On The Cusp in 2013: Former TinCaps Moving Up

Greetings and salutations, baseball fans. I come bearing good news: it’s Friday. The TinCaps will be taking the field at Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan, in less than one month’s time. How exciting is that?

//looks outside

This is what happens when you Google "apocalyptic snow".

This is what happens when you Google “apocalyptic snow”.

Very exciting, especially considering that the likelihood of there being snow on the ground is significantly less than it is today. Sign me up for that.

If you’re in the mood for some basketball, I’ll be calling a game tomorrow afternoon. The University of Cincinnati hosts the University of South Florida, and you can catch the game on Fox Sports Ohio (if you’re in Ohio, I suppose), MSG in New York, Cox TV in Rhode Island and Bright House Sports Network in Florida. If you’re not in any of those areas, you can catch the game on WatchESPN.com or with the WatchESPN app. I hope to have you along. Also, a 4:00 game perfectly sets up a dinner at the Montgomery Inn. They claim to have the world’s greatest ribs, and I can confirm that is a fact. Even though I went to college in Syracuse, NY, which is home to Dinosaur BBQ, a world-renowned joint, these ribs are better. Here I come, Cincinnati!

———-

Today John Nolan brings you the first in a three-part series examining former TinCaps in the Padres system, and their chances of making the big-league roster. John, take it away:

As Opening Day nears (by the way, don’t forget to check out our countdown at the corner of West Jefferson and Ewing), we draw closer to discovering who will be suiting up for the TinCaps at Parkview Field this season. Likewise, we’ll soon find out if any former TinCaps will be on their way to the show with the Padres.

In this post, we’ll take a look at recent TinCaps stars who could be the next in a growing list to go from Fort Wayne to the major leagues.

Let’s start with the group that has the best shot to do so — those currently on San Diego’s 40-man roster:

3B Edinson Rincon (2010): Like many in the Padres’ current batch of top prospects, Rincon hails from the Dominican Republic. The 22-year old played for the TinCaps for the entirety of 2010, when he hit .250 with 13 HR and 69 RBI.

Though his offensive numbers in Fort Wayne may not jump off the page, Baseball America has tabbed Rincon’s arm the strongest of any infield farmhand the Padres have.

And since being promoted to Lake Elsinore for 2011 and Double-A San Antonio in 2012, the right-handed hitter’s prowess at the plate has improved, too. Rincon upped his average to .329 in the California League and turned in a .291 average last season in the Texas League. In those two campaigns, the third baseman knocked 54 doubles and 18 HR.

Of course the Padres seem to be set at the hot corner in the near future with Chase Headley, but nevertheless, Rincon provides reason for optimism going forward.

LHP Jose De Paula (2010): De Paula pitched for the TinCaps in 2010 from late May through the end of the season. Despite missing nearly the first full two months, the southpaw ended up as the team’s leader in wins for the year (8-5, 3.27 ERA). He started 14 games and came out of the pen for another six. In 89.1 innings, De Paula punched out some 69 batters  and walked 20.

The Dominican Republic native increased his win total by two with Lake Elsinore in 2011, but his ERA did the same. On a positive note, though, the recently-turned 23-year old struck out 87. Just like in Fort Wayne where De Paula limited left-handed hitters to an average below .200, he performed significantly better against lefties in Lake Elsinore. Opposing lefties hit only .225 against in him in Advanced-A (versus righties’ average of .298).

As for last season? JDP turned in a DNP, due to visa issues. Time will tell if De Paula can return to his Fort Wayne form as a starter. If not, don’t be surprised if De Paula paves out a path to the bigs as a lefty reliever.

OF Yeison Asencio (2012): Heading into 2012, you had to think it would be difficult for Asencio to top the success he had in 2011 in the Arizona League. That season — his first in the United States — the Dominican Republic product led the league in runs scored, total bases, and RBI, while ranking second in hits, and third in triples and homers.

So what did Asencio have in store for a follow up act? Well, how about becoming the first ever Fort Wayne player crowned Midwest League batting champ (.323). Not bad, right? Taking the majority of his at-bats as the cleanup hitter, he clubbed 8 HR and drove home 61 runs.

