Pitcher of the Year
Michel Baez- RHP, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
58.2 IP, 41 H, 16 ER, 8 HR, 8 BB, 82 K, 2.45 ERA
For as impressive as Fernando Tatis Jr. was in 2017, right-hander Michel Baez may have been just as impressive. He only threw just under 59 regular season innings with the TinCaps in 2017, but he certainly made the most of those innings. With 82 strikeouts in just 58 and two-thirds innings, Baez was one of the better strikeout artists in all of minor league baseball. He did have an issue with the home run ball, but his 10.25 K/BB ratio was highly impressive for a 21-year-old in his first year of professional baseball. It’s unclear where Baez will start the 2018 season, but Lake Elsinore is probably a safe bet. However, if he keeps pitching like this, it won’t be long before he makes his way through the remainder of the Padres’ minor league system.
Hudson Potts– 3B, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
124-491, .253/.293/.438, 23 2B, 4 3B, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 67 R, 23 BB, 140 K, 215 TB, .185 ISO, 103 wRC+
While Fernando Tatis Jr. may have been the most impressive of any Padres’ prospect in 2017, Hudson Potts was very likely the most productive and impressive prospect in the second half of the season for the TinCaps or really any minor league team. After having a fairly quiet first half filled with offensive struggles, Potts was a completely different player in the second half, clubbing 14 home runs and helping the TinCaps make it into the playoffs. There are still questions about whether he is going to do enough offensively to be a big leaguer, but the power should be enough to advance him through the minor leagues.
Pedro Avila– RHP, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
85.2 IP, 74 H, 31 R (29 ER), 3 HR, 15 BB, 117 K, 3.05 ERA
Although Michel Baez’ dominance of the Midwest League was rather surprising, the emergence of Pedro Avila was even more so surprising. Acquired from the Washington Nationals for Derek Norris, who was subsequently given to the Tampa Bay Rays and is now more or less out of baseball, Pedro Avila came out of nowhere to have one of the better seasons of any Friars’ pitching prospect. Following a disastrous start to his season, during which he gave up 24 earned runs in just over 43 innings with the Lake Elsinore Storm, Avila was demoted to the Fort Wayne TinCaps in early June. After a rocky first month with the TinCaps, Avila dominated from the beginning of July through the end of the season. From July 6 to his last regular season start on September 1, Avila gave up just 12 earned runs in 65 innings over 10 starts. On top of that, Avila struck out 93 batters to just 10 total walks. Although Baez started the season as the better pitcher, Avila probably finished the season as the better of the two.
Reinaldo Ilarraza– IF, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
110-480, .229/.295/.298, 17 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 45 RBI, 58 R, 40 BB, 149 K, 143 TB, 26 SB, .069 ISO, 71 wRC+
I can’t say I was expecting 18-year-old Reinaldo Ilarraza to set the world on fire for the TinCaps in 2017, but he did have a very disappointing season. While Eguy Rosario got off to a poor start and ended up back in the Arizona Rookie League, Ilarraza somehow made it through the entire season with the TinCaps despite his .229/.295/.298 slash line. Ilarraza similarly struggled in the AZL last season, but given his age, it’s not wise to write him off just yet. While Potts, Ona, and a few other young TinCaps will probably find themselves in Lake Elsinore next year, Ilarraza will probably stay behind for another go at the Midwest League in 2018.
Austin Smith– RHP, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
39.1 IP, 36 H, 31 R (29 ER), 28 BB, 33 K, 6.64 ERA
Using the word disappointment is an understatement for right-hander Austin Smith. After being selected with the Padres first selection in the 2015 MLB Draft, a second round pick, Smith has been an absolute disaster on the mound through his first two and a half professional seasons. Following a 5.26 ERA with the TinCaps in 90 and two-thirds innings with the TinCaps in 2016, Smith began this year back with the TinCaps and ended up struggling through the first two months of the season before being demoted to Tri-City. Once Smith began pitching for the Dust Devils, he was used almost exclusively out of the bullpen where he had some bouts of success. Overall, it was pretty much a lost season for a guy who was viewed pretty highly alongside Jacob Nix coming out of the 2015 MLB Draft.
Other Performances of Note
Hansel Rodriguez– RHP, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
90 IP, 76 H, 44 R (38 ER), 31 BB, 103 K, 3.80 ERA
Alongside right-hander Pedro Avila, right-hander Hansel Rodriguez was another lottery type player acquired in a trade, this time the Melvin Upton trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, that ended up having a very successful season. Through July 2 of this season, Rodriguez had thrown 64 innings for the TinCaps and had given up 37 earned runs as mostly a starter. From his next appearance on July 6 through the end of the season, Rodriguez operated solely out of the bullpen and gave up just one earned run over his final 26 regular season innings, good for a 0.35 ERA. In those 26 innings, struck out 44 batters while walking just five. It’s a shame Rodriguez couldn’t have that same success as a starter, but the 20-year-old right-hander now looks like one of the most dangerous relief pitching prospects in the Padres’ entire system.
David Bednar– RHP, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
33.2 IP, 18 H, 7 ER, 11 BB, 50 K, 1.87 ERA
While David Bednar was not nearly as impressive following his second-half promotion to Lake Elsinore, his first half with the TinCaps is worthy of note here. Not only did Bednar strike out over a batter per inning, but he also did a very solid job of both limiting base runners and more importantly limiting walks. A 35th round pick from the 2016 draft, Bednar has the hopes of one day cracking the Padres’ bullpen.
Jorge Ona– OF, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
115-415, .277/.351/.405, 18 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 64 RBI, 54 R, 40 BB, 115 K, 168 TB, .128 ISO, 115 wRC+
While Fernando Tatis Jr. got most of the attention, right fielder Jorge Ona was probably the second most consistent hitter in the TinCaps lineup. The numbers aren’t really eye-popping, but Ona got the job done for the TinCaps on a consistent basis. He didn’t show nearly as much power as some probably wanted, but Ona still showed a good all-around approach with a solid on-base percentage in his first taste of professional baseball. Ona should start the 2018 season in Lake Elsinore.
Brad Zunica– 1B, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
69-276, .250/.361/.504, 16 2B, 18 HR, 51 RBI, 44 R, 43 BB, 102 K, 139 TB, .254 ISO, 142 wRC+
Injuries shortened Brad Zunica’s season, but when he was on the field he was the best power threat in the TinCaps lineup. With 18 long balls and 16 doubles, good for a .254 ISO and 142 wRC+, Zunica was a rather dangerous threat in the middle of the TinCaps order. He will likely join Jorge Ona, Hudson Potts, and a few other TinCaps in Lake Elsinore in 2018.