Nick Buss– OF, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
80 AB, .350/.404/.538, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 8 BB, 43 TB
Going into the season, it was clear the upper levels of the Padres’ farm system were lacking. A.J. Preller and company did a massive amount of work over the last two years to revamp the farm system, but almost all of the talent flowed to the bottom of the system, leaving the upper levels lacking in talent. With the late season promotions of Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges, and Manuel Margot, and their expected full season debuts in San Diego in 2017, there were plenty of spots for the Chihuahuas to fill. In order to fill the upper levels of the minors, the Padres brought in quite a few minor league free agents, including a few with major league experience. One such player is 30-year-old Nick Buss.
Of all those guys, none have been as successful as Buss so far this season. After starting the season in a reserve role, Buss has been playing almost every day and has been wildly successful. It’s easy to credit Buss’ performance on playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but even with that caveat, he has still been one of the best hitters in that league this season. Although Buss has not played the full complement of games, he currently has the fifth highest wRC+ of any player in the PCL with at least 100 at bats. Ironically enough, two of the only four guys ahead of him are also Padres’ talent, including former Chihuahua, Jamie Romak, and Buss’ current teammate, Jose Pirela. May was a great month for Buss, and he is looking to build off of that strong showing in June and further onward.
Jose Pirela– IF/OF, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
102 AB, .333/.376/.696, 5 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 6 BB, 71 TB
I could probably just copy and paste what I wrote about Nick Buss for what I am about to write about Jose Pirela. However, that would be unfair for both men, as both have taken slightly different paths to this point. Pirela is obviously the younger of the two, and the one who clearly still has further upside, Triple-A numbers aside. Pirela also has his share of big league experience, with 137 big league at bats to his name, however, he has only managed to slash .226/.246/.321 during that minimal big league playing time. Despite his struggles at the next level, Pirela is absolutely tearing apart Triple-A.
As mentioned above, Pirela currently sits among the top five in wRC+ in the Pacific Coast League. He has improved his numbers even further after a somewhat slow first month, with 16 extra base hits, including 10 home runs, in the month of May. Pirela now has 12 home runs on the season with an OPS over 1.000 for the season. Pirela still lacks a real defensive home, but his bat may just carry him back to the big leagues at some point.
Luis Urias– 2B, Double-A, San Antonio Missions
108 AB, .361/.449/.435, 6 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 18 BB, 14 K, 47 TB
I have honestly run out of superlatives to describe Padres’ Double-A second baseman, Luis Urias. After winning the High-A batting title and the Cal League MVP award in 2016, it was hard to imagine Urias playing much better going into 2017. Somehow, Urias has exceeded even those lofty expectations, as the 19-year-old kid has slashed .347/.429/.485 over his first 196 at bats in the Double-A this season. Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, and playing against competition that is on average three or four years older than him, Urias has excelled.
After a great April, it didn’t appear likely that Urias could sustain such a high level of play through May. However, Urias has been even better in May, getting on base in almost half of his plate appearances and walking more than he is striking out. The gap power and home run power have tailed off a bit in his second month of play, but Urias has more than made up for it with a continual barrage of base hits. In fact, Urias had a multi-hit game 10 times in May, and had at least one hit in 23 out of 27 games played this last month. Truly astonishing.
Ty France– 3B, Double-A, San Antonio Missions
67 AB, .358/.397/.522, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 35 TB
It’s been somewhat difficult to be a San Antonio Missions position player so far this season. Living in the shadow of Luis Urias is hard, but in his short time with the Missions, Ty France has made it look not so bad. After a successful start to his season with the Lake Elsinore Storm, France earned a promotion to Double-A in Mid-May. Since joining the Missions, France has not disappointed, collecting 24 hits, including eight of the extra-base variety. The only real substantial knock on France at this point has been his inability to draw walks, as he has only drawn one walk since joining the Missions, and only eight on the entire season. If France can keep his strikeout rate down and start to draw more walks, he could become an even bigger offensive threat.
