Padres Prospects First Half ReviewPosted by in Fort Wayne Tin Caps | Lake Elsinore Storm | MLB Draft | Organizational Audit | Player Update | San Antonio Missions | Scouting Reports | Tucson Padres
And just like that, the first half of the minor league season is over. It seems like just yesterday we were reporting from Spring Training and getting excited over the aggressive promotions of Edinson Rincon and Keyvius Sampson, yet here we are 90 days later with a half-season of games to look back on.
Injuries have become the calling card of 2012 on both the MLB and MiLB sides with 13 prospects from our Preseason Top 25 spending time on the disabled list. Luckily, few of those seem very serious but the Padres seem set on letting guys like Joe Ross, Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland take a very slow road back to live action.
Position prospects on the Tucson Padres shined offensively with Yasmani Grandal (.335/.443/.521) and the early-season promotion Jedd Gyorko (.341/.383/.592) leading the way. Grandal has hit his way into an extended look in San Diego replacing a slumping Nick Hundley and Gyorko is expected to join him sometime in the near future.
The premium Triple-A pitching duo of Wieland and Kelly were off to great starts until both succumbed to arm injuries, but they are expected back in the second half and should make cameos in San Diego at some point in 2012. Reliever Brad Boxberger struggled with his control, but his 13.0 K/9 rate and zero home runs allowed in 25 innings show his stuff is still there, while fellow bullpen arm Miles Mikolas spent more time with the big league club than in Tucson in the first half.
San Antonio Missions
Moving down a level we’ve seen a much different San Antonio Mission club this season as the experienced players of the past have been replaced by guys like Rincon, Jeudy Valdez and Jonathan Galvez who are still figuring out their game on both sides of the ball. Galvez had the best hitting stretch of his career (.337/.419/.535) after coming off the DL and Rincon looked better than his performance (.257/.287/.353) without even considering he missed most of last year due to injury and is learning a new position on the fly.
It’s been a rough 12 months for Jason Hagerty as he’s gone from a legitimate option for the Padres’ future at catcher to fourth or fifth on the organizational talent depth chart at the position. Hagerty’s production (.244/.340/.354) hasn’t helped things, but he too has battled through injuries all season.
The scouting reports on Sampson coming out of the Texas League are far more impressive than his performance would show. This season Sampson’s repertoire has included a much better curveball than he had shown in the past to go along with his plus fastball and plus changeup. Unfortunately Sampson’s control has eluded him at times, which led to a career high 5.5 BB/9 rate. Still, he took a no hitter past the fifth inning twice in the first half after skipping High A entirely.
Juan Oramas struggled with his pitch location until it was finally announced that he would require season-ending elbow surgery. Once considered a favorite to contribute in San Diego this season, the Padres now just have to hope Oramas can regain his above average control after missing a year.
Erlin had been a bit more wild than usual before he was shut down with an arm injury, but he also flashed a few pitches with a bit more bite than they had last season. Erlin is expected back within the month.
Jeff Ibarra continues to be an interesting name to watch. While he’s likely nothing more than a LOOGY in the majors, Ibarra absolutely dominated lefties in the first half (13 strikeouts and just six base runners in 11.1 innings) making him a guy who can contribute sooner rather than later.
Lake Elsinore Storm
The Lake Elsinore Storm had an up and down first half as a team, but managed to compete for the first half league title down to the final game. Rico Noel set the pace for the offense (.308/.375/.340) and was second behind Billy Hamilton in all of professional baseball with 55 steals. Noel is in his first year as a switch hitter makings his results all that more impressive. Still, if he wants to cement his name in the Padres’ future the extra base hits need to come along at some point.
Rymer Liriano scuffled his way through the first month of the season but came on strong to finish his first half and time in High-A with a .298/.360/.443 line. His 22 doubles and 22 steals ranked in the Top 10 in the league. Even early in the season there was never a doubt about Liriano’s skills, simply an often-scene case of a young player trying to live up to expectations rather than just playing baseball.
2011 first-round pick Cory Spangenberg has found success after an aggressive assignment out of Spring Training. His .721 OPS in the first half of the season won’t turn any heads in the hitter-friendly league, but at just 21 years old Spangenberg is well in line with the development curve.
Casey McElroy is a recent addition to the roster, but with 20 hits in 39 at bats he’s definitely making himself known in the Cal League.
Widely picked as a breakout candidate this year (whoops), Luis Domoromo has been a bit of a disappointment thus far. Statistically it’s tough to find anything positive in his .206/.247/.243 line, but Domoromo will still turn heads in batting practice and doesn’t appear to be physically over matched by the older competition league wide.
Matt Andriese was the staff ace in the first half for the Storm, posting a 3.39 ERA in 66.1 innings. Andriese features a power sinker and two developing off-speed offerings in his arsenal. Burch Smith has translated nicely as a fly ball power pitcher in the Cal League. Smith will sit in the low 90s with his fastball and throw a solid low-80s changeup. While he has given up 11 home runs, Smith has shown great control (1.3 BB/9) and nasty stuff (9.8 K/9).
