AFL Wrap-up and Winter Ball NotesPosted by in Player Update
Although the regular season is long over, Winter League baseball has been in full effect for about a month with a few big-name Padres prospects headlining rosters. This is not a complete look at the performances of all Padres players, only guys who have either done something worth talking about or have come up in conversations with scouts.
Gyorko put on quite the hitting display during AFL action, winning the batting title with a .437 average. Even in the hitter-friendly environment that AFL stadiums offer his numbers were impressive. Scouts rave about his ability to consistently square up balls and produce against advanced competition.
Defensively, Gyorko put more stock into the idea that he can stay at third base while simultaneously showing off great baseball instincts both in the field and on the bases. He’ll never be a good runner – or even an average one – but more than ever Gyorko has shown that he’ll be able to make up for his awkward, slow running style with great awareness.
Decker was a late addition to the Peoria roster after it was announced that James Darnell would need to undergo shoulder surgery, effectively ruling him out of any baseball activities until Spring Training. Like just about every other AFL hitter Decker enjoyed the friendly confines in Arizona, posting an offensive line closer to his pre-2011 levels.
Much like Gyorko, Decker upped his perceived value on the defensive end. Those who remember Decker during his high school days still see him as a pudgy, line-drive hitter but in the last few years he has slimmed down and become a very well rounded player. He did manage to show an improved approach at the plate, but 24 games isn’t a large enough sample size to know if he has been able to shake his passive approach.
As previously mentioned in October’s Mailbag, Hagerty was struggling through little playing time due to the fact that he was assigned to the Taxi Squad for Peoria meaning that he was only permitted to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Midway through the season he was transferred off the Taxi Squad but still struggled to find consistent playing time at catcher, first base or designated hitter.
When he did catch Hagerty showed the same lack of consistency and polish behind the plate that helps give his doubters a stronger voice. His throws behind the plate were often off line and his mechanics were sloppy. To be fair, trying to find consistency when seeing little of the field would be hard for any prospect, especially one playing a premium defensive position.
For Hagerty, the AFL was an opportunity to show that his production at the plate in High-A in 2011 was real, but inconsistent playing time and bad results have us still questioning whether his skills will translate against tougher competition.
While most prospects look flat in Winter Ball after playing through a long regular season, Bass actually managed to look stronger than ever. With the Padres this season his fastball sat in the low 90s but found a few extra ticks while in Arizona to allow him to sit comfortably in the 95 range through his 50 to 75-pitch outings.
In addition Bass’ slider had much better bite to it than he had previously shown and he even managed to work in his changeup more often to righties and lefties.
When looking at his AFL production ignore the high ERA. It’s important to keep in mind that the Padres are still hoping Bass can compete for a spot in the rotation in 2012, meaning he needs to be able to throw all three of his pitches. Anytime a pitcher is experimenting he is likely to get knocked around a little bit, but Bass’ high strikeout rate and low walk rate point to progression in his growth as a pitcher.
2011 was widely considered a make-or-break year for the Padres’ 2007 first-round pick. Schmidt repeated High-A for the third time with bad results and headed to the AFL to state his final case to be added to the 40-man roster.
Schmidt once again fell flat when his lack of stuff and need to pitch around hitters not at them caught up to him. This led the Padres to opt to leave Schmidt unprotected from December’s Rule 5 Draft.
While a change of scenery may be good for him, there is still no guarantee Schmidt will be picked up by another organization since they would need to keep him on the 25-man roster for the 2012 season.
It is clear that Schmidt lacks the pure stuff to start in the majors but he also does not posses a usable platoon advantage to give him much value going forward. He’ll have a job somewhere in 2012 but don’t be shocked if he’s once again in the low minors.
Oddly enough, Mikolas drew some of the highest praise from onlookers during AFL action. His results – mainly a 7.15 ERA – were not spectacular to say the least, but his raw stuff looked great. It was an extremely small sample size that was aided by Mikolas’ terrible command while in Arizona.
His fastball that usually is well located at about 95-97 MPH was consistently up in the zone in the low to mid-90s. His curveball showed good bite, but also often missed up in the zone or was buried in the dirt.
The Padres believe Mikolas is a future late-inning premier reliever. With a winter of rest and a strong first half he may join the San Diego bullpen sometime in 2012.
If you have ever seen Ibarra pitch in person you know just how unfair his delivery seems to the batter. If not, check out this video.
Usually prospects that rely on deception and below average stuff hit a wall in Double-A, so Ibarra has a lot to prove in 2012.
Oramas’ time in the Mexican Winter League has been another impressive addition to his breakout season. Outside of his most recent outing in which he surrendered six eared runs, Oramas has shown exceptional command and a legitimate three-pitch arsenal.
He could conceivably be ready for about 175 innings next season, which would mean that he could make a real difference for San Diego if he gets called up. Oramas will always be an extreme fly ball pitcher, but in the NL West he should be able to thrive in the middle of a rotation.
Many in the Padres’ organization – and its fans – had hoped that Rizzo would be able to work out the swing issues that were exposed during his time in San Diego. Unfortunately an ankle injury ended his time in the Dominican Winter League after just six games.
21 at bats is hardly enough reps for him to actually work out any issues with his swing mechanics so Rizzo will head to Spring Training with an eye at winning the Opening Day first base job.
Padres leave Galvez off the 40-man roster
In what turned out to be a surprisingly controversial move the Padres decided to leave second base prospect Jonathan Galvez off of the 40-man roster leading up to the Rule 5 Draft in early December.
The basics of what this means:
As a player that has been in the organization for five years (he was signed at 16) Galvez can be drafted by another organization for a small fee. This new org would then have to keep him on their 25-man roster for the entire 2012 season without optioning him to the minors. If he is sent back down to the minors Galvez would have to be returned to the Padres.
What this actually means:
Make no mistake about it the Padres are gambling a bit with this Galvez situation. They have opened up one of their best prospects – 11th overall in our eyes – to be available essentially for free to any team that is willing to carry him for a year. While it sounds like a severe misstep on the Padres’ behalf keep in mind that each of the 25 active roster spots are tough to come by for every team in the league.
The 24th and 25th roster spots can be turned over on a weekly basis to better fit the current need of the club – think Blake Tekotte being sent back and forth between San Antonio and San Diego. So for a club to essentially commit one of these spots to a second basemen who will play below average defense and post offensive numbers at about a .200/.230/.275 level would be extremely unusual.
Then again, this is essentially what the Padres did to the Rockies in 2009 when they drafted Everth Cabrera away from the Rockies and in turn found a productive shortstop basically for free.
The Padres are taking on a fair amount of risk with this move, but leaving Galvez off the 40-man roster essentially meant that they wouldn’t have to lose a player in the organization that would have surely been selected – like a Chris Denorfia, Aaron Cunningham or Nick Vincent.