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Toyota Road Report: In-State Rivals Meet at Parkview Field

South Bend makes the short drive to Fort Wayne to take on the TinCaps for the first time this season
May 13, 2024

The Cubs and the TinCaps will do battle 18 times this season, with 12 of those matchups taking place from August 6 to the end of the season a month later. So in the first four months of the season this will be the lone meeting between these Hoosier State

The Cubs and the TinCaps will do battle 18 times this season, with 12 of those matchups taking place from August 6 to the end of the season a month later. So in the first four months of the season this will be the lone meeting between these Hoosier State foes.

The Fort Wayne TinCaps (12-21), playing under first year manager Mile Daly, are tied for the worst record in the Midwest League. Daly, who’d been the Padres’ Assistant Director of Player Development since 2021, won two national titles in his playing days at LSU. After dropping eight straight games his team swept Lake County in a doubleheader on May 2 but then went on to lose six more in a row. They return home after a 12-game road trip and following a 4-2 series defeat at the hands of the West Michigan Whitecaps.

It's been a tough road so far for Daly’s team on the mound and especially at the dish. Offensively the TinCaps .212 avg ranks last in the league, while they’re also last in HR (13), SLG (.309), and OPS (.623). They’ve been decent on the mound with a team ERA of 4.54, ninth in the MWL, and they do tally a ton of strikeouts (313, T-3rd).

Six of the Padres top-30 prospects are currently pitchers on the TinCaps. But the most productive arm so far this season has been Enmanuel Pinales. Through five starts the 23-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic sports a 2.35 ERA and despite 13 walks in 23 innings, he does have 27 punch outs. Most impressive however is the 3.9 hits allowed per nine inning, leading to a batting average against of a mere .132. Not too shabby for a kid who just started out his minors career last season.

At the plate the most impressive bats a month plus into the season have been infielder Devin Ortiz and outfielder Kai Murphy. That said, this will be our first-ever look at seeing the Padres No. 1 prospect Ethan Salas in person.

The phenom catcher shot through the Padres system a year ago, playing 48 games in Low-A Lake Elsinore before a summer promotion to Fort Wayne that lasted just eight games before he booked a trip to AA-San Antonio. The Cubs just missed facing the 17-year-old a season ago and now get a chance to challenge the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball per Of note the teenager from Venezuela only hit .200 is his brief stint with the TinCaps a year ago and then in another nine game sample in AA batted .179. The Padres were uber aggressive with their top prospect but now he’s back in High-A and in 28 games is slashing .188/.306/.257, with an impressive 18 walks but just six extra-base hits and no homers. That said he’s reportedly extremely advanced behind the plate and signed for $5.6 million as the clear top international prospect in the 2023 class.

Dylan Lesko (RHP, No.3) and Homer Bush Jr. (OF, No. 8) are also top-10 Padres prospects we’ll see at Parkview Field this week.

Meanwhile, the South Bend Cubs (13-20) are coming off a series win in Lansing that they followed up with a split, 3-3, at home vs the Cedar Rapids Kernels. South Bend showed some late-innings grit and tenacity winning three times by one run and they had a chance to take the series on Sunday but fell 4-2 in extras.

The top four batters in the lineup continue to shred opposing pitchers with Yohendrick Pinango leading the charge. Pinango saw his club-record-tying hit streak end at 17 games and his on-base streak end as well at 25 on Sunday. During the on-base streak he hit .400 and this afternoon he was fittingly named MWL Player of the Week after slugging over .900 last series and leading the league with six extra-base hits.

2022 Yohendrick was aggressive, a bad-ball hitter who rocketed line drives all over the diamond and swung at anything and everything. In 2023 we saw a more subdued approach, the swing remained as vicious as anyone in the system, but the young outfielder displayed a patience that we hadn’t seen. That patience seemed to take away what made him unique though, and he seemed to have lost the ebullience and aggressiveness that made him Yohendrick Pinango. But now it’s 2024 and as someone who’s seen Pinango up close since he joined this team in August of 2021, let me tell you this is far and away the best version we’ve ever seen. It’s as if 2022 and 2023 Pinango have merged, there’s no other way I can put it. It sounds like such a simple equation but the teenager who was as aggressive as they come and could tomahawk a neck high breaking ball for a home run and the High-A vet who could at times draw walks like a leadoff hitter, while spitting at low breaking balls and making pitchers work deeper, have become one.

Development can’t be rushed, it’s an arduous journey that requires time, sweat, and sacrifice. It’s hard to sit back and watch these last 4.5 weeks and not be wowed by the player Pinango turned into over the last few seasons. Often with minor leaguers we all like to think “if only he could improve in this way, he’d be so good.” Well all that everyone could’ve hoped this 22-year-old could be, he now is.

Ok, I’m done with my little soliloquy.

On the hill it was quite a weekend for the Cubs starters. Nick Hull logged his second best start of the year, allowing just one run over five innings and tallying the first win for a South Bend starter this season. In three of Hull’s six starts he’s tossed five innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer. The former ‘Lope from Grand Canyon is now 1-0 with a 1.80 at Four Winds Field this year.

Following Hull in the rotation, the Sunday starter for Nick Lovullo’s team all year has been Tyler Schlaffer. The kid who grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago looked his best on Sunday going 4.2 innings allowing just one run, his longest outing in two years. Back in 2022 Schlaffer, the former ninth round pick threw six innings on three occasions with Low-A Myrtle Beach. Yesterday afternoon if it weren’t for a pop-up lost in the sun with 2 outs, Schlaffer would’ve been able to complete a fifth inning for the first time since his surgery, and he would’ve done so in shutout fashion.

Schedule and Probables (SB Cubs starter listed second)

Tuesday, May 14 - 6:35 ET: RHP Enmanuel Pinales vs RHP Will Sanders

Wednesday, May 15 - 6:35 ET: LHP Jagger Haynes vs RHP Aaron Perry

Thursday, May 16 - 7:05 ET: LHP Miguel Cienfuegos vs. RHP Luis Devers

Friday, May 17 - 7:05 ET: RHP Henry Baez vs. LHP Drew Gray

Saturday, May 18 - 6:35 ET: RHP Dylan Lesko vs. TBD

Sunday, May 19 - 1:05 ET: TBD vs. RHP Tyler Schlaffer