I went to El Paso Chihuahua games on June 3rd, June 4th, June 9th, June 11th and June 13th. I’m going again tomorrow, but I’m going to go ahead and get some thoughts down.If you don’t want to read the game recaps then skip on down to the bottom for the major takeaways.
Southwest University Park
The Chihuahuas play in a gorgeous ballpark in downtown El Paso. The sections behind home plate seem to be almost sold out every game and the promotions team keeps fans engaged in some way or another every half-inning. The players are fairly accessible for autograph collectors and they know many of the fans by name and will pick up a conversation right where they left it at the previous game. Things like that are what I love about minor league baseball. That, the fact that you get to watch guys develop and see them before they’re stars and the fact that C.B. Bucknor will never be on the umpiring crew.
Vs. Salt Lake Bees
I did not attend the first two games against the Bees but they went poorly for the Chihuahuas. Both starters, Tyrell Jenkins and Kyle Lloyd had bad outings. Game three was worse. Michael Bourn was recently signed by the Angels after being jobless to start the season. He went 3 for 5 and Carlos Perez went 4 for 5 in what turned into a dramatic beatdown of the home team. Bryan Rodriguez started for El Paso and was charged with 3 earned runs in 5 innings. He was actually a bit worse than those numbers make it appear as he gave up nine hits and walked one in those 5 innings. He was relieved by Logan Bawcom who had an even rougher outing, giving up 2 earned run on 6 hits in 1 2/3 inning. Bawcom only gave up 2 earned, but there were another 5 unearned. The poor outings by Rodriguez and and Bawcom were really the story of the game. Rodriguez has been bouncing been Double-A and Triple-A since 2015 and his Triple-A numbers are not looking good so far. Bawcom has been in Triple almost exclusively since 2013 but has not been able to make that final leap. He tends to allow too many baserunners, which at some points translates into runs. I don’t automatically write-off older minor leaguers who scatters hits, but with a 1.55 WHIP Bawcom is fortunate that his ERA is only 2.79. I like Bawcom’s potential to improve and make it to the big leagues because I believe in guys figuring it out and relying on their brains and what they’ve learned about the game to become better pitchers.
The game the following day went much better. Matt Magill came back from extended Spring Training where he was resting his arm. He went 5 innings giving up one earned run on 6 hits. Keith Hessler gave up one more but the Chihuahuas had a 5 run second inning whcih led to the victory. Phil Maton earned the save with 2 innings, allowing only one hit.
Vs. Fresno Grizzlies
June 9th was the first time the Chihuahuas faced the Grizzlies all season and the first game was a slugfest. When I watch MLB games I enjoy high-scoring games. When I watch PCL games specifically I’d rather see low scoring contests. Zach Lee and Jason Jester combined to give up 8 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. However, El Paso scored 8 runs in the fourth inning alone and were able to hold off the Grizzlies for a 14-12 win. AJ Reed, Tony Kemp and Jabari Blash all hit homeruns. I didn’t go to the game on the 10th, but on the 11th Reed, Kemp and Blash hit home runs again. This time Colin Moran and Ryan Schimpf got in on the action as well. If that’s not enough I should add Reed and Blash hit home runs on the 10th, so those two hit 3 home runs in 3 days each.
June 11th overall was more of the same for El Paso pitching. Tyrell Jenkins was lifted after 4 2/3 innings and gave up 9 earned runs. El Paso went on to lose 11-5.
Vs. Tacoma Rainiers
June 13th and I finally see solid pitching beginning to end from both teams. Andre Rienzo started for El Paso and he was fantastic. He was the first Brazilian to ever pitch in the big leagues when he debuted in 2013. H e appeared in the big leagues in 2013-2015 but his numbers were never very good and he didn’t see the big leagues in 2016. This year he has pitched out of the bullpen and now started 4 games. Today’s outing dropped his ERA to 2.43 and while his WHIP is on the high side he has shown that he can pitch himself out of situations.
- The El Paso Chihuahua team is not where you look for the big time Padres prospects. They were last year, but with Dinelson Lamet, Hunter Renfroe, Manny Margot, and now Phil Maton all being promoted we are left with players who have exceeded rookie limits or do not project to be every day big leaguers.
- Even if they’re not “prospects” the Chihuahuas do have several guys who could help the team if promoted. Andre Rienzo doesn’t allow a lot of runs. Nick Buss is hitting .372 on the season and .394 in his last ten games. Rafael Ortega is hitting .312. Jabari Blash and Ryan Schimpf hit a lot of home runs.
- Phil Maton was called up and made his big league debut on 11 June. I expect him to perform well and stay at the big league level for the forseeable future.
- Jose Pirela might just keep his job at the big league level.
- River Stevens may have lost his shine along the way but at 25 he has reached Triple-A and he’s hitting .417 in his first 5 games. Small sample size, but it shows he is comfortable already.
- Tyrell Jenkins needs to improve soon. However, he is only 24. He has time to improve and the Padres should invest in developing his talent.
- Carlos Asuaje: See above, except he’s 25 and never had the ceiling Jenkins did.
- Carter Capps will likely be the next pitcher promoted. After that we could see Rienzo get a shot but Kevin Quackenbush will probably have the easier road back to the big leagues.
Eric Killian is an Army Officer who covered the San Diego Padres for Prospects1500 when the site initially launched, but has since moved over to the Houston Astros. He is a longtime baseball fan and collector whose collecting inspired him to learn all he can about up-and-coming players. Follow him on Twitter @USKillian or @BaseBallDayRCs for strictly card collecting content.