Prospect Previews: Week 8

We have reached the final post of our eight-part Prospect Previews Series and, believe it or not, there is still snow on the ground in Fort Wayne. I’d expect that of some of the clubs in the league like Wisconsin, where snow is commonplace at this time of the year. Last year on this date, the temperature was as high as 72 and as low as 51 here in Fort Wayne. One year later?

Taken March 25th around 12:30 p.m.

Taken March 25th around 12:30 p.m.

Those Adirondack chairs will make a really nice spot to watch a game during this summer…just not right now.

This past week I was traveling again, this time calling some NIT action between Iowa and Stony Brook on ESPNU on Friday night. I’d never been to Iowa City before, but I’ve got to say that the crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was really enthusiastic:

An empty Carver-Hawkeye Arena

An empty Carver-Hawkeye Arena

The crowd begins to fill in before tipoff

The crowd begins to fill in before tipoff

Photo courtesy of my broadcast partner, Paul Biancardi. I'm holding my charts, which are what I use to help me call the game.

Photo courtesy of my broadcast partner, Paul Biancardi. I’m holding my charts, which are what I use to help me call the game.

Fingerprint technology is commonplace these days, but I still found it extremely fascinating that this is how players gain access to their locker room.

Fingerprint technology is commonplace these days, but I still found it extremely fascinating that this is how players gain access to their locker room.

Iowa ended up winning a game that was close for the majority of the night, and the Hawkeyes will take on the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, later this week. Hope that didn’t bust anyone’s NIT bracket.

As for your NCAA brackets, how about Florida Gulf Coast? They’ve got to be the most exciting team in the tournament right now, right? Deadspin put together a compilation of all of the team’s high-flying dunks from the Atlantic Sun tournament and the NCAA tournament. It’s must-see video. It’s particularly exciting for a member of the TinCaps front office, too. Our Assistant Director of Marketing-Community Relations, Abby Naas, is an FGCU alum. Bet you didn’t know that! Go Eagles!

Soon enough, though, I’ll be traveling to Midland, Michigan, or Eastlake, Ohio, as we get into baseball season. That leads us to our final set of five potential 2013 TinCaps. We should know the official opening day roster by the end of the week, at which point you can stop relying on my prognostications and know the 25 names that will begin the season in green and white. Here we go!

River Stevens

When we started this series the Monday after the SuperBowl (seriously, that long ago?), Padres farmhands had not yet reported to spring training and everyone was seemingly in good shape. However, since then there have been a few injuries that have stacked up throughout the organization. Mostly they’ve been on the big league side, but former Midwest League MVP Rymer Liriano is out for the year, as is River Stevens, who hit .241 at Eugene last season. The 21-year-old is having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

It’s a tough break for Stevens, whose hometown of Escondido, California, is 30 minutes away from San Diego. It seemed, given his season last year at Eugene where he played second, third and short, that he would be in line for an advancement to Fort Wayne. Not only can he play baseball, but he’s also taught himself the piano, guitar and the drums. Seeing as I have trouble keeping a melody while singing in the car, that’s pretty darn impressive.

Best of luck to a future Moniker Madness competitor in his rehabilitation this season.

Maxx Tissenbaum

When Travis Jankowski joined the TinCaps last year, I’d guess that a lot of people in Northeast Indiana weren’t particularly familiar with Stony Brook University.  It’s a part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, and hadn’t taken part in any type of  athletics competitions that would be widely seen on a national scale. That changed last year when the baseball team made a run to the College World Series, with eventual 2012 TinCaps CF Travis Jankowski as one of the staples of their lineup. One of his teammates on that squad was infielder Maxx Tissenbaum, a product of Toronto.

I spoke with 2012 TinCaps hitting coach Jacque Jones, who saw Tissenbaum during the fall instructional league, and this is what he had to say:

“Maxx Tissenbaum is a BASEBALL PLAYER and I mean that in every sense. He can catch the ball, throw it, and hit it. The only thing he lacks is speed which in turn will affect range. He knows how to play the game and he hustles. “

Matt Dompe, the radio voice of the Eugene Emeralds, had this to say about Tissenbaum:

“Tissenbaum is a good offensive infielder.  A left handed hitting second baseman, his contact is loud.  He probably doesn’t have enough range to play 2B in the majors, but when he was inserted into the middle infield the Emeralds ability to turn double plays increased dramatically.  He joined the club late because his Stony Brook Sea Wolves played their way to the CWS in Omaha.  Maxx finished the year hot pushing his average to .296 which was 6th best in the league.”

Tissenbaum was originally selected in the 43rd round of the 2009 draft by his home town Blue Jays, but chose not to sign. That proved to be a wise decision, as the Padres took him in the 11th round last year.

