The Sod Poodles won the first half in the South Division, and that ensures the team a spot in the Texas League playoffs in their inaugural season. After 34 years without affiliated baseball in Amarillo, the city will have playoff baseball in 2019.
It was an interesting first half of the season in which the Sod Poodles won their division in their first season with an even record. Amarillo will still need to go through the second half of the season before they get to the playoffs.
Around this time of year is when you tend to see a lot of roster movement around the league, and the San Diego Padres will be no different. We are likely to see trades and promotions in the coming weeks. Especially if the Padres position themselves for a playoff run.
Hodgetown will have no shortage of talent from the league’s best farm system, with 15 of MLB Pipeline’s Padres top-30 prospects residing in levels below the Double-A level, the Sod Poodles will reload when other players move on.
After a successful first half, here are four things to watch for in the second half:
Owen Miller’s Second Half
From walk-offs to big plays on the defensive side, Miller has consistently been the best hitter on the Sod Poodles, and it could be argued that he is the best player on the team. The Amarillo infielder has continued a trend upward throughout his minor league career (even in college as well) where he has hit at least .300 wherever he has played. Miller has slashed .309/.367/.444/.812 this season, while also playing excellent defense no matter the position on the field.
Miller finished the first-half hotter with the bat than he had been all season, batting .474 over a ten-game stretch. He tallied 18 hits in that stretch with seven runs batted in for the Poodles. Miller is only out-averaged by another standout, Ivan Castillo who holds a .347 batting average in 2019 for the team lead.
Miller’s ability to spread the ball all over the field has made it difficult for pitchers to figure him out or even put a shift on him. He has gone opposite field (35.3%) almost as much as his pull side (37.7%). The shortstop out of Illinois State is a hard out no matter who is pitching, hitting .344 against left-handers and .299 against the right. His performance landed him a spot in the Texas League All-Star game in Tulsa Oklahoma where he picked up a hit on Tuesday night.
Can Miller continue this hot stretch that he has been on lately? Or will the Sod Poodles lose him to a promotion at some point in the second half?
The Arrival of MacKenzie Gore
Sod Poodles’ fans received an unexpected glimpse into the Padres future when Fernando Tatis Jr. was sent to Amarillo for a rehab assignment coming off a hamstring injury. Now that Tatis is back in San Diego, it won’t be long before the Sod Poodles fans get to see the team’s future on the mound. MacKenzie Gore, unless he skips Double-A, will appear in Amarillo in the second half of the season. The Padres number one pitching prospect is waiting in the wings and could be promoted at very soon.
Gore has dominated since coming back from a blister problem that made it hard to execute pitches last year. The left-handed pitcher has posted a 1.23 ERA in 13 starts, 92/16 strikeout to walk ratio, and a sub .75 WHIP (.70). The Whiteville North Carolina product is the consensus best left-handed prospect in baseball. He mixes all his pitches well and hits his spots. The starter comes with an unmatched work ethic and a passion that resembles current Padres starter, Chris Paddack. Like Paddack, Gore is one of the big pieces of this Padres rebuild, and the Amarillo faithful will get a sneak peek into the San Diego’s future with the lefty very soon.
Is this the new Emmanuel Ramirez?
No other Amarillo starting pitcher has had a better year this season than Emmanuel Ramirez. The right-handed pitcher has done everything that the organization has asked of him on the mound, even picking up a three-inning save early in the season. Ramirez has been huge for Amarillo this season and a lot of his contributions have been his ability to eat innings through a long season. The 6-foot-2 starter has only failed to go five innings pitched one time in his last nine starts (the one time he didn’t, he threw 4.2 innings against Tulsa).
He started the Texas League second half off right with a seven shutout inning performance against the Drillers this past week. June has been kind to Ramirez. He has appeared in four games splitting the time between starter and reliever. The Texas League All-Star has posted a 2-0 record in the month with a 2.19 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched while allowing only six earned runs so far. In June, Ramirez also saw his strike percentage rise by seven percent since April to 68.45%, and he has dropped his pitches per inning this season to 15.08. Could Ramirez be an under the radar possibility for a September call-up?
Two players that are still being brought back from injuries, Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez have shown Amarillo fans how talented they can be in small doses during the 2019 season. Morejon has been brutal going through a handful of injuries, and struggling when he did play earlier in the year before going down with shoulder soreness. Since coming back from shoulder soreness, the lefty has been held to limited innings. He has not exceeded three innings since the injury. Sod Poodles manager, Phillip Wellman, said after Morejon’s first start back that he would be brought back “extremely slowly” and the team has done that very thing. Morejon, if healthy, could be an option for the Padres bullpen for a September call-up. The left-hander is the number four prospect in the Padres system (MLB.com), so there is still a lot of hope from the organization that the small in stature left-hander can rebound from early season struggles and nagging arm injuries.
The fans have seen Padres number five overall prospect Michel Baez a handful of times in the first half of the season out of the pen. When on the mound, he has been dominant, showing off a new harder breaking slider that is much faster than its predecessor. Baez over the season has fixed his arm slot to the point where there isn’t a difference between his pitches, making it extremely difficult for hitters. The Cuban right-hander hasn’t been a reliever his entire career; it is actually a fairly new experience for the right-hander. With Baez coming off an injury sustained last year, one possibility is that the Padres are just careful with their top five prospect. Since his return, Baez has not eclipsed three innings pitched in one game. The handling of Baez is something to look for in this second half.