Player of the Year
Franchy Cordero– OF, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
127-390, .326/.369/.603, 21 2B, 18 3B, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 68 R, 23 BB, 118 K, 235 TB, 146 wRC+
It was pretty evident that no player on the Chihuahuas’ roster had a more impressive 2017 season than outfielder Franchy Cordero. Between bouts of big league playing time, Cordero set the Pacific Coast League on fire with 56 extra base hits, 235 total bases, and a team-leading 146 wRC+. Following his solid start to the season, Cordero earned a late May call-up to the big leagues, with an injury sending Manuel Margot to the disabled list.
After producing respectable numbers over his first few weeks of big league action, Cordero fell flat over his last bit of big league action. He saw a few more games in the bigs at the end of July, but spent most of the rest of the season in Triple-A. Although his strikeouts did him in during his big league stint, Cordero still had an impressive all-around season for the Chihuahuas. The Padres outfield may be looking a little crowded, but Cordero has as good a shot as anybody of cracking the Opening Day roster in 2018.
Pitcher of the Year
Bryan Rodriguez– RHP, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
126.2 IP, 157 H, 76 R (69 ER), 37 BB, 63 K, 4.90 ERA
In the Pacific Coast League, it can sometimes be hard to find objectively good pitchers. For the Chihuahuas, right-hander Bryan Rodriguez was probably the closest it got. Although not much of a “prospect” by usual standards, Rodriguez was easily the most effective pitcher for the Chihuahuas in 2017. It wasn’t always pretty, but more often than not, the Chihuahuas could count on Rodriguez to give them five to six innings while keeping them in the ball game. With an ERA just south of five, there were definitely bad spots, but Rodriguez battled through and put together a more successful season than last. In fact, from early July through the end of the season, Rodriguez gave up just 25 earned runs in 61 and two-thirds innings, good for a 3.65 ERA. Pitching in the PCL, that’s a pretty respectable end of the season for a guy like Rodriguez. He very well could end up seeing some big league innings in what should be another rebuilding year for the Padres in 2018.
Christian Villanueva– 3B, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
118-398, .296/.369/.528, 28 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 86 RBI, 69 R, 43 BB, 83 K, 210 TB, 129 wRC+
With how many great prospects the Padres have at all levels of the minor league system, it’s hard to get very excited about a 26-year-old playing with a third organization in his eighth season in the minor leagues. However, Christian Villanueva gave fans plenty to be excited for with his late-season fireworks. After clubbing 20 home runs in Triple-A, while adding 28 doubles and two triples, Villanueva clubbed four home runs in just 32 September plate appearances at the big league level. With a solid Triple-A season under his belt, and with some successful big league experience to boot, Villanueva could end up pushing for more big league playing time in 2018, especially if the Padres make some trades out of the infield this offseason.
Adam Cimber– RHP, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
64.2 IP, 51 H, 21 ER, 8 BB, 52 K, 2.92 ERA
I could probably just copy and paste what I said above here, but it’s easy for guys like Adam Cimber to go overlooked with a farm system as deep as the Padres. Since being drafted in the ninth round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Cimber has been fairly solid everywhere he’s pitched, as the right-hander has never had an ERA above 3.05 save for a bad few innings in Triple-A at the end of 2016. People don’t tend to get too hyped up about relief pitchers, but Cimber was the most consistent one for the Chihuahuas in 2017 and could end up in the Padres’ bullpen in 2018. See the common theme here?
Travis Jankowski– OF, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
37-139, .266/.350/.317, 5 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBI, 20 R, 18 BB, 28 K, 44 TB, 81 wRC+
In terms of disappointing players, there is an obvious choice here, as outfielder Travis Jankowski certainly had a year to forget. After an abysmal start to his 2017 season with the Padres, a foot injury sidelined Jankowski until he made a mid-July return with the Chihuahuas. In 179 plate appearances with the Chihuahuas, Jank was underwhelming, as he put up an 87 wRC+ with almost no power output. Sure, the speed and defense were there, but Jankowski can never be a big league regular with almost no offense to show.
Following the end of the Chihuahuas’ season, Jank found himself back in the big leagues for an altogether lukewarm finish to a forgettable season. All told, Jank slashed .155/.250/.169 with a 22 wRC+ over 82 big league plate appearances. With the emergence of Jose Pirela and Franchy Cordero, Jankowski may find himself expendable this offseason.
Christian Bethancourt– RHP, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
41.2 IP, 50 H, 40 R (38 ER), 33 BB, 23 K, 8.21 ERA
It’s hard to be a Major League baseball player. It’s very likely even harder to be a Major League pitcher. But both pale in comparison to trying to be a little bit of both at the same time, which is what the Padres attempted to ask of catcher-pitcher-outfielder Christian Bethancourt. After being uninspired by his offensive numbers in his first two years in San Diego, the Padres decided to make a bold move and transition Bethancourt into a part-time pitcher, part-time catcher, utility-type player. Given how impressed the Padres were with Bethancourt pitching in some games in relief in 2016, the move made sense from their standpoint. However, the move failed almost from the start, as the right-hander got knocked around at the big league level before being demoted back to Triple-A. Things didn’t get much better for him, as he pitched to an 8.21 ERA in 41 and two-thirds innings with the Chihuahuas. The bigger issue was the 33 walks he had in those innings. It’s hard to really be too hard on the guy given how much of a transition that was, but it was a disappointing season. Going into this offseason, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Padres choose to handle this situation and what position Bethancourt will be in going forward.
Other Performances of Note
Nick Buss– OF, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
123-353, .348/.395/.541, 19 2B, 8 3B, 11 HR, 55 RBI, 53 R, 27 BB, 54 K, 191 TB, 140 wRC+
Really the only player that gave Franchy Cordero a run for his money was fellow outfielder Nick Buss. If not for Cordero being demoted back to Triple-A, Buss would have easily been the best Chihuahua in 2017. That slash line and offensive output are certainly impressive, but Buss is still just a 30-year-old journeyman minor league trying to find his way back to the Majors for a third time. With the Padres’ outfield log jam, that certainly won’t happen in San Diego.