When the Padres acquired Pedro Avila from the Nationals last December, he was just an ordinary prospect—or at least he was supposed to be one. You can’t expect to get a good prospect for Derek Norris, not after Norris put up a .222/.283/.370 slash line in two seasons in San Diego, bottoming out in 2016.

Since coming over to the Padres, however, Avila’s quietly been distancing himself from ordinary prospect territory, as Ryan Luz documented recently over at Padres Prospectus. He’s back at Single-A currently, after some moderate struggles with Lake Elsinore earlier this year, but he’s still struck out 28 percent and allowed just 0.4 HR/9 on the season, rosy numbers for a 20-year-old no matter the level.

Then, last night happened. Avila gathered his favorite loud noise instruments—his vuvuzelas and his fog horns and his trumpets—and ensured himself a little attention in a farm system packed with attention-hogging prospects. Facing the Great Lakes Loons, in front of 3,018 patrons at a place called Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan, Avila struck out 17 and walked none in eight innings.

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Hey, the Hangover is back too. 

The last time we talked about Carter Capps it was back in June, and Capps had just finished a showdown with an umpiring crew in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

After missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Capps spent the first few months of this season in the minors, mostly in Triple-A El Paso, with good but not great results. In 27 2/3 innings, he struck out 30, walked 11, and allowed just one home run. Over his final 9 2/3 innings on his extended rehab, he struck out 15 and walked just one, showing the Padres that he was ready for another test.

Last night, in Cincinnati, Capps made his return to a big-league mound. There were, as you might expect, some positives and negatives.

Positive No. 1: His velocity was down, but not way down.

According to Brooks Baseball, Capps’ four-seamer averaged 93.3 mph last night, but he pumped one in there at 96 and a couple of others at 95-plus. Back in 2015, the peak Capps experience, he was averaging 98-plus, and that doesn’t include the extra perceived speed his delivery adds. So the velocity is clearly down, but it’s still just his first appearance on a big-league mound in two years. The positive here is that he was able to get it up to 96, which maybe indicates that he’ll be up to 95-plus on the reg by the time this season’s over.

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Earlier this season, I defended Dinelson Lamet‘s changeup, noting that its early effectiveness was better than advertised. While the pitch didn’t have the traditional speed differential from the fastball that you’re looking for, Lamet was locating it well, and he had used it to induce plenty of whiffs, including a couple from lefty masher Michael Conforto.

As the season has progressed, a couple of things have become more clear. Lamet’s changeup has indeed revealed itself to be a work in progress; the speed differential isn’t there, but neither is the downhill, fading movement that accompanies most good changes. Further, the command that Lamet showed in his first few starts—dotting the pitch where he wanted it—has predictably ebbed and flowed, and a changeup high in the zone at 92 mph plays like a beach volleyball to any big-league hitter.

Rather than continuing to tinker with a subpar pitch at the big-league level, Lamet smushed his changeup into a discarded bottle and sent it down the San Diego River.

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This is a good question, but it feels like a trap. There are like a million potential answers, but none of them jump right out. It feels like one of the countless recently signed/acquired international players is going to be the answer, but I’ll take a stab with Luis Campusano. Although he’s by no means a good defensive catcher yet, he at least has a shot to stick at the position, being just 18 and with enough tools to learn the trade. So far he’s already cracked three homers with nine walks in 12 games in the AZL, which doesn’t mean much, of course, but doesn’t hurt either. The power is the carrying tool here, and he might have enough of it to make him interesting even if he doesn’t turn into a good defensive backstop (or stick at the position altogether).

Yikes, that’s really close. It’s close enough where I’ll lean Luis Urias, just because he’s a position player. The concern there is probably just the ceiling, with the size and lack of punch potentially limiting the upside. But the dude makes enough good contact to hit .300-plus every year, he’s always young for his leagues, and he’s working on his fourth straight season of more walks than strikeouts. I’m interested to see what it looks like at the big-league level.

