Young Arms, Padres Public, Who’s Next?

Our march toward Opening Day continues–20 days until the road opener at Great Lakes (Will I be eating sweet potato fries at The Creek? Yes.)–which means we get to learn more and more about some of the prospects who may be coming to Fort Wayne on Opening Day. Since I’m not traveling out to Arizona for Spring Training, I rely on the eyes and ears of those who are able to scour the backfields for as much information as possible.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks has a breakdown of 10 of the “youngest and brightest” arms in the Padres farm system. He saw them pitch this past week against Indian Hills Junior College down in Arizona. While you do need a subscription to read the entire piece, here are some snapshots of a few pitchers we might see in Fort Wayne this season:

Joe Ross: “Hard to ignore raw stuff; very impressive young arm; high ceiling/impact potential.”

Justin Hancock: “Blew 96 by the final hitter for the punch out; wow stuff from tall, projectable arm.”

Erik Cabrera: “Fastball was 93-94, touched 95; throwing across body and missing to glove side; showed promising 79-83 slider; missed barrels and was thrown in the zone for strikes.”

Brandon Alger: “Favorite delivery of the day; very smooth; good timing/balance; standard three-quarters release; from the stretch; two-seam fastball was 89-90; good sink”

Leonel Campos: “Dropped vertical breaking ball that looked like standard three-quarter curve at 86 mph; it was extremely nasty and I can’t really explain it except to say it really did look like a violent curveball; nastiest secondary pitch of the day; I’m still thinking about it.”

Max Fried: “Showed three pitches with above-average potential; loved the composure when obvious strikes were called balls; hammer is legit; strong showing.”

Tayron Guerrero: “Looks 7 feet tall on the mound; listed at 6’ 7’’; incredibly long limbs; lanky; gets crazy extension; basically slapping hitter with his release” (Ed note: My favorite description of them all.)

Walker Weickel: “The CB is going to be a plus pitch; showed a 78 CH; some fade; good overall profile.”

As I’ve said previously, the early indications are the the pitching for this team has the potential to be really, really good. That said, potential doesn’t always translate at this level into immediate results, so we have to somewhat temper our expectations. For instance, just have a look at this Twitter exchange between a few Padres bloggers and Padres Director of Player Development Randy Smith:

Words of wisdom from Mr. Smith. Jones did have a rough year last season with 33 errors at third base (Twins super-prospect Miguel Sano of Beloit had 42 at third base), but at 19 years old, he was also on the very young side of the Midwest League. Sometimes a second go-round in the Midwest League (Rymer Liriano, Adys Portillo, anyone?) can be a good thing.

Speaking of bloggers, I want to recommend the newly-opened PadresPublic.com. It’s a fantastic resource for fans of the Padres and all of the minor-league affiliates. Since coming on board with the TinCaps a year ago, one of the things I found with the Padres blogosphere was that it was scattered all over the place with so many different voices and different blogs. From the “About” section on their website:

“Padres Public is a collection of current Padres blogs that will provide content on a daily basis here in one place instead of doing so dispersed across the web. Over the years we’ve found it challenging to create dynamic content on a consistent basis at our own websites. Equally difficult has been the task of visiting so many different Padres sites each day. Hopefully Padres Public will help to alleviate these issues.”

Check it out. Bookmark it. Read it. You might even see a guest post or two from me on there during the season. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but it’s possible. And as they say at the end of their introduction:

“Let’s get back to that whole idea of this place being like a public house. A pub is nothing more than a location for friends to meet over beers and some lighthearted conversation. But time is always limited and meeting up with friends can be difficult so we created this place to talk Padres. We invite you to crack open a beer with us and stay awhile. Maybe we can all do it in person some time.”

Well, I did have to scrape ice off my car this morning…San Diego vacation, anyone?

//snaps back to reality

And with that, I bring you more baseball. Here’s part two of John Nolan‘s look at former TinCaps that might be cracking the Padres roster in the near future:

Well, Mike, last time we evaluated the ex-TinCaps who are on the Padres’ 40-man roster. In this edition, let’s explore former Fort Wayne players who are still among San Diego’s 57 in major league spring training.

Kevin Quackenbush (2011): Quackenbush came to Fort Wayne for the second-half of the 2011 season after beginning the summer with Eugene. The 6-foot-3 right-hander tossed 21.1 innings for the TinCaps, giving up just two earned runs in the process. Quackenbush fanned 38 and walked six.

