No matter what’s happening at the big-league level, the Padres have collected an overwhelming amount of talent over the last few years. Even though Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, and Hunter Renfroe all graduated from last year’s top 20, the system right now is arguably just as good, with the emergence of prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Lauer, and Michel Baez. Michael Gettys, ranked seventh on our list at the end of last season, didn’t even crack our top 20 this go around, and he’s having a fine season as a 21-year-old in Lake Elsinore (okay, the strikeouts are a concern). And there are a bunch of other intriguing names that also fell short.
Over the last couple of weeks, the What’s Brewing On The Farm crew has been huddled at Padres Public headquarters, trying to sort out this heap of exciting prospects. Our creation is a midsummer’s top 20 for your enjoyment.
20. Luis Campusano, 18, Catcher
AZL Padres: 40 PA, .290/.450/.581, 22.5 BB%, 25.0 K%
Campusano, a bat-first backstop, is the opposite of the other catcher the Padres took early in this year’s draft, Blake Hunt. You could probably take either one, depending on your preference for polished defense vs. bigger offensive potential at catcher. Campusano’s tool set includes plenty of bat speed and over-the-fence power, the kind of raw offensive skills that work at any position. He’s 18, so there’s still plenty of work to do on the offensive side of the ball, but the main question with Campusano might be how the work behind the dish progresses.
Eric Longenhagen had a mostly negative report on his defense from a late-June viewing, but it’s early. On the plus side, it’s possible his bat makes him an interesting prospect even at first base or in an outfield corner, but obviously that kind of switch would put a dent into his prospect status. For now, cross your fingers and hope the Padres can develop Campusano into a good catcher. Remember, Yasmani Grandal was once viewed as a bat-first catcher too. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
What’s up with Brad Hand?
Recently, both the Nationals and Yankees acquired multiple relievers in single trades, with Washington picking up Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson and New York getting David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle (along with third baseman Todd Frazier). Among those two teams, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Washington look for more help. They lost Blake Treinen in the deal, who has a 5.59 ERA on the season but better peripherals and even better stuff. Plus, Madson’s old and Doolittle’s an injury risk, which, combined with the loss of Treinen, makes the Nationals bullpen still relatively thin given their championship aspirations.
Meanwhile, Hand’s in San Diego, but there are still 12 days until the deadline. Here are some disjointed thoughts on possibly the best reliever left on the market.
How much does the 2.5 years of control add to Hand’s trade value?
Hand has a favorable contract, signed for $1.375 million this year and still arbitration-eligible through 2019. Here’s the thing with relievers, though: they’re relievers. You rarely hear about major-league teams building around a relief pitcher, especially if the player isn’t Craig Kimbrel or Andrew Miller or Kenley Jansen. Relievers are too volatile to really project two or three years down the road. I’d guess that a team looking to acquire Hand would view his arb-eligible 2018 season as a legit bonus. An additional year of control in 2019, though, would hardly register much extra value. Hand will be 29 then, more expensive, and carrying a heavy workload on his left arm.
Last night, this tweet appeared on my timeline:
Jedd Gyorko does indeed rank second in baseball in Defensive Runs Saved, at +13, behind only Nolan Arenado, and five whole runs ahead of Evan Longoria in third place. Last year, in a full season, only three third baseman (Arenado, Adrian Beltre, and Kyle Seager) contributed more positive value by DRS than 2017 Gyorko has racked up in half the playing time, and Beltre and Seager nipped him by just two runs a piece.
Either Gyorko, once a so-so second baseman in San Diego, has transformed himself into one of the best third baseman in the league in St. Louis, or something fishy is going on here. Let’s take a step back.
Today’s two most frequently cited fielding stats, DRS and UZR, both use batted-ball data and fielding zones to determine how well defenders are performing. Where offensive stats are somewhat concrete—a home run is a home run and a double is a double, for the most part—fielding stats are essentially estimates based on various assumptions, like how hard a ball was hit and where a fielder was initially standing. In an era where the exact data on how hard a ball was hit and where a fielder was initially standing exists, somewhere, thanks to Statcast, today’s advanced fielding metrics feel a tad archaic.