Donn Roach was a welcome addition to the Lake Elsinore starting staff after coming over in the Ernesto Frieri trade along with Alexi Amarista. Roach posted a 1.74 ERA in 46.2 innings while striking out 44 hitters. His sinker was called the best pitch in the entire league by evaluators this season, which was reflected in his ridiculous 3.73 groundball to fly ball rate. Roach’s off speed pitches lack much bite or refinement leaving his future projection still at back-end starter or quality bullpen arm even with his supreme success this season.
Kevin Quackenbush continued his domination of professional baseball (0.91 ERA in 29.2 innings pitched) and is likely not long for the level. Age is definitely a factor with Quackenbush, both in discounting his performance an appropriate amount and realizing his need to quickly advance through the organization.
Fort Wayne Tincaps
Our preseason pick as the team to watch in 2012, the Fort Wayne Tincaps went through their fair share of growing pains in the first half. Jace Peterson firmly planted himself on the prospect map with a .277/.371/.416 line to go along with his 25 steals in just 29 attempts. More impressively he struck out just 30 times in 52 games. Peterson’s defense continues to come along as he’ll flash above average abilities but has not been able to put together the entire package quite yet.
Austin Hedges received an aggressive promotion to start his first full season but more than held his own before being named a mid-season All Star in the Midwest League. Hedges’ .274/.337/.506 line was a pleasant surprise to go along with his elite-level defense.
Yeison Asencio (formerly Yoan Alcatara) was a late addition to the Tincaps’ roster, but his .333/.369/.539 line more than made up for lost time. The offseason name change and instant maturity that goes with aging two years in a day hasn’t helped Asencio’s patience at the plate, so he’s going to have to continue to hit line drives in every at bat to be useful.
Two of the bigger disappointments during the first half were Duanel Jones and Donavan Tate. (Quick disclaimer: by disappointments we mean they didn’t perform to the lofty expectations their tools deserve, not that this year has been a failure.) Jones scuffled at the plate and with the glove to the tune of a .214 batting average and 23 errors while Tate managed to hit just .207 with 62 strikeouts in 52 games.
Any mention of the Tincaps’ pitching staff has to begin with Adys Portillo. Long considered a thrower with an electric arm, Portillo has finally started to show refinement in his third trip through the Midwest League. His league-leading 1.92 ERA in the first half was complimented by the fact that Portillo allowed just 40 hits in 65.2 innings pitched. He still has a long way to go as Portillo is still mostly getting by with his plus, plus fastball, but for the first time in years there is real reason to believe his future may be in the starting rotation.
Frank Garces was one of many pleasant surprises in the first half of the season, posting a 2.88 ERA in 65.2 innings while striking out 64 batters. Garces had never pitched in the states before this year but turned heads in 2011 Dominican
Southern Summer League action when he struck out 115 batters in just 71.2 innings.
Yet another quality performer for the Padres’ Low-A affiliate was Cody Hebner. The 2011 draftee showed great poise on the mound and better use of his off speed pitches than many had seen from him before. Hebner’s rotation mate Colin Rea saw great production in the first half of the season as well, posting a 2.61 ERA in 51.2 innings split between the bullpen and rotation. There is still a decent amount of skepticism as to whether Rea ultimately has swing-and-miss stuff, but nothing speaks louder than production.
Quietly, Matt Wisler may have put together one of the more impressive campaigns of the bunch. The 2011 eighth-round pick struck out 55 in his 61.2 innings of work while posting a 2.34 ERA. Wisler was drafted as a high school projection arm but has shown enough current ability at a young enough age to earn very favorable future projections. Evaluators love the way he has battled through this season and seemed unfazed while pitching in his own backyard as a Bryan, Ohio native in the Midwest League.
Ross’ supreme upside wasn’t enough to make him bulletproof in his first extended professional stretch. While Ross showed the great stuff that projects him to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, his results were extremely inconsistent before the Padres elected to sit him down after Ross experienced shoulder discomfort. He’s expected to be back in Fort Wayne within the month as well.
Matt Stites was the anchor of the Tincaps’ bullpen in the Quackenbush mold, posting a 0.89 ERA in 20.1 innings while striking out 27 and walking none. Stites is a converted college starter that could move quickly through the organization if his off speed stuff can catch up to his advanced fastball.
With less than two weeks left before the MLB Draft signing deadline, the Padres still have six picks with ongoing negotiations. The good news is that San Diego has been able to bank approximately $1.2 million in their total draft pool by coming in under assigned slots for 11 of their 13 signed picks in the first 10 rounds. The top name that still remains unsigned is sandwich pick Walker Weickel, but he’s expected to sign well before the July 13 deadline. The one name that seems almost guaranteed to go unsigned is 40th-rounder Terrance Owens out of Toledo. Owens was selected by the Padres merely as a way to see if he had any interest in baseball as Owens is currently slated to be the starting quarterback for the
Mud Hens Rockets this fall.