Notes From The Coast: Andres Muñoz, Michel Baez Add Fire To Padres Bullpen

Image credit: Andres Muñoz (Photo by Andy Hayt/Getty Images)

It isn’t surprising to see Michel Baez and Andres Muñoz pitching out of the Padres’ bullpen. It just happened sooner than expected.

The Padres jumped Baez, their No. 11 prospect, and Muñoz, their No. 13 prospect, from Double-A Amarillo straight to the majors last month. So far, the high-octane duo has provided a spark for the beleaguered Padres bullpen.

Muñoz, 20, has averaged 101 mph on his fastball and touched 103 mph, showcasing the premium velocity that earned him wide notoriety in the minors. He opened his career with seven straight scoreless appearances—retiring 27 of the first 33 batters he faced—before surrendering two runs against the Dodgers on Aug. 4.

Baez, 23, has yet to allow a run in five appearances. He is averaging 96 mph on his fastball and has seven strikeouts in 6.2 innings.

Muñoz has been a reliever since he signed for $700,000 out of Mexico in 2015, but Baez signed as a starter for $3 million out of Cuba in 2016.

While Baez worked as a starter, scouts increasingly began to project him to the bullpen last year at high Class A Lake Elsinore. This year, he pitched exclusively in relief at Double-A Amarillo after coming off the injured list.

“I like starting more, but relieving is still really fun,” Baez said through an interpreter. “Coming in during a situation where there are men on base, it’s a tense moment, that’s what I really like about it. Guys on, you have to come in and make a pitch.”

The Padres haven’t shied away from putting either in late-game situations. Baez has appeared in the seventh inning or later in his last four appearances, while three of Muñoz’s last four outings have come with the Padres either tied or trying to preserve a save situation.

“Honestly, it’s just keeping the same thing from the minor leagues,” Baez said. “(We) need to keep the same plan, do the same stuff, because everything (we) did down there is going to work up here.”

Rosters Reshaped

The first big wave of minor league promotions typically occurs at the minor league all-star break. The second big wave comes around Aug. 1.

A number of teams gained or lost significant players in that second wave over the past week, reshaping rosters and, ultimately, minor league playoff races.

The D-backs promoted outfielders Alek Thomas (the D-backs’ No. 2 prospect) and Eduardo Diaz (No. 29) to high Class A Visalia, strengthening a team that already owned the California League’s best record. On the other end of the spectrum, Inland Empire lost righthander Oliver Ortega, who ranked fourth in the Cal League in ERA (3.34) and strikeouts (121), as well as outfielder Gareth Morgan, who ranked second in the league with 21 home runs, after the Angels promoted them to Double-A Mobile.

The trade deadline also resulted in new additions to Cal League rosters. Infielder Jose Caballero, acquired by the Mariners from the D-backs for Mike Leake, moved from Visalia to Mariners affiliate Modesto. Righthander Tristan Beck, acquired by the Giants from the Braves in the Mark Melancon deal, joined San Jose. Outfielder Jimmy Herron, acquired by the Rockies from the Cubs, joined Lancaster.

Two other noteworthy moves were made in the lower levels. The D-backs promoted Kristian Robinson, their No. 4 prospect, from short-season Hillsboro to low Class A Kane County. Padres infielder C.J. Abrams, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft, was promoted from the Rookie-level Arizona League to low Class A Fort Wayne.

Anchorage, Santa Barbara Win Summer College Championships

The Anchorage Bucs won the Alaska Baseball League championship on Tuesday, beating the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, 7-1, in the decisive third game of the Top of the World Series.

Lefthander Evan Taylor (Arkansas) pitched five scoreless innings and allowed just one hit to pick up the win. Outfielder Isaac Barrera (Gonzaga) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored out of the leadoff spot and third baseman Justin Cook (Richmond) hit a two-run homer to lead the offense.

The Bucs posted the best record in the regular season with a 29-14 mark and went 4-2 in the playoffs to wrap up the title.

The Santa Barbara Foresters won the California Collegiate League championship with a 6-1 victory over the Heraldsburg Prune Packers on July 28 in the third game of their three-game league championship series.

Righthander Jake Jackson (Nevada) pitched five innings of one-run ball to earn the win for the Foresters. Outfielder Jacob Katzfey (Wichita State) went 3-for-4 with a double and a triple, catcher Ross Cadena (Wichita State) went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored and outfielder Christian Franklin homered to lead the Santa Barbara offense.

Outfielder John Lagattuta (California) homered for Heraldsburg’s only run.

The other major college summer league in the west—the West Coast League—wraps up its regular season Aug. 11.

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