On Monday I wrote about Phil Maton, and how he’s using his high-spin fastball up in the zone, mostly to solid early success. In the process I found some interesting factoids on a few other Padres relievers.
Brad Hand—Speaking of spin rate, Hand actually has a higher four-seam fastball spin rate than Maton this season at 2,532 rpm, 10th-best in the league. He doesn’t have the same success as Maton with the heater, however, as he’s given up a .342 wOBA against so far this season on four-seamers. Part of those moderate struggles could be attributable to Hand’s release point. His release point extension is just south of five feet, the second-lowest figure in the league among pitchers with at least 100 fastballs thrown this year, behind only Jharel Cotton. That brings Hand’s perceived velocity from 93 mph down to 90.59 mph, which could explain part of the reason why hitters have found some success.
Of course, Hand’s been tremendous overall this season, in part because he’s thrown his filthy slider nearly 45 percent of the time. Hand gets a whiff on 20 percent of his sliders, twice the rate of his four-seamer. He’s also allowed a paltry 0.058 opponents ISO on the slider. With the most innings pitched among relievers since the start of last season, and two and a half years of team control left, Hand is expected to command a solid return at (or before) the oncoming trade deadline.
Last Wednesday in Cleveland, Phil Maton made his usual entrance from the bullpen, unceremoniously striding in from somewhere behind the outfield wall in the middle of a sixth inning jam.
At first blush, Maton is your ordinary reliever; at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he was taken in the 20th round of the 2015 draft out of Louisiana Tech to little fanfare. He signed with the Padres for an undisclosed amount under $100,000 and didn’t even receive a draft scouting report from Baseball America. Maton rolled through the minors, however, feasting on younger, less experienced hitters with a typical relief pitcher arsenal, a fastball and slider. He reached the big leagues after just two full minor leagues seasons.
To the naked eye, Maton’s first pitch on Wednesday night, a 94 mile-per-hour heater to Jason Kipnis, taken for a strike right near the outside edge, looked pretty darned ordinary itself.
Michel Baez, RHP, Single-A Fort Wayne
I was initially going to begin this post with a graphic description of Michel Baez’s fastball, but thought better of it because Baez’s fastball is already nasty (folks!!!!!!!!!!!!).
Signed out of Cuba last year for $3 million, the 6-foot-8 right-hander’s been pitching professionally in Cuba since 2014. He started the year in Arizona Rookie League, where he flexed (10 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 16 K) his power fastball at the expense of some poor, poor bastards.
How good is his fastball? Here’s what MadFriars (people who actually know what they’re talking about) wrote after Baez’s dominant debut at Fort Wayne:
“Baez was sitting 96 mph on his fastball, reaching up to 98 at times. He struck out two in the first throwing almost nothing but his fastball. If that didn’t impress an all-time crowd in Fort Wayne, Baez busted out his changeup in the fifth. He struck out the side making the batters look clueless. He finished the night striking out five of the final six batters he faced.”
One interesting thing about Baez is he’s already 21, obviously much older than a typical July 2 signing, and making him a bit old for the level. I wonder if the Padres might decide to bump him to Lake Elsinore at some point this season, especially if he keeps making it look easy against Low-A hitters. (Oscar)
The July 2 international signing period opened on Sunday, and as we predicted back in May, the Padres have been plenty busy. According to Baseball America, they’ve already signed 22 prospects from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, and Australia. Unlike last year, however, they can’t go past $300,000 on any player this year (Mexican loophole notwithstanding), so the strategy this time around has been quantity over quality.