Josh Naylor– 1B, High-A, Lake Elsinore Storm
66 AB, .348/.427/.500, 7 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 8 BB, 33 TB
A lot of people were skeptical of Josh Naylor when he was first traded from the Marlins to the Padres as part of the Andrew Cashner deal. There was doubts about whether Naylor could hit for enough power to be a big league contributor someday. Given his size, Naylor was stuck to just playing first base, a position that is currently occupied by Wil Myers, the Padres’ new face of the franchise. This left Naylor in a bit of a weird place, as he had to play better in order to earn a potential future spot with the big league club, despite Myers being in place.
However, to this point, Naylor has responded well to that adversity, as the big left-handed hitter has shown he is capable of not only hitting for contact, but also a good amount of power. Sure, he only hit one home run in May, but he did hit seven doubles, and now has 19 extra base hits on the season, even with his two weeks of missed time. Naylor has cooled off a bit in the last part of the month, but his earlier hot streak was enough to sustain one of the better showings of any Padres minor leaguer.
Michael Gettys– CF, High-A, Lake Elsinore Storm
93 AB, .280/.396/.419, 7 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 16 BB, 39 TB
Have I mentioned that Michael Gettys is one of my favorite prospects? Because Michael Gettys is one of my favorite prospects. The potential here is so tantalizing. Gettys is a bona fide five-tool type player, although there have always been some kinks to work out with his bat. The power is there, the glove is there, the arm is there, the speed is there, but the bat has not progressed to the point where it needs to be if Gettys wants to reach his big league potential someday.
After a highly successful full season last year split between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, expectations were reasonably high for Gettys as he returned to the Storm for a second go-’round. However, Gettys start to the season did not go as he planned, as a back problem seemed to hinder him in the early part of the season. Despite this, Gettys has overcome that slow start and injury and really picked up his pace in May. While the batting average may not be as high as people may like it to be, Gettys made great strides at getting on base, at a near .400 clip, and drawing more walks, drawing 16 walks compared to just three the whole first month of the season. Gettys still needs to sustain this better offensive performance, but May was about as encouraging a sign as we could expect.
Fernando Tatis Jr.- SS/3B, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
101 AB, .307/.377/.525, 6 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 9 BB, 53 TB
One of the youngest guys in the Padres farm system happened to be one of their biggest bright spots over the last month. After a rather slow start, in which Tatis was hitting near .200 and striking out more than a third of the time, Tatis caught fire in May, collecting 12 extra base hits, working more frequent walks, and cutting his strikeout rate to under 30 percent on the season.
After being acquired from the Chicago White Sox in the James Shields trade, Tatis wasn’t viewed as much; a skinny 18-year-old kid who had yet to perform at the professional level. However, after adding quite a bit of size, mainly muscle, in the second half of last season and during the off-season, Tatis has vaulted himself into the conversation as one of the better young prospects in the Padres system. There are still some kinks to work out in his swing, and plate discipline may always be at least something of an issue, but Tatis has already made such great strides in a short amount of time.
Jorge Ona– RF, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
76 AB, .289/.333/.395, 2 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 3 BB, 30 TB
Although they were acquired in different ways and at slightly different times, the names of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jorge Ona could be attached for years to come. Both are young, both are talented, and both are hoping to one day make a big league impact for the San Diego Padres. Interestingly enough, these two have fed off each other quite a bit so far this season. It seems when one is heating up, the other one follows suit. With those two at the top of the TinCaps’ lineup, Fort Wayne can put up all sorts of runs on any given day.
As for Ona, he didn’t have quite as good a month as Tatis, but he still put together an all-around solid month, even with an injury causing him to miss some playing time. With that being said, Ona came back from his injury with a fire, as he picked up right where he left off prior to injury. Ona has cooled down in recent weeks, but that is just part of the growing pains that come with being a 20-year-old in his first full season of professional baseball stateside.
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