Little light on twitter questions this week, so we grabbed an email sent in from my alter ego.
Was the Darren Smith interview with Angels GM Billy Eppler from a couple of weeks back the most overrated GM interview of all time?
—Safety Squeeze Dustin, San Diego, California
Yes. There are at least two or three glowing reviews of this interview out there, but I just don’t see it. I’ve listened to it three times, searching for whatever it is that everyone else is fawning over. I got nothin’. Here are the points against it.
- I’m not/wasn’t a Chargers fan, really, but Eppler’s comments on that football team were annoying at best, and probably much closer to fingernails on a chalkboard if you’re from San Diego.
- Half the interview was about football.
- Eppler hardly said a meaningful thing about evaluating baseball players or running a big-league team outside of your typical cliches.
- He said “procurement” three or four times.
Eppler is a fine talker, but this is an average interview. More so, there’s nothing in it to indicate that Eppler was the right choice over A.J. Preller for the Padres GM job—that is, unless you rate radio interview skills high on the list of what you want in a general manager. The Angels are having a nice little season, but they’re two games over .500 with the best baseball player of all time, Mike Trout, having his best season yet (yes, I know he missed time with an injury). They’re still just a one-in-five shot to make the playoffs, their farm system stinks, and most of their key players, save for Andrelton Simmons (nice move, Billy), were already on the team when Eppler was hired.
I’m not critiquing the job he’s done in Los Angeles or even his interviewing chops, but c’mon, let’s chill out a little bit about Billy Eppler, the one that got away. This interview gets a four on the 1-to-10 scale of baseball executive radio interviews, and I’ll take Preller over Eppler as a general manager.
Luis Asuncion, OF, Low-A Tri-City
At 6’4,” 205 pounds, Luis Asuncion is already a physical specimen. The 20-year-old right fielder out of the Dominican Republic is in his second year with the Tri-City Dust Devils. Signed in November 2013, Asuncion played 2014 and 2015 in the Dominican Summer League, where he registered an OPS of .408 (as a 17-year-old) and .681 (as an 18-year-old) respectively. He was then bumped up to Tri-City in 2016, where he slashed .241/.335/.317 with a .651 OPS in 58 games. Even though he was a large kid, he was still obviously trying to fit into his body. And it showed. Asuncion only had thirteen extra-base hits in 199 at-bats, and ended the campaign with a 91 wRC+.
This year, though, Asuncion has showed much improvement. He is currently hitting .272 with a .408 SLG%. His OPS is up to .731, the wRC+ is at 103, and he has stolen six bases as well. Earlier this season, Luis was one of a selected few that represented the Northwest League in the HR Derby. He was also named as a Northwest League All-Star. Although Asuncion only hit one home run in the derby, he managed to take home the All-Star Game MVP by going 1-3 with an RBI double in the contest.
Although the numbers may not be eye popping and he is not a “top” prospect by any means, Asuncion deserves some attention just because he seemingly has built upon and improved each season in rookie ball. He is also super athletic, which does not hurt either. He will obviously have to improve on his 22.6 percent K rate and 6.6 percent walk rate he is currently showing this year, but I would not doubt that he starts next season in Fort Wayne and gets his feet wet in full-season ball. (John Horvath)
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)
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)
Series intro and week no. 1
Week no. 2
Logan Allen, LHP, Single-A Fort Wayne
The state of Indiana is known for Hoosiers, its anti-noodling law, and the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ starting rotation, which consists of Austin Smith, Jacob Nix (more on him later), Anderson Espinoza, Jean Cosme, now-injured Chris Paddack, and Logan Allen. Allen is a 6’3,’’ 200-pound lefty, originally drafted in the eighth round last year out of high school by the Red Sox, and acquired by the Padres as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade.
Last season, in the Red Sox organization, he pitched only 24 1/3 innings, mostly in the Gulf Coast League (rookie ball), but he struck out 26 while allowing just a lone walk and no home runs. That performance, combined with his age, stuff, and handedness, pushed him onto Baseball America’s top 10 Padres prospects list once it came out last December (he just missed BP’s top 10).
Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:
- Removing the Fangs From Ty Cobb’s Notoriety (New York Times) – There’s a new book out about Cobb, and what author Charles Leerhsen discovered after four years of researching his subject surprised even him: “I thought I’d find new examples of monstrous monstrosity. Instead, I found a very different person than the myth. I was a little disappointed at first. He’s more normal than I thought.” Sounds like a great read, as is Cobb’s SABR biography.
- The Braves are Salvaging a Salary Dump (FanGraphs) – As Jeff Sullivan notes, former Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin has stopped hitting so many groundballs in Atlanta. That and health are turning him into the player folks once envisioned him becoming. For now, anyway. [h/t reader Didi]
- Attendance Update and the Angels’ Latest PR Mess (FanGraphs) – Through June 4, the Padres ranked 12th out of 30, just ahead of the Rangers and behind last year’s American League champion Royals. The Pads also have had the third largest gain from 2014, behind those same Royals and the hated Mariners (go figure). On the downside, literally, the Pads’ attendance slipped from April to May more than all but three teams. Hosting teams outside the division is a little different from hosting the Giants and Dodgers, who knew? That the Padres haven’t lived up to preseason hype probably doesn’t help either. Hey, at least they aren’t the Phillies.
- Padres Pics #1 (The 5.5 Hole) – This new blog promises to be fun. Anything that starts with Kurt Bevacqua dressed as Dick Williams being harassed by umpires has to be good, right? Speaking of Padres from the ’80s, Wax Pack is a book due out in 2017 (plan ahead!) that author Brad Balukjian calls “the story of a single pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards and the attempt to track down each of the players inside nearly 30 years after they were bundled together with a stick of chalky bubblegum.” Balukjian will be interviewing the players in this single pack, including Garry Templeton. Pretty cool. Others in the pack with Padres ties are Gary Pettis, Randy Ready, and Rick Sutcliffe.
- Padres draft RHP Austin Smith at No. 51 (San Diego Union-Tribune) – A.J. Preller likes his team’s first pick in the 2015 draft: “It’s a big body, good frame, big, strong and durable. Clean arm action, good delivery, and he shows three pitches.” MLB.com adds: “He works at 90-92 mph and tops out at 96 while looking like he’s just playing catch. He could sit in the mid-90s once he fills out his 6-foot-4 frame and gets more consistent.” Learn more about the Padres draft class (including third rounder Jacob Nix, who has an interesting backstory) at Draft Tracker 2015 and from our own Dustin.
The Padres had only one pick in the major league draft on Monday, and they used it to take a high school right hander named Austin Smith with the 51st overall selection. (We babbled, albeit briefly, about Smith yesterday.) San Diego had eight more picks on Tuesday in rounds three through 10, and what follows are some notes on the newest members of the Padres’ organization.
Jacob Nix — Round 3, 86th overall, RHP, HS
In last year’s draft Nix, through no fault of his own, got caught up in the Astros-Brady Aiken snafu — you know, the one where the Astros significantly lowered their signing bonus offer to Aiken after a physical revealed he was pitching with an abnormally small UCL. The two parties — the Astros and Aiken — failed to reach an agreement and the Astros lost the nearly $8 million signing bonus slot money that accompanied the no. 1 overall pick. Nix, who was expected to sign an over-slot deal with the ‘Stros after they inked Aiken under-slot, was left out in the cold after verbally agreeing to a $1.5 million deal with Houston.
Nix eventually filed a grievance against the Astros and ended up getting the $1.5 million anyway, then he enrolled at IMG Academy in Florida, had a fine season, and was taken 86th overall by the Padres this year. He sits in the low-to-mid 90s with the fastball and improved the secondary offerings this spring, jumping him up to 37th on Baseball America’s top 500. The 86th pick carries a bonus slot near $700,000, so Nix should add another decent chunk of change to the bankroll. Not a bad ending to a situation that could’ve gotten uglier.