In addition to being a highly-touted player, he’s also an avid Tweeter and has done some blogging, too, like where he wrote about spring training:

“Each day the routine is the same, but the drills and topics we cover change.  For example, each day we do base running at a different base.  We cover our lead offs, situational reads of when to run and when not to, our angles coming around the bags etc.  Our cage work changes from tee rounds to soft toss, from working on opposite field hitting to driving the ball into our pull gap.  We have been extremely lucky to get these couple of weeks to get really advanced coaching from our staff and to get the time to work 1 on 1 with guys who have played for 10 plus years in the big leagues.  One of the cool things that we have been tasked with doing every morning is for a group of players to give a quick presentation of a specific coach so we all get to know their playing background.  Each morning before stretch 3-5 players will get up and talk about one coach and discuss the coach’s stats in the big leagues, memorable baseball moments, favorite teammates etc.”

Tissenbaum could well be a part of the Fort Wayne middle infield in 2013.

Tony Wieber

Tony Wieber played his college baseball not all too far from Parkview Field, just two hours north on Interstate 69 in East Lansing, Michigan, as a member of the Michigan State Spartans. He was their closer last year, posting a 2.22 ERA in 25 games and left as the school’s all-time saves leader with 18. The Padres took Wieber in the 33rd round, and sent him to Eugene for his first professional experience.

Wieber, a 6’0″, 200 lb. righty, pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 32 games, notching an impressive 1.34 ERA. In 40 1/3 innings he struck out 43 batters, walked 14 and allowed six earned runs, with a .167 batting average against him. When it comes to pitching, the 2013 TinCaps look like they’ll have no short supply of steady arms.

Walker Weickel

Last year the TinCaps received a top high school pitcher in Joe Ross as a member of the starting rotation. This year, they may well get another highly-touted high schooler in that first five. Walker Weickel was the fourth player selected by the Padres in the 2012 draft, going in the supplemental first round (55th overall). The Padres had that 55th pick because last year’s 54th overall pick, Brett Austin, chose to go to NC State rather than sign with San Diego.

Baseball America says Weickel was paid $2 million by the Padres, which, “more than doubled the $925,900 assigned value for his No. 55 selection. He’s the sixth player to receive $1 million or more above his pick value, joining Lance McCullers Jr. (Astros, supplemental first round), Matt Smoral (Blue Jays, supplemental first), Carson Kelly(Cardinals, second), Rio Ruiz (Astros, fourth) and Ty Buttrey (Red Sox, fourth).”

Of course, teams will have to be more careful about big-time draft spending the the future after the rules changed, starting with this last year’s draft:

“All 30 teams have a cap on signing bonuses for picks in the first 10 rounds, depending on when they pick and the number of compensatory picks they have. The cap ranges from the Minnesota Twins’$12.4 million to the Los Angeles Angels’ $1.6 million. Teams also are no longer allowed to sign players to major league contracts.

If teams spend more than their cap amount, the penalty is punitive to the point of being prohibitive: a 75 percent tax for exceeding the cap by 5 percent, up to a 100 percent tax and the loss of two future first-round picks for exceeding the bonus allotment by more than 15 percent.”

Weickel is already on just about everyone’s radar. Baseball America rated him as the 12th-best prospect in the Padres farm system, writing of the 6’6″ righty: “Weickel grew nearlt two inches to 6-foot-6 between his junior and senior years of high school, evoking body comparisons with a young Adam Wainwright with his tall, lean, broad-shouldered build.”

The Orlando, Florida, native, who throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, spent last season with the Rookie-Level Arizona League Padres and went 1-3 wit ha 4.50 ERA in nine games.

Chris Wilkes

Not everyone in life has options as to where they’d like to take their athletic career, especially if that athletic career ends when high school graduation is over. (Raises hand)

For Chris Wilkes, though, he had the option to either go play quarterback at Ole Miss or sign as a pitcher with the Padres after being selected in the 22nd round of the 2008 draft. Instead of taking the path to SEC glory, he chose the long and tough route of being a professional baseball player. Since signing with the Padres, he played in 78 games, broken down like this:

AZL Padres: 20 games

Eugene Emeralds: 43 games

Fort Wayne TinCaps: 3 games

Lake Elsinore Storm: 11 games

San Antonio Missions: 1 game

Last year he jumped between the AZL, Eugene, and that one game in San Antonio. The three games he played with the TinCaps came in 2011.

Unfortunately for Wilkes, he was released by the Padres during their most recent round of roster cuts.  Wilkes was on our original list of players back when this series started, so I still thought to include him here in this last grouping of five.

Among those other players released were: Alexi Colon, right-handed pitchers Ryan Quigley, Will Scott, Adam Schrader, Daniel Cropper, James Jones, left-handed pitchers Jeremy Gigliotti and Dustin Pease and infielder Connor Powers.

Among that group, Cropper, Jones, Gigliotti and Powers all played for the TinCaps in 2012. Best of luck to them as they try and latch on with new organizations.

MUSICAL GUEST

Rihanna, with a diversion from her usual club/pop hits, gives us a ballad in “Stay”. Prepare to want to listen repeatedly. Rihanna, 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.

Later this week, John will be bringing you an NCAA bracket, but in a different style than you’re used to. Let’s just say it’ll have a baseball twist. Stay tuned.

MCsig

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