looking for another shot at the Majors. Thats not all bad in terms of production (as Jose Pirelas promotion mid-month reminds us), but the names now are not as sexy as they were last summer.
Christian Villanueva was once one of those highly-regarded prospect, highlighting the 2012 deadline trade that sent him to the Cubs with Kyle Hendricks. The corner infielder got a late start this year after signing as a minor league free agent in the winter, but hes making up for lost time. The Mexico native, who turned 26 midway through June, hit a robust .314/.390/.686 for the month, matching Jabari Blash for the team lead with 10 homers. After experimenting defensively at first base for the first time in 2015, hes now splitting time pretty evenly and putting up satisfactory results.
In addition to the homers, Blash continued his career trend in June, striking out 31 times in 110 trips to the plate. His outfield mate, Rafael Ortega posted a solid .300/.358/.473 line for the month at the top of the lineup.
On the mound, the Chihuahuas limped to a 6.36 team ERA for the month. Veteran righty Matt Magills 3.91 ERA with a 1.74 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 23 innings across five outings was the strongest overall showing, while sidewinding reliever Adam Cimber held his own with a 3.86 ERA in 18.2 innings, even as he was pressed into his first start since the 2014 season.
El Paso Player of the Month: Christian Villanueva
San Antonio Missions (Double-A)
The Missions rolled through June, posting a 17-9 record and claiming the first-half division championship. While Luis Urias had an atypically down month, his middle infield partner Jose Rondon was stellar and earned a late-month promotion to Triple-A. The 23-year-old Venezuelan hit an eye-popping .372/.405/.564 and tied for the team lead with 11 extra-base hits in 19 games.
Big Franmil Reyes hit .309/.377/.457 for the month, dropping his K-rate below 20 percent for the first time all year. While hell need to produce enough with the bat to offset his weaknesses, the 21-year-old behemoth has been quite good through the first half, when hes traditionally struggled in his career. Left-handed hitting Noah Perio has provided plenty of value as a minor league free agent signee. For June, he was the only other Missions hitter to finish with an OPS above .800. The 25-year-old infielder hit.330 and helped the club at both first and second.
The Missions pitching staff has been the star of the show all year, and that continued through June. Righty Brett Kennedy was most impressive, posting a 2.03 ERA across five starts with a remarkable 31:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The New Jersey native could well be part of a raft of promotions to bolster the El Paso rotation, continuing a fast rise since he was taken in the 11th round of the 2015 draft. Fellow starters Chris Huffman, Enyel De Los Santos, Michael Kelly, and Kyle Lloyd all dealt as well, with Lloyd posting a 34:4 ratio and Huffman at 29:5.
As strong as the rotation was, the Missions bullpen was simply fantastic. Seven different relievers worked at least five innings in the month, and the highest ERA of the lot was closer Trey Wingenters 2.45. Yimmi Brasoban came back from the DL with five scoreless frames while minor league free agent Aroni Nina doubled him with 10.1 shutout innings. Lefties Brad Wieck (15 strikeouts in 8.1 innings) and Kyle McGrath (12 strikeouts, six runners allowed in 10 frames) provided great balance as well.
San Antonio Player of the Month: Brett Kennedy
Lake Elsinore Storm (Advanced-A)
The Storm entered the month with a chance to go on a run and claim a playoff spot. Instead, they posted a .500 record and were left on the outside looking in for the first half.
One reason for optimism at the start of June was the return of Jacob Nix from the disabled list. The hard-throwing Southern California native certainly did his part, posting a 2.73 ERA with a 31:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 33 innings, which included a complete game, two-hit shutout to cap the month. That performance slots in well with the production the Storm have gotten from their rotation throughout the first half.
Fellow starters Cal Quantrill and Joey Lucchesi each posted better than a strikeout per inning and ERAs of 3.10 and 3.24 respectively. Building on the performances they had through the first two months, it was enough to earn promotions, along with Eric Lauer, to San Antonio. Lauers 4.50 ERA for the month was skewed by a poor outing coming out of the All-Star break.
In the bullpen, Colby Blueberg just kept getting outs, earning himself the somewhat ignominious distinction of two straight years as a Cal League All-Star. Fellow righties Trevor Frank, a product of the minor league Rule 5 draft and a Grossmont High alum, and converted catcher Jose Ruiz put up matching 1.86 ERAs for the month.
While the pitching staff stayed on track throughout June, the offense scuffled to a .706 OPS even as temperatures and the offensive environment rose. Despite striking out in more than 40 percent of his plate appearances, Michael Gettys also paced the club with five homers and put together a .505 slugging percentage. Fellow outfielder Edwin Moreno continued to make hard contact, hitting .304 with a .471 slugging percentage. In limited action, infielders Chris Baker and Pete Van Gansen each had an OPS above .900.
Lake Elsinore Player of the Month: Jake Nix
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low-A)
With an incredibly young team, the TinCaps limped badly through the first two months of the season. But things turned around in June as the rotation got strong production from reinforcements added in late May, and the few veteran position players on the roster excelled.
Catcher Marcus Greene Jr., now two years removed from Tommy John Surgery, had 20 hits, including seven homers, in 57 at-bats. The 22-year-old, acquired from Texas for Will Venable at the 2015 trading deadline, posted a stellar 1.255 OPS for the month, which would normally have carried the day. But Brad Zunica, the clubs giant first baseman, had nearly equal numbers with almost a quarter more plate appearances. The 21-year-old Floridian hit .370/.440/767 with a team-best eight homers, while cutting his strikeout rate to below a quarter of his trips to the plate.
With the two sluggers in the middle of the lineup doing serious damage, Buddy Reed came back off the disabled list to post the best month of his professional career at .295/.348/.492 while Fernando Tatis Jr. cooled off a bit, but still posted an .816 OPS with five homers and five stolen bases.
Lefty Logan Allen led the way for the TinCaps pitching staff as he did throughout the first half. In the first month after turning 20, Allen posted a 3.32 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 21.2 innings of work. The performance capped a strong effort and earned him a promotion to the Cal League after he appeared in the All-Star game.
Reggie Lawson and Ronald Bolanos, both in their first full year of professional baseball, arrived in late May and were immediately key contributors. Lawson, a second-round pick last June, posted a 3.00 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 21 innings. Bolanos, the first of the Cuban pitchers signed during the last international free agency period to arrive in full-season ball, worked two thirds of an inning more than Lawson and allowed only 12 hits.
Fort Wayne Player of the Month: Brad Zunica
System Player of the Month: Zunica
Zunica has followed an odd path. He finished high school a year early so he could join the Miami Hurricanes, but left the program after only one year. He then emerged as one of the best power hitters in the nation at the JuCo level, inspiring the Padres to spend overslot on him as a 15th-rounder. While he continued to pound the ball as a professional, he also struck out 196 times in his first 145 games in the system, leading to a return to the Midwest League this year. The big man significantly toned down his leg kick in May, and the difference in results is eye-popping. He still gets long to the ball and with Josh Naylor ahead of him on the organizational depth chart, hes not completely in control of his own destiny. But if he continues to make consistent contact, he can be a middle-of-the-order threat at any level.
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