In part two of our minor league Players of the Year series, we’re naming the top hitter and top pitcher for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
Was there a more exciting team in all of minor league baseball than the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the full-season A affiliate of the San Diego Padres? The answer to that is no. Despite just missing the Midwest League playoffs, the TinCaps featured numerous teenage prospects who made their full-season debuts in 2018, including last year’s first-round draft pick, LHP MacKenzie Gore.
Other notable names on the TinCaps roster included teenagers Gabriel Arias, Jeisson Rosario, Tirso Ornelas, and Esteury Ruiz, all of whom are legitimate contenders to crack the MLB Top 100 prospects list, eventually.
The TinCaps finished the regular season with a 64-74 overall record, good for fourth place in the Midwest League Eastern Division, behind the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Lansing Lugnuts, and West Michigan Whitecaps. The record is far from indicative of how exhilarating this team was to watch. All you have to do is mention one name to fully understand the excitement that was the Fort Wayne TinCaps….Luis Patino. More on him in a moment.
Like the Tri-City Dust Devils, picking just one top hitter and one top pitcher is a difficult task but let’s give it a shot.
Fort Wayne TinCaps Hitter of the Year.
Were it not for an injury that limited him to 86 games this season, the award may have gone to outfielder Tirso Ornelas, instead, this year’s Hitter of the Year award goes to infielder Esteury Ruiz. Ruiz may be one of the more underrated prospects in the entire San Diego Padres system. With so much attention rightfully geared toward Luis Urias, Ruiz is often overlooked.
Ruiz finished second on the team in hits (111), doubles (20), and triples (5). He led the team in home runs (12), total bases (177), and stolen bases (49).
Elite base runners instantly catch my eye and Ruiz should develop into just that. He was caught 11 times, posting an 82% success rate that is sure to improve as he matures and learns the game (won’t turn 20 until next spring training).
Finishing with a .253/.324/.403 slash line, Ruiz did strike out 141 times in 439 at-bats (29%) and was a pull-heavy hitter, however, Ruiz had a fantastic season for a 19-year-old who skipped short-season ball. Expect him to make even more noise next season in Lake Elsinore.