I know Quantrill got roughed up in the Futures Game, but I thought he looked pretty good. Those are good hitters he was facing, for one, but he was also hitting like 95 and I thought the change looked solid. Overall, his performance has been kind of uneven, but shoot, he’s averaging nearly a strikeout an inning with solid peripherals across the board, and he’s already reached Double-A. Not sure there’s obvious ace potential here, but there usually isn’t. Everyone needs solid mid-rotation guys.

But, yeah, gimme Urias by a nose.

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If I told you that Austin Hedges has allowed just two passed balls this year, you probably wouldn’t be surprised. Hedges has long been touted as a defensive prodigy at backstop, with good athleticism, good footwork, good hands, good just about anything you’d associate with defense at catcher; passed balls, on the other hand, are for slow, stone-handed handed catchers, save for the occasional cross-up or knuckleball. You probably also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Hedges has allowed the second-fewest amount of passed balls in baseball among regular catchers this season, just one ahead of Buster Posey and nine behind the league leaders, Yasmani Grandal and Gary Sanchez.

At this point, you might think, okay, big deal.

Sciambi’s tweet got me thinking, though: what if more passed balls is actually a good thing?

The idea here is that good framing catchers are worried more about presenting the pitch correctly over securing the ball 100 percent of the time. And that the actions associated with good framing—staying quiet, sneakily moving the glove back toward the strike zone on the catch, occasionally catching the ball outside the pocket of the catcher’s mitt, etc.—are the kind of skills that might also lead to more passed balls. A passed ball, in isolation, is never a good thing. But if five extra passed balls a year lead to five extra runs in pitch framing, you’ll take it in a heartbeat.

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In an trade deadline puzzler, the Padres held onto Brad Hand. Back in June, I was so sure that Hand was going to be dealt by July 31 that I traded him to every other team in the league, an article that now reads like a graveyard of what could have been. When I updated Hand’s most likely landing spots a few weeks back, I didn’t even consider the Padres as a top five contender.

What happened? In the simplest terms, it appears that the Padres set a high asking price—a fair initial stance for a pitcher of Hand’s quality—and the rest of the league failed to meet it, or even get close enough to make A.J. Preller & Co. budge. The complicated answer is, well, more complicated, and also unknown. Maybe it involves bits and pieces of some distrust of Preller, some distrust of Hand. Maybe it involves the Padres not budging enough from that initial asking price. More so, probably, it appears that the league as a whole decided to back off on dealing marquee prospects for last-ditch deadline improvements.

Justin Wilson, Hand’s most similar deadline comp, was traded to the Cubs, with Alex Avila, for Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes, neither of whom cracked Baseball America’s midseason top 100. That’s a modest package, considering Avila, a one-year rental, is still a catcher OPSing .869. Addison Reed, another rental, was dealt from the Mets to the Red Sox for a trio of unexciting pitching prospects. Sonny Gray, mentioned in the tweet above, is a superb starter with 2.5 years left on his contract, and even he didn’t pry away one of the Yankees top prospects.

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Yesterday, on twitter, I did what I do best on there. I hijacked an otherwise innocent thread and turned it into a lengthy debate on nuance (it turned into a good discussion, by the way).

First off, I’m down with the tank. I’ve been on board since day one, and although maybe I haven’t been loading and firing artillery, or driving that thing, I’ve been present in the back, filing paperwork on code regulations and such.

The tank makes perfect sense. If you’re not going to be good, be bad; be really bad. Don’t strive for the middle. That’s about all it is, really. Being bad in baseball gives you certain perks. For your toils, you get a higher first round draft pick, more draft bonus pool money, (formerly) more international money, and the ability to orchestrate a plan that focuses just about all resources on the future. It’s a strategy that allows you to draft MacKenzie Gore, to trade for players like Fernando Tatis Jr., and to audition Rule 5’ers like Luis Perdomo or Allen Cordoba.

The Padres have done a pretty good job with it. Their 68-94 record last year netted them the third overall pick, and they’ve been able to locate and polish up a number of diamond-in-the-rough types, either to use in trades (Trevor Cahill, possibly Brad Hand, etc.) or to maybe hold on to (Perdomo, etc.). They’ve also spent and scouted diligently in the international amateur market, and done a solid job with the stateside draft. As a result, the farm system is loaded with both upside and depth, and it currently ranks like fourth-best in all of baseball, give or take a few slots depending on your source.

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The Padres announced earlier tonight that pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza will undergo Tommy John surgery. Espinoza was acquired last summer from the Boston Red Sox for Drew Pomeranz. He made seven starts down the stretch at Fort Wayne last season, but hasn’t pitched at all this year, held back for precautionary reasons. Espinoza will have the surgery next week in Dallas, Texas.

Here are some thoughts on the matter.

1. Get well, Anderson Espinoza

We often think about how an injury like this affects the Padres. That’s only natural, of course, but it’s important to think about Espinoza here. The Padres will be fine. On the other hand, Espinoza’s a 19-year-old who hasn’t pitched a minor-league game in 11 months, and who now has to deal with a significant surgery and a long, grueling recovery, one that certainly doesn’t guarantee a return to previous form.

Espinoza signed for $1.8 million back in 2014, so he’s doing okay. Once you factor in buscones, taxes, and living on a paltry minor-league salary for a few years, though, he hasn’t really earned the big bucks yet. He still has a bright future, we hope, but it’s hard not to feel for someone who’s right arm, gifted as it is, has failed him. The most important thing here is that Anderson Espinoza gets healthy for Anderson Espinoza. If that happens, the Padres will be beneficiaries, and so will we.

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Hey, another twitter mailbag. Thank you twitter.

In this type of scenario, I’m inclined to just say, hey, Wil Myers is what the overall numbers say he is. So far, in his career, Myers has a 110 wRC+. This year it’s 108. In 2015 and 2016 it was 115. So, he’s like a 110-115 wRC+ guy going forward, which is fine but not great for a first baseman.

However, with Myers, I still hold out some hope for more. And let’s be honest, we all want to be optimists at heart, drinking our water from glasses that are always half full.

Optimist point No. 1: Myers is just 26 years old. A solid player suddenly reaching new heights in his late 20s is far from unheard of; just of the top of my head, there are guys like Jose Bautista and Eric Thames that jump off the page. Bautista, for example, went from a below average hitter to one of the best hitters in the America League for a few years, right at age 29. It’d be silly to count on that from Myers, or anybody, but there’s always a chance things just suddenly click.

Optimist point No. 2: I still think it’d be worth looking into revamping his swing in the offseason. If it was working, fine, go with it. But there’s no good reason his swing has to look like that, especially when he’s hitting at a level below what both he and the Padres probably expect. It might be somewhat risky, but it’s possible that even just a swing tweak could set Myers on the right path.

Short answer: He’s probably something like what we’ve seen, but breakout potential exists. I’ll say he’s able to jump his wRC+ into the 120s or 130s, at least, for a few years here.

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Yesterday I wrote about the perceived trade value of three pitchers the Padres have already traded. Let’s just say it didn’t lock up the Padres Public servers. So, today, I thought I’d take a more conventional approach and discuss the relative trade value of the players still on the Padres roster.

I put everybody into made-up tiers.

Tier 1 is for primo guys. Andrew Miller‘s a tier 1 guy. Brad Hand isn’t, at least not unless he grows out the beard, steals some of Miller’s mojo, and hires Jeff Sullivan as his agent. In fact, the Padres don’t have any tier 1 players. (By the way, I didn’t consider young, unlikely-to-be-traded players like Manuel Margot in this exercise.)

Tier 2 is for good, solid trade chips. These are players that a bunch of teams are genuinely interested in, even if they lack some tier 1 mojo.

Tier 3 is for guys who aren’t good enough for tier 2. There’s some trade value here, but not a whole lot of it.

Tier 4 is for players who have little (or no) trade value.

Here we go.

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