Meanwhile, defensively, Baseball America says Asencio has the best outfield arm in San Diego’s system. (For the TinCaps, he had 21 outfield assists, which topped all outfielders in the league.)

In September, Padres vice president of player development and international scouting Randy Smith called the 23-year old right-handed hitter a “four-and-a-half tool player.” So don’t be surprised to see Asencio ascend quickly through the rest of the minor leagues.

OF Jaff Decker (2009): Not to be confused with Cody Decker, who also played in Fort Wayne in 2009 (no relation), Jaff had the best full season of his pro career with the TinCaps. Decker led the Midwest League in on-base percentage (.442), while also finishing second in slugging percentage (.514), second in walks (85), and ninth in batting average (.299) to go along with 16 HR and 64 RBI.

As evidenced by his standout season with the TinCaps, the 42nd pick of the 2008 first-round pick is valued for his discipline at the plate. Baseball America credits Decker for having the “best strike zone discipline” in San Diego’s farm system. There’s also pop to his left-handed bat, as he hit 17 HR in 2010 for Lake Elsinore and 19 in 2011 for San Antonio.

Decker’s patience aside, though, his average since leaving Fort Wayne has left something to be desired. The now 23-year old corner outfielder hit .236 in 2010 with Lake Elsinore and then .236 and .184, respectively, the last two seasons for Double-A San Antonio. Last year’s woes can be explained in part, however, by foot injuries.

Healthy so far this spring, Decker is on the Padres’ radar.

RHP Adys Portillo (2010-12): It’s somewhat misleading to see on paper that Portillo played three seasons with the TinCaps. That’s because in 2010, the righty from Venezuela only pitched on the final day of the regular season in Fort Wayne after spending the rest of the summer with Eugene. And after a complete 2011 campaign at Parkview Field, Portillo transferred from the Summity City to Double-A San Antonio last July.

While the 21-year old was shaky in 2011 (3-11, 7.11 ERA), he came on strong a year ago. In 18 starts for the TinCaps, Portillo recorded a 1.87 ERA, which set a new franchise low. The Midwest League All-Star Game’s winning pitcher struck out 81 in 91.2 innings and walked only 45. Just about the only thing the hard-thrower didn’t have going for him in Fort Wayne was run support. Portillo ended up with a 6-6 record in part because the TinCaps scored only 3.67 runs per game in his starts, including a paltry 1.5 in his losses (compare that with the TinCaps season average of 4.32).

Portillo’s dominance didn’t continue in San Antonio, though. His ERA swelled over seven, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio came close to even. But still, scouts rave about his fastball. Baseball America calls his heater — which last year sat in the mid-90s and topped off in triple-digits — the best in the Padres’ system. With such an arm, Portillo could be major league-ready soon, even if it’s as a reliever rather than a starter.

OF Rymer Liriano (2010-2011): Unfortunately for Liriano, he’s the only name here who we can say with certainty will not be playing for the Padres this year. And it has nothing to do with needing more at-bats or a logjam in San Diego’s outfield. Nope, instead, it’s because the 21-year old tore the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow while playing long toss in the Dominican Republic on Dec. 27.

Liriano’s injury is a shame considering Baseball America ranks him as the fifth best prospect in San Diego’s organization. You can only hope that Liriano’s recovery time is comparable to his speed on the bases.

Remember in 2011, Liriano set a Fort Wayne single-season record for stolen bases in a season with 65 in just 116 games (76% stolen base percentage). The Dominican Republic native was second in the Midwest League in stolen bags that year to only Billy Hamilton (103). Yes, that Billy Hamilton, so obviously there’s no shame there. With the TinCaps, Liriano also finished fourth in the league in batting (.319), while posting career-bests of 12 HR and 62 RBI.

Last season, the outfielder started with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore before transferring to Double-A San Antonio. Though most of his offensive numbers dipped slightly at the higher levels, Liriano figures to be in consideration for a call-up in 2014.

———–

Coming next week, John will have part two of this three-part series, and on Monday I’ll have the next installment in our Prospect Previews series. Enjoy your weekend.

As always, thanks for reading.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

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