Farm systems are big.
— David Jay (@dmjay) December 13, 2016
Sometimes we—for good reason—get caught up with established prospects like Manuel Margot and Anderson Espinoza; or intriguing ones like Fernando Tatis Jr.; or enigmatic ones likes Javier Guerra. A good system goes far beyond the headliners, however. There are under-the-radar players all over professional baseball who are going to earn scant notoriety as prospects but turn into productive big-league players (most of them are Cardinals and Giants, probably). The hope is that the Padres will find a few of them.
Under A.J. Preller, the Padres have made great strides in looking everywhere for talented baseball players. They’ve signed gobs of young players from Latin America; they’ve made noise in Asia; they’ve kicked the tires on the shires of Europe; they’ve signed a number of players from indy ball. They’ve also started to corner the market on Division III college players. Last year the Padres signed a league-leading three D-III players, and each of them got off to solid pro debuts in 2016.
Lake Bachar, RHP, High-A Lake Elsinore
The Padres took Bachar in the fifth round out of Wisconsin-Whitewater and gave him $350,000 to sign, making him the first D-III player taken in the 2016 draft (and also significantly wealthier than myself). Not surprisingly, there’s not a whole bunch of scouting info out there on Bachar, as Baseball America‘s draft report noted that he spent most of his college career as a non-scholarship punter/kicker on the football team. BA also noted his fresh and lively right arm that hoists fastballs up into the mid-90s, as did BP’s Wilson Karaman after watching him in the Cal League.
It translated well to professional baseball, too, as Bachar struck out 35 and walked just six in 28 2/3 innings in rookie ball. It’s rookie ball, so the numbers don’t matter much and the hitters are young, but that’s certainly a positive first step for a recently converted place kicker. Bachar jumped to Lake Elsinore and held his own in four relief appearances there before closing out his campaign with a three-inning cameo at Fort Wayne.
In his recent chat, Kyle Glaser mentioned that Bachar could be the first Padres pitcher from the 2016 draft to reach the majors, though almost surely as a fast-moving reliever. The relief pitcher prospect profile is never the flashiest, but Bachar looks like one to watch.
Taylor Kohlwey, OF, High-A Lake Elsinore
The Padres went back to Wisconsin, taking Kohlwey (Wisconsion-LaCrosse) in the 21st round. We won’t attempt to make sense of D-III college statistics here, but it’s safe to say that Kohlwey strutted around his campus like Barry Bonds, as he led the nation in total bases in 2016 with 163 and hit .447/.511/.704 over his college career.
Kohlwey started his pro career at low-A Tri-City and struggled some, OPSing .663 through 33 games. The Padres bumped him up to Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore, regardless, and things improved. Overall, Kohlwey hit a respectable .260/.343/.365 split between three levels, with 12 steals in 17 tries and a bit more Craig Counsell in his strut.
The scouting reports are sparse, but BA said this about him in their small college preview last year:
Kohlwey has a long track record of hitting with a smooth lefthanded swing and he has tools as well with plus speed and excellent baserunning instincts.
There is video of Kohlwey doing damage with metal on YouTube.
Mark Zimmerman, RHP, High-A Lake Elsinore
Zimmerman was nabbed in the 33rd round out of Baldwin Wallace college in Ohio, where he led his team as both a hitter and a pitcher. The scouting reports are few and far between—there’s a theme developing here—but, like Bachar and Kohlwey, Zimmerman transitioned well to the minors. In 21 innings as a reliever at Tri-City, he posted gaudy numbers: 31 strikeouts, 4 walks, 0 home runs, 0.86 ERA. He was predictably less dominant after a jump to the hitter-friendly Cal League, but still notched 3.5 strikeouts to every walk in 16 1/3 innings.
Divison III baseball is mostly a land of non-prospects, but for every 30 5-foot-9 second basemen with the range of Mo Vaughn, there’s an interesting pro player. If one moves, the Padres will probably spot it.