According to the BA’s signing tracker, here are the number of signings by each team so far:
There are the Padres, third in all of baseball, only a few signings behind the pace-setting Astros and Dodgers, two more teams under spending restrictions. San Diego has already inked 14 more players than the average team. As we noted previously, when discussing the 57 signings the Yankees made in 2015, it’s not particularly surprising:
Teams like the Yankees (and now Padres) that are heavily invested in the international game, spending gobs of money one year, are probably more familiar with the next class of international free agents than teams that don’t devote as many resources to foreign scouting. It’s easy to just continue signing players in the year following a spending spree, with the $300,000 limit only narrowing the potential market. There’s a good shot that the Padres, given their deep roots in Latin America, follow a similar path, using the next two years to stockpile young, high upside players.
The expensive players—the ones out of the Padres range this year—have better shots of becoming good prospects and productive major leaguers, of course, but this is still something of an educated guessing game. It’s an almost impossibly difficult task to scout 15- and 16-year-old players who aren’t even finished growing yet. The Padres are probably as good at it as any other team, so it’s encouraging that they’re keeping the pedal to the floor internationally. They could have taken a step back this year and nobody would have criticized them, but it’s clear this regime is hell-bent on finding talented baseball players whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The 2014-2015 offseason was a time of great excitement, with the Padres shocking the baseball world by making several blockbusters in the span of a few months, rapidly assembling an on-paper contender. It’s been two and a half years since it all went down, so we’ve all read (or written) numerous postscripts. In a few words: it didn’t work out.
Anyway, I was listening to the Make the Padres Great Again podcast the other day, and Craig and John briefly touched on the Wil Myers-for-Trea Turner three-team trade, classifying it as the worst move from that period. That’s a fair take, but it got me thinking: which move was the worst? . . . were there any good ones? . . . maybe I should make a list.
This is not going to be a super exhaustive look, because, let’s face it, nobody wants that. Instead, I’m breaking down each deal with my proprietary “then, now, forever” method (sorry, WWE). “Then” is how we felt about the deal at the time. This is arguably the most important category, so it gets double the weight of each of the other two categories in the final calculation. “Now” is how the deal looks today, 2.5 years later, and “forever” is our best guess at how the deal will look to (alien) baseball fans in 2200.
Sticking with the relatively simple format, we’re just going with letter grades, from F to, uh, A+, with a C being a ho-hum, run-of-the-mill deal. Alright, here we go, ranked in reverse order (from the best deal to the worst).
We’re at an interesting point in the season for looking at stats. During the first month of the year, everybody pretty much knows that most stats aren’t worth a lot when measuring future expectations. Now that we’re about four months into the season, that feeling seems to have has gone away.
The amount of time it takes for a stat to become stable is a complicated subject. But here are two things I believe:
- Even “advanced” stats like wOBA or wRC+ are not all that useful to help predict the future even at this point in the season.
- Stats that players have more direct control over are the most useful right now.
I was curious to find out if any Padres have changed the approach at the plate this season. And there aren’t many more stats that hitters have control over than what pitches he chooses to swing at. So, lets dive in!
Franchy Cordero is struggling.
His slash line has dipped to .230/.280/.414 after a hot start, his wRC+ to 82. Worse, he’s striking out like Adam Dunn swinging a broom stick in the second game of a double-header after an all-night kegger. As Patrick Brewer noted the other day, Cordero is K-ing at a 44.7 clip on the season, and that number is actually up recently. In eight games since June 18, he’s somehow whiffed 17 times in 24 plate appearances (that’s 70.8 percent) while recording no hits and no walks. Among 357 hitters with at least 90 PAs this season, Cordero has the third-worst contact rate at 59.7 percent. There’s small sample size randomness and then there’s whatever this is.
With Manuel Margot back, Cordero’s been pushed to the bench for now. It seems likely that, for the balance of the year, Cordero will either return to Triple-A to work on making more contact or get regular playing time in left/center with the big club. It makes little sense to use him as a bench piece in the majors now, especially on a team that doesn’t have to worry about trying to win games late with a defensive replacement and/or pinch runner. He needs playing time somewhere.
While Cordero’s first month in the majors has been full of ups (the early power) and downs (all the strikeouts), with a recent trend toward more downs, here’s one good thing that’s been constant: he’s fast.