In the spirit of not picking anything in the “B” range, I’m going with an A-.

I know, I know, maybe that’s aggressive, but I’ve been inching closer and closer to the front of the A.J. Preller bandwagon since the pains of 2015 have worn away. There are dings, of course—Yasmani Grandal-for-Matt Kemp was always terrible, the Wil MyersTrea Turner trade didn’t look good then or now, and last year’s medical records snafu wasn’t a good look.

The positive marks are overflowing, however, and you can spot most of them somewhere at a Padres minor-league affiliate. MacKenzie Gore, for instance, looks like a steal, even though he was the third pick in this year’s draft. Fernando Tatis Jr. looks like a legit candidate for baseball’s best prospect come next season, perhaps flanked by the aforementioned Gore. And there are intriguing players littered throughout the system, many of whom were acquired to little or no fanfare, like Michel Baez, Hansel Rodriguez, Pedro Avila, and on and on.

Sometimes it seems really easy to build a good farm system—after all, a team like the Chicago White Sox built a super system in the blink of an eye. But the Padres haven’t had many Chris Sales or Jose Quintanas sitting around to deal, so it’s something of an accomplishment that they went from a middling system to a top one in a year or two. Players like Tatis and Esteury Ruiz were plucked in lopsided trades; Gore was a savvy (if obvious) draft pick; Baez, a 6-foot-8 flamethrower, was somehow snagged for a cool $3 million last winter.

In short, Preller & Co. have been great at finding good young talent. That alone is an exciting development, and we haven’t even touched on the solid work they’ve done scraping the bargain bin for big-league contributors (Drew Pomeranz, Trevor Cahill, Brad Hand, Jose Pirela, etc). They still have to prove they can put a winner together, but we’ll find out about that soon enough. I’m a big fan.

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The typical Luis Perdomo outing tends to start off a bit shaky, flatten out and get good in the middle innings, and then nosedive into a free fall collapse before the right hander gets the hook. The numbers generally follow this observation, although there’s always the risk of getting caught up in small sample randomness when you break any pitcher down inning by inning.

If you do look at Perdomo’s splits this season, the fifth inning, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, has actually been his best all-around inning. In 22 innings, he’s got 1.64 ERA with 17 strikeouts, five walks, and no homers allowed. The wheels come off any time Andy Green tries to push him into the sixth, however, as Perdomo has been tattooed for 17 earned runs (on five homers) in just 18 2/3 innings in the frame. The seventh gets even worse, with seven more runs tacked on in just 2 1/3 frames.

That’s the typical Perdomo start. He’ll be rolling through five innings with just a run allowed on a few hits and decent peripherals. The sixth will rear its ugly head and five batters later two runs will be in and Perdomo will be heading for the showers with runners on the corners and one out. If Perdomo had been removed from every start this season after the fifth inning, his ERA would drop a full run, from 4.62 to 3.62.

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This is the seventh Friday mailbag in a row; thanks for all the great questions.

Manuel Margot‘s had a really solid rookie campaign, although certain aspects of his game have left something to be desired. On offense, the one thing that’s surprised me is his strikeout rate. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I figured he’d jump into the majors and make a lot of contact right away. So far he’s whiffing 19.2 percent of the time, which is a tick or two better than league average but maybe a bit higher than anticipated for someone who only struck out 11.5 percent of the time in his minor-league career and earned top prospect status largely for his hit tool.

Here’s the encouraging news on that front:

Month Strikeout %
April 27.6
May 19.0
June 27.8 (18 PAs)
July 23.1
August 14.6

Margot’s strikeout rate has been trending down this season, with August by far being his best month. Even more encouragingly, he’s been able to show both power and contact ability at the same time, swatting five homers and 10 extra-base hits this month. That’s a small sample, of course, but he’s hitting .281/.318/.494 in the second-half. He’s a rookie, so there’s not much to go on; steady improvement is all we can ask.

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

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)

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Another Friday, another twitter mailbag.

Here’s how I’d rank the priorities of Andy Green this season, particularly for the last couple of months.

  1. Develop young players
  2. Develop older players/maximize their future trade value
  3. Keep good clubhouse moral and all that jazz
  4. Read at least one good book a week
  5. Go all-out to win games

On a contending team, those five things might be reversed (toss the books), but the Padres are 50-64, and they’re in no position to make any kind of run toward even the periphery of the playoff race. They’re not a winning team, and we essentially knew they weren’t going to be a winning team all season. They shouldn’t treat games the same way a winning team treats games.

Yesterday, in the seventh inning of a one-run game in Cincinnati, Green violated the hierarchy of priorities, putting no. 5 over no. 2 while brushing up against the warm fuzzies of no. 3 in the process, likely ticking off Kirby Yates. With runners on first and second, one out, and Joey Votto at the plate (in a 2-2 count!), Green yanked Yates for All-Star Brad Hand.

So, just to be clear here, Green brought Hand, an important future trade candidate, into a game in the middle of an at-bat against one of the best hitters in baseball to try to protect a one-run lead against direct tank competition.

What’s wrong with that move?

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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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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Michel Baez, RHP, Single-A Fort Wayne

I’ve been trying to work Baez into the lyrics of Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John for the better part of a month, but two things: 1) I’m not Geoff Young and 2) it’s not easy to compare the story of a pitcher from Cuