…just a bit outside: Some Wide Ones with John Conniff-Ft. Wayne

We caught up with John Conniff of MadFriars.com and FoxSports San Diego on his recent trip to Low-A Fort Wayne, Indiana. The TinCaps are the first full season team in the Padres’ organization and play in one of the best stadiums in the minor leagues at their downtown stadium Parkview Field.

This year’s team is one of the youngest that San Diego has ever sent to the Midwest League with six of their eight everyday players twenty-one years old or younger.

The stars of the club are first baseman Jake Bauers, third baseman Dustin Peterson and second baseman/shortstop Josh Van Meter, all of whom have yet to turn twenty.

Jake Bauers (Photo by Jeff Nycz)

We caught up with John for his recent trip to the Summit City.

Vocal Minority Nate: What new faces should look forward to seeing in Ft. Wayne in the second half of the season?

John Conniff: The most notable one is SS Trea Turner, the Padres’ top draft choice out of North Carolina State this year. The big reason he is being brought up is the organization wants both him and Franchy Cordero, who really struggled in the cold of Fort Wayne, to both be playing everyday at shortstop.

Turner is more advanced defensively, Cordero offensively – but right now Cordero just makes to many throwing errors for the Low-A level.

Vocal Minority Nate: I see Mallex Smith is headed to High-A. Any chance we see some of the younger Ft. Wayne prospects promoted this year?

John Conniff: My guess is Mallex might be the last one of any real significance. The rest of them are so young the Padres’ usually only promote high school guys, especially in their first full year, one step at a time.

RJ’s Fro: The TinCaps currently sit at 35-52 (overall), which is dead last in the entire Midwest League. Is that a reflection on the amount of talent they have or is there some other factor involved?

John Conniff: I know this sounds like a broken record, but it’s a very young team and learning to how to play 140 games with all of the ups and downs in a season with little time to re-group, is a learning process.

Also, the Padres’ have put successful teams at that level in the past, but they were also all stocked with guys in their mid-twenties, who had little or no projection, after they finished playing at that level. While you always want to win, how much a team wins – and more importantly how much it will effect the big league squad, which is the reason these guys are there in the first place – is a very tricky question.

For example, in 2009 Fort Wayne won the championship and roughly the same group won the Texas League championship with San Antonio in 2011. You could also make an argument that if a few guys hadn’t gotten hurt or promoted they also would have taken the Cal League title in 2010.

The problem is while many of them were obviously good players, most them also ended up being on the fringes of big league rosters and the only real “difference makers” on those squads were Mat Latos, who was only with the TinCaps for four games and Jedd Gyorko, who was with San Antonio for half a season. Cody Decker is the only player left in the organization from the Fort Wayne team of 2009 and he was only there for seven games.

So yeah, it’s great to win, but it’s much better to have prospects.

RJ’s Fro: Out of the Top 10 pitchers with the most innings on the team, eight of them have an ERA at 4.70 and above. Overall the team has a league worst 5.05 ERA. I don’t remember Parkview Field being a launching pad?

John Conniff: It’s a fair park, the problem is the pitching just has not been that good this year. Walker Weickel, a first round supplemental pick in 2012 who was repeating the level, was sent down to the AZL with 1-8 record and a 6.32 ERA was a major disappointment. Low-A was also probably a little too much of a jump for RHP Adrian De Horta, who was good in the AZL last year, and has pitched better in Eugene.

Kyle Lloyd has been a pleasant surprise as a starter along with Nick Mutz and Justin Livengood. Also, Ronald Herrera, who came over in the Kyle Blanks trade, has been decent.

RJ’s Fro: I have yet to visit the fine city of Fort Wayne, however according to Trip Advisor taking in a TinCaps game ranks #3 on it’s “Things to Do” list behind a Children’s Zoo and a Public Library. Is that really all that city has to offer?

John Conniff: I’ve always enjoyed going to Fort Wayne. In the press box one of the announcers once told me that Fort Wayne has more restaurants and churches than any other city in Indiana and before he could take his next breath the official scorekeeper added, “And we also have more strip clubs than any other city in Indiana, so that keeps it interesting.”

But this is a family site, so let’s talk about the restaurants.

Some of them are really a trip back into time, prices included. Coney Island Wiener Stand on Main Street has been around since 1914, and nothing seems to have changed – including the prices. If you get out of there and spend anything close to $10 then you have fed yourself for the week. Cindy’s Diner, which also just re-opened, is the classic family-run cramped diner where all of the seating is at the counter. It is very hard to beat for breakfast of biscuits and gravy.

My favorite was Powers Hamburger Shop, also around since 1940 and is only a few blocks from Parkview Field, which is everything that White Castle Hamburgers are supposed to be. Steamed sliders smothered in cheese and onions for a $1.15 a pop.

Power's Burgers

Hard to beat.

Thanks guys, see you in Eugene.

Make sure you give John a follow on Twitter @MadFriars for some great Padres prospect news

ICYMI: Part 1 – San Antonio
ICYMI: Part 2 – El Paso

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