Chihuahuas aim for fourth-straight division title in 2018

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Chihuahuas aim for fourth-straight division title in 2018

The Chihuahuas ranked second in the the PCL last season in home runs (179).

The Chihuahuas ranked second in the the PCL last season in home runs (179).

Gaby Velasquez

The Chihuahuas ranked second in the the PCL last season in home runs (179).

Gaby Velasquez

Gaby Velasquez

The Chihuahuas ranked second in the the PCL last season in home runs (179).

Mike Flores, Staff Reporter

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Starting on Thursday, April 5, the consecutive three-time Pacific Coast League (PCL) division champions of the El Paso Chihuahuas will enter their fifth year of existence as the Triple-A affiliate for the San Diego Padres.

Despite losing much of their talent to the Padres, such as Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje and Hunter Renfroe, to name just a few, El Paso still has a lot to look forward to.

Coming into the 2018 season, the Padres were ranked to have the best farm system in all of professional baseball, according to MLB.com.

The Chihuahuas will return key players as El Paso’s manager Rod Barajas is entering his third season as the team’s manager. Also returning to the Chihuahuas is pitching coach Bronswell Patrick for his 11th season with the Padres’ organization and hitting coach Morgan Burkhart (third season with El Paso). New to the coaching staff will be fielding coach Lance Burkhart, who spent the last season as San Antonio’s hitting coach.

Key players to look out for with the Chihuahuas this year are Diego Goris, Dusty Coleman and pitchers Chris Huffman, Walker Lockett and Carter Capps.

Goris played the most games (125) last year for El Paso. In those games, Goris piled up 125 hits, 23 doubles, 11 homeruns and batted in 56 RBIs on a .285 batting average.

Last season, Coleman recorded 68 hits, 17 doubles, six triples, 15 homeruns and brought in 48 RBIs. Expect a bigger year for Coleman this season.

While the Chihuahuas lost the majority of their pitching rotation, Huffman, Lockett and Capps are some of the familiar faces El Paso fans can anticipate on the mound this season.

In the past seasons, the major leagues would play a total of 144 games, with half of the games coming on the road and half at home. However, this season a change was made to the scheduling to help players with rest. Instead of 144 games, there will only be 140 games, with two fewer games at home and on the road (70 games each).

As the Chihuahuas begin their season on the road against the 51s in Las Vegas—a team the Chihuahuas edged out in the season series last year, 8-7, El Paso will get to host their first home game of the 2018 season next Tuesday, April 10, versus Salt Lake—a team the Chihuahuas went 10-5 against last year.

It won’t be until June 16th that the Chihuahuas can get revenge over Memphis for knocking them out of the playoffs last year in the PCL finals. That four-game series will be in El Paso, just after El Paso takes on Nashville for the first time in the season.

Last season, the Chihuahuas sent one player (Nick Buss) to the PCL versus the International League’s All-Star game. This season, the annual all-star game will be played July 11th in Columbus, Ohio, before coming to El Paso in 2019.

The Padres’ farm league system includes seven top 100 prospects, with four of them making the top 50. But the Padres’ biggest farm league players are Dominican native shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 8) and left-handed pitcher McKenzie Gore (No. 19).

Both phenomes ranked in the top 20 for baseball prospects and are not even allowed to drink a beer legally. Both Tatis and Gore will likely be moved up to the Chihuahuas sooner rather than later.

Tatis is the son of former MLB player Fernando Tatis, who played third base, first base and was also an outfielder for five different MLB squads from 1997 to 2010. The talented 19-year-old will begin his season as a member of the San Antonio Missions.

Last season at Fort Worth (Single-A), 6-foot-3 Tatis Jr., hit 21 homeruns, 26 doubles, seven triples and piled up 69 RBIs

Gore, the Padres’ top pitching prospect, was the No. 3 overall pick last summer and will likely be pitching for Fort Wayne to begin his career.

The Chihuahuas will begin the 2018 campaign on the road at Las Vegas on Thursday, beginning a five-game road series before opening at home against Salt Lake on April 10.

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