El Paso Chihuahuas Season Preview–Manager Pat Murphy Likes Young Team [VIDEO]
The El Paso Chihuahuas begin their season tomorrow night at Southwest University Park, and the team will have some familiar faces along with many new ones. Back for 2015 are pitchers Leonel Campos, Robbie Erlin, Stephen Kohlscheen, Jason Lane, Chris Rearick, Kevin Quackenbush, catcher Rocky Gale, infielders Cody Decker and Taylor Lindsey, and outfielders Jake Goebbert, Rymer Liriano, and Tommy Medica. Thirteen players will be wearing Chihuahuas jerseys for the first time, including former big league pitchers Scott Elbert, Casey Kelly, Markos Mateo, and Brandon Maurer, infielders Mike McCoy, Ramiro Pena, and Brett Wallace, and outfielder Abraham Almonte. Highly touted Padres catching prospect Austin Hedges will make his Triple-A debut in 2015 along with outfielder Alex Dickerson.
The Chihuahuas should see a few other prominent Padres players in El Paso as they work their way back to the Major Leagues from injuries. Former All Star pitcher Josh Johnson and 30-year old Cory Luebke are both recovering from their second Tommy John surgeries last year. Former Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz recently underwent knee surgery and is not expected back until midseason.
Last season, Chihuahuas manager Pat Murphy constantly shuffled his lineup to accommodate all the transactions made by the Padres. This season might be a little different since Preller has transformed his San Diego ballclub into a veteran team with a club-record payroll of $109 million. To put this into perspective, the Padres 2015 payroll is $41 million more than their total team payroll from just two seasons ago. Preller’s bold moves and roster makeover will put more pressure on veteran manager Bud Black to make the playoffs this season. The team is so deep at the major league level, that it will be tough for some Chihuahuas to get a call-up to San Diego unless injuries plague the Padres’ roster. One player hoping to return to the Padres this season is outfielder Jake Goebbert.
On paper, the Chihuahuas have a solid 1-2 punch for their starting pitching staff, but Murphy hopes the remaining three starters in the rotation can pitch deep enough into games to give his bullpen the opportunity to close them out. Erlin and Lane should lead the staff while Quackenbush and Maurer can shut the door late in games. Gale has developed a reputation as a favorite for pitchers to throw to, and Hedges’ defense is among the best in all of minor league baseball. El Paso’s infield will also feature some of the top power hitters in the Pacific Coast League, led by Decker, Medica, and Wallace. Goebbert and Liriano will give the Chihuahuas additional power threats in the outfield and Almonte could steal 20 bases this season. All of this adds up to a team that could win a lot of games and give El Pasoans playoff hopes for 2015.