Last season, he was even better in Advanced-A for Lake Elsinore. There, Quackenbush surrendered a mere six runs over 57.2 innings to earn a 0.94 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio remained impressive at 70-to-22.

The 24-year old has made three appearances for the Padres so far this spring. Two of the three were scoreless outings.

Matt Stites (2012): To call Stites the TinCaps’ “closer” in 2012, almost doesn’t do his role justice. Instead, Stites was more like the “dominator.” Setting a franchise record for lowest ERA by a reliever (0.74), the righty allowed four earned runs in 48.2 innings, while racking up 13 saves. Stites struck out 60 batters and walked three. In case you’ve trouble with numbers, that’s a 20-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. (Of course the context of the Midwest League compared to the majors is different to say the least, but former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman’s best single-season ratio was 7.73-to-1.)

Stites, who played two seasons at Missouri before being selected in the 17th round of the 2011 draft, is currently 22.

Although Stites himself says he hasn’t been pleased with his performance so far in Arizona, he’s catching the attention of others in camp. And remember, if Stites is able to join the Padres’ pen this season, he’ll be reunited with Willie Blair, who served as the TinCaps’ pitching coach last season and is now San Diego’s bullpen coach.

SS Jonathan Galvez (2010): Since Fort Wayne’s inaugural season in 1993, only two players have ever hit three home runs in a game. Galvez is on that list. He’s the most recent to achieve the feat, and the only TinCaps player to do it at Parkview Field, back on July 22, 2010.

Of all the guys who’ve come through Fort Wayne over the years, Galvez wouldn’t be one who you’d peg as a candidate to go deep three times in a game. As a matter of fact, in 2010, the shortstop had just seven other homers.

His stellar summer night aside, though, Galvez batted .259 and had 59 RBI for the TinCaps. He displayed a propensity for both striking out (121) and walking (58). The Dominican Republic-born prospect also stole 18 bases.

After his season in Fort Wayne, Galvez improved his average, HR, RBI, and stolen base numbers with Lake Elsinore (.291, 13, 86, 37). The 22 year-old’s progress continued last year with San Antonio, where he hit .292 and lowered his strikeout total to 70 in 312 at-bats.

In Peoria so far this spring, Galvez has appeared in as many games as anyone (16). Through 21 at-bats, his .381 average has him staying in camp and warranting consideration to make the 25-man roster.

2B Jedd Gyorko (2010): Hailing from the country roads of Morgantown, West Virginia, Gyorko seems to be on a route to the majors. And in 2010, Parkview Field was a pit stop along the way for the Mountain State native and former West Virginia University Mountaineer.

Gyorko spent only the second-half of the ’10 season in Fort Wayne, after taking the Northwest League by storm to start that summer (.330, 5 HR, 18 RBI in 26 games). With the TinCaps, the then-rookie hit .284 over 162 at-bats and posted a .366 on-base percentage. The righty bat has only gotten better since.

Staying on the two-stops-a-season pattern, Gyorko went from Advanced-A to Double-A in 2011, and then Double-A to Triple-A in 2012. And to this point, Gyorko has found success at every level. That includes in Tucson, where he hit .328 with 24 HR and 83 RBI. Gyorko’s .588 slugging percentage was third best in the Pacific Coast League.

While Baseball America predicts Gyorko — No. 3 in its San Diego prospect rankings — as the Padres’ future left fielder (he played primarily third for the TinCaps), he’s played the infield so far in spring training. Not only that, but big league skipper Bud Black has been impressed with the 24-year old’s transition to second base. Offensively, meanwhile, he’s hitting .273 in 33 at-bats and is the only Padre to have hit three homers.

Don’t be surprised if Gyorko is wearing navy and white on opening day.

Check back next week, when we’ll wrap up the series by taking a look at other former TinCaps who may not make the opening day roster for the Padres, but who are on the radar in San Diego.

———-

Enjoy your weekend, folks. There’s lot of basketball to enjoy with conference tournaments in full swing. Oh, it’s also St. Patrick’s Day weekend–so wherever you are, please enjoy it responsibly.

Before I go, I’m going to revive a segment of the daily blog posts that I’ll be doing again this season…our musical guest:

The Naked and Famous (hey, I didn’t pick the name)…take it away!

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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