The San Diego Padres Double-A affiliate the Amarillo Sod Poodles have enjoyed a fruitful inaugural season. Here is a look at some players who have established themselves this 2019 season.
In their inaugural season in Amarillo, the Sod Poodles wasted no time putting their stamp on the Texas League.
Four Amarillo players earned spots on the 2019 Texas League postseason All-Star team spots, second-most in the Texas League after the Arkansas Travelers who earned six players on the team.
Let’s take a look at why a key Sod Poodles player is missing, who deserves a spot but wasn’t selected, and discuss what the four that did receive spots did to earn them.
Owen Miller (IF)
If not for the Dodger phenom Gavin Lux, Owen Miller might’ve been the fifth member of the Sod Poodles to get the nod. Just because Lux caught fire in the Texas League doesn’t mean that we should undervalue the performance of what Owen Miller has done this year at the plate and in the field. The Illinois State product produced a line of including .285/.351/.423/.774, placing himself in the top ten of three of those categories. Miller was also excellent in the field, only committing nine errors over a span 1,037 innings played, leaving him with a .970 fielding percentage. It’s also worth mentioning that Miller has played well on defense across three positions, playing a majority of his time at shortstop but also spending time at second base and a few games at third.
The infielder was scorching hot in the first half, but it was the second half that would give the Amarillo fans a moment to remember. Amarillo found themselves down after Northwest Arkansas scored to take the lead in both of the extra innings to that point. The Naturals scored three in the top half of the eleventh, even putting up a rare run on David Bednar before getting out of the inning. Miller went to the plate with two on two-out, crushed a first-pitch slider to the bar in left field for his first hit of the night
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 23, 2019
David Bednar (CP)
David Bednar has not blown a save since May 24 but the Texas League second-half All-Star nod went to Emmanuel Clase from Frisco. This race seemed pretty clear cut that Bednar was the favorite to win, but instead, the honor will go to the Roughrider and current Texas Ranger. After a rocky April that saw Bednar give up seven earned runs in 13.1 innings, he knocked off the rust and shined since taking the closer role. The role had been shared with the flamethrowing Andres Munoz, who has shown what is capable of in the majors, but once Bednar got a hold of the role he didn’t let go. The closer blew his only save of the entire season in May, and it hasn’t happened since, going 14/14 on save opportunities. Bednar’s splitter is on another level right now, pulling the rug out from unsuspecting hitters and sitting them down.
The signature moment gives you a peek at what Bednar can do for your team, and it’s not even a save situation. A matchup that is starting to look like it could be the Texas League championship series, Amarillo and Tulsa were tied at four in the ninth inning when Wellman went to his closer. Bednar did not disappoint turning in an excellent performance in his first inning of work alone, striking out the side to push the game an extra-inning further. The Sod Poodles would fail to score in the home half which meant extra innings, and Wellman let his closer out there. Due to the new extra innings rule that the runner starts on second base to start the inning is implemented, but the runner was no problem for Bednar who turned in a nearly flawless two-inning appearance. Bednar dominated over the two-inning stretch against a good Drillers line up. The Lafayette College product struck out four Drillers in total only walking one and intentionally walking another, continuing his domination of the second half of the season. A closer that can be stretched is an asset to any club in baseball, and Bednar has proved to be just that.
Let’s look at the players who did make the cut.
Luis Torrens (C)
Just like with Owen Miller, Luis Torrens has done it both with the glove and with the bat. The former top prospect for the Yankees has shown off his cannon of an arm that is as good as advertised if not better. The catcher has thrown out 47% of all baserunners this season while also being a wall behind home plate. Torrens has impressed with the bat as well, posting a line of 292/.363/.476/.839 this season while increasing his walk percentage of 5.5% from 5% to 10.5%. Torrens has put together good at bats this year and has taken full advantage of a park where the ball flies out fast posting one more home run this season than in his entire minor league career before this season with 12.
Torrens’ signature moment this season came late in June against Corpus Christi. In close games, having baserunners means more than anything and, while the Hooks had baserunners, three were erased by the Sod Poodle catcher. That night Torrens threw out three baserunners, pushing his season total at the time to above 50% baserunners caught stealing, but that wasn’t all that he did that night. Torrens also launched a home run in a game decided by two runs. It’s not often you see a night like that from a catcher.
