Level: Double-A baseball is where the rubber meets the road and you find out who can really play. Anyone who succeeds at this level has the talent to play in the major leagues. Those who can replicate their top performances frequently and make adjustments effectively keep advancing from here.
As will be noted often in any discussion of the San Antonio club, Nelson Wolff Stadium’s swirling winds make it one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in professional baseball.
Player of the Year: SS Trea Turner .322/.385/.478
Before he left, Turner was leading the team in nearly every offensive category and disproving the doubters who didn’t think he had the arm to play shortstop. Turner went on to put up even better numbers in the Nationals’ system and earned a call-up to the big club in September.
In fairness to the Padres’ front office, even though he had a big season at Fort Wayne the year before, no one predicted Turner would improve this much within a year. He should be the starting everyday shortstop for Washington in 2016.
Runner-up: CF Travis Jankowski .316/.395/.401 23SB, 50R in 321 PA
If not for Turner, Jankowski would be the player of the year on about any level. After coming back from a severe injury in 2014, he not only came all the way back from his injuries but showed significant improvement on his ability to hit the inside pitch and in his two-strike approach. In many ways, his most impressive statistic was a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 40-to-36.
Player of the Year: RF Yeison Asencio .301/.329/.434, 13HR, 74RBI in 508 PA
I won’t dispute that both Jankowski and Turner put up better numbers. However, Turner and Jankowski combined played in just five more games than Asencio. Asencio finished sixth in the league in batting at .301, and struck out just 40 times in 126 games. Asencio is a solid fielder who was remarkably consistent hitting .302 over the first half of the season, and .300 during the second half. Asencio was another right-handed hitter who struggled hitting at the Wolff. He had just a .705 OPS at home compared to .817 on the road. Asencio is 25, and has been with the organization long enough that it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in Triple-A, in the big leagues, or - most likely - with a completely different team next year.
Runner-up: CF Travis Jankowski
Jankowski spent a majority of the season in Double-A, although he missed nearly a month at the PanAm games. As a speedy center fielder with limited power, Jankowski still had an impressive .796 OPS. His stolen bases have decreased over the years, which is a necessary part of his game. He is already in San Diego, and the question will continue to be if he can hit enough to be a top-of-the-order hitter.
Player of the Year: Travis Jankowski
Jankowski is a pretty easy selection as Player of the Year for San Antonio. Jankowski was the spark plug that powered the Missions’ offense until his promotion to El Paso. The speedy outfielder posted a near .400 on-base percentage and stole 23 bases. Jankowski has been praised by scouts and the Padres’ brass on his two-strike approach, and seems poised to win a job in San Diego in 2016.
Runner-up: Alberth Martinez .276/.341/.397 11HR, 85K, 44BB in 531 PA
Martinez isn’t considered a big-time prospect like Jankowski or Hunter Renfroe, but the 24-year-old Venezuelan more than held his own in the Texas League. Martinez was a monster in the month of August, as the outfielder hit .302/.357/.528, with six home runs. Martinez should thrive in the friendly confines of El Paso and the PCL in 2016.
Player of the Year: CF Travis Jankowski
You’ll have to forgive John for failing to remember how this works. As impressive as Trea Turner obviously was, Jankowski is just as obviously the choice here. The 24-year-old 2012 supplemental-round pick scored 50 runs in 73 games, getting on base and using his speed the way he’ll need to at the highest level. Jankowski’s defense in center is enough that he won’t have to be more than an average hitter to provide a huge amount of value to the big league club. Because he’s shown enough bat quickness to spray the ball to all parts of the field, I think he’ll be able to reach at least that benchmark.
Runner-up: RF Yeison Asencio
The 25-year-old Dominican is nearly unique in the game today. He rarely strikes out – Kyle Gaedele equaled Asencio’s total of 40 in 382 fewer plate appearances – and he walks even less frequently. After a solid showing in 2014, Asencio’s repeat performance in San Antonio this year was more of the same. He hits the ball well, but his in-game power comes up a bit short and his inability to nudge his walk rate up to even five percent makes it hard for Asencio to provide as much offensive value as he might. After getting dropped from the 40-man roster last winter and still going unclaimed, the strong-armed outfielder has one more year left before reaching minor league free agency.
Others of note:
Two brutal months at the start of the year kept Hunter Renfroe off our lists above. But the right fielder put on a show in June and July, showing the power that made him the Padres’ first round pick in 2013. The 23-year-old had an OPS well above 900 for those two months, a period that not coincidentally was when he posted his best strikeout rate of the year. With all the tools to play right field in the big leagues, the question on Renfroe remains the same that it was the day he was drafted: we he ultimately make enough contact to make his above-average/plus power play against big league pitchers. … Luis Domoromo was the Padres’ big international signing in 2008, but the Venezuelan has often struggled to bring his power into games. Through the first half of the season, the 23-year-old appeared on his way to playing himself out of affiliated baseball with a dreadful .465 OPS. But he found his swing in a big way and hit .328/.371/.465 through the second half. As a first baseman, he’ll ultimately need to produce more power, but it’s hard to overstate the turn-around he experienced mid-year, and he’ll get another chance to build on it in 2016. … After his own improbable career-saving turn-around in Fort Wayne to open the year, Duanel Jones jumped to San Antonio and, with the exception of a solid July, generally struggled. The 22-year-old puts on one of the best batting practice shows in the system, but wound up once again not making solid contact with anything close to enough frequency.
2015 MadFriars’ San Antonio Missions Player of the Year: Travis Jankowski
Top Prospect: Hunter Renfroe
While Jankowski is a better bet to start 2016 in the Majors, Renfroe is the one with the potential to be a difference-maker in the middle of the lineup. When he’s on, you get what we saw in June and July – a true power threat who gets on base and who can provide plus defense in the corner. When he’s not, he swings wildly at way too many pitches and can carry his struggles into the field with him. If it were up to us, we’d give him most of the 2016 campaign in Triple-A unless he forces the club’s hand with such stunning performance that they have no choice to give him a look in the big league.