The minor league regular season wrapped up on Labor Day, bringing to a close a season that saw a number of impressive individual performances throughout the Padres system, but not much team success.
Only the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas have advanced to the playoffs. Many of the organization’s top prospects in the lower levels will head home for a few weeks, then return to Peoria for the fall Instructional League program. Others from higher in the system will report to the Arizona Fall League or to international winter leagues. The 2017 minor league operations will begin again at the start of March.
As we do each month, we took a look at the top performers in the Padres minor league system for August and the first week of September. Remember, these reports are not meant to be revisions of the top prospect rankings, but rather a look at noteworthy recent performances.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A)
After appearing set to run away with their division, the Chihuahuas limped to the finish line with an 11-23 record in August and September, just holding on for a spot in the playoffs. They certainly earned the poor record the old-fashioned way; they got outhit, outpitched and outfielded.
With Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot locked in a holding pattern in Triple-A until mid-September, the third outfield spot was held down quite capably by 23-year-old Nick Torres, who hit .307 and slugged an impressive .526 in his first full month with the club. A fourth-round pick out of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 2014, Torres continued a concerning trend with a 28:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but has shown that he can be a solid performer when he does make contact.
Infielder Carlos Asuaje posted an OPS just north of .800 again, finishing the year with more hits (172) than any player in Triple-A this year and tied with Margot with 98 runs scored. While he got one look in the outfield, Asuaje settled into playing almost exclusively second base after the Padres acquired him last winter in the Craig Kimbrel trade.
With a number of pitchers shuttling up from San Antonio and down from the majors, Frank Garces provided some important stability and solid production in the rotation for the month. In six full starts and a one-inning tune-up for the playoffs, the 26-year-old lefty posted a 3.34 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 35 innings. After getting looks in the big league bullpen each of the last two seasons, Garces finished the year having worked 114.1 innings, more than he had since pitching in Lake Elsinore in 2013.
In the bullpen, sidearming righty Eric Yardley put up a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings, and induced one of the weirder balls in play you’ll ever see.
El Paso Player of the Month: Nick Torres