Lake Bachar (SP)
Despite a rough time so far in August, Lake Bachar as a starter boasts a 3.21 ERA as a starter in 2019, something that looks vastly different from is ERA in relief. 32% of all of the runs given up by Bachar has been in the relief role and not his usual spot as a starter. The Sod Poodles starter went on a tear in June and July compiling an ERA of 2.27, striking out 61 batters, but the most valuable part about Bachar this year in 2019 is his ability to eat innings. The right-hander continuously has gone deep into his starts, averaging 5.2 innings pitched per start, making the job easier for the bullpen in a taxing season. Bachar is the epitome of a player whose value just can’t be quantified in a box school.
If you follow the Sod Poodles, then you should know what is coming for the signature moment, but I decided to put an extra one because the right-hander deserves recognition for the season that he has had. Bachar Strong was an event that the Sod Poodles hosted to support Lake’s father, David, who is in the middle of an ongoing fight with cancer. Amarillo hosted “Bachar Strong” night to help raise money to aid the Bachar’s fight. The Sod Poodles wore an Amarillo version of the old throwback Padres uniform with “No One Fights Alone” printed on t-shirts and wristbands.
The jerseys were auctioned off with the proceeds going to the family. It was an emotional night for everyone, and it showed that the community and the organization could come together for things that are bigger than baseball. As far as his best pitching performance, you don’t have to go too far back. In the middle of an amazing month of July, where Bachar would eventually only allow seven earned runs in the entire month, Bachar pitched a gem. The visiting Naturals saw Bachar’s best stuff when he allowed only four hits the entire outing, while also going 7.2 innings of shutout baseball. The right hander struck out nine Naturals and walked only two on the night before being removed after throwing what was arguably the best pitching performance in Amarillo’s young franchise history.
Ivan Castillo (2B)
At the time of this article going up, Castillo is still leading the Texas League in batting average at .314, and that alone could earn him a spot on this list. Castillo puts the ball in play better than just about anyone in the league, totaling only 19 walks on the year but also only 57 strikeouts. He’s hit for a .300 both at home at Hodgetown and on the road. With the Owen Miller and Hudson Potts required to play second base at least once a week Castillo has been all across the infield and played great defense where ever he has been. The Sod Poodles infielder also took advantage of his speed adding 14 stolen bases to his stat line this season.
Castillo’s signature moment is a hard one to pin down. You can go anywhere from the multiple hit streaks, the impressive five consecutive multi-hit streak, but it’s hard to beat a seven base performance with a game like Castillo. That happened in July against the visiting Springfield Cardinal when the Amarillo second basemen hit a single, double, and a home run. Castillo also drew a six-pitch walk in a crucial spot to extend the inning and allow runners to score. Whether or not he will lead the league in hitting for sure yet has not been determined, but if you didn’t know before, Ivan Castillo can hit the baseball with the best in the Texas League.
Edward Olivares (OF)
When you’re a prospect in the best system in baseball, you are expected to produce, and you can’t ask much more from the former Blue Jay. Olivares gave Amarillo their best all-around player this season, showing more power than ever before with 17 home runs and 75 RBI. The Amarillo outfielder posted .283/.351/.453 in the process of placing him in the top ten of almost every hitting category. Olivares flashed his base running ability stealing 33 bases for Amarillo to add even more value to his already great season. The outfielder also navigated right field extremely well and when asked to play center showed he could handle that as well without any issue. You could even argue that if not for a cold streak as of late he could have won Texas League Hitter of the Year instead of Springfield outfielder Dylan Carlson.
Olivares did his thing for most of the year without really getting attention from Sod Poodle fans, and it wasn’t because of what he was doing. Sod Poodle fans were looking at the impression that Buddy Reed and Brad Zunica had made on them in their initial homestead, and rightfully so as Zunica and Reed smashed the baseball in those opening games at Hodgetown, but that would all change with three swings. Olivares took the eventual Texas League Pitcher of the Year, Dan McCaughan, deep two different times and added an inside the park home run too. Three home runs off of arguably the best pitcher throughout the entire season in the league that came in with a 2.70 ERA. Olivares handed the right hander 12.5% of his entire season total on three swings in just five innings. In a season full of highlights, the first three home run game in franchise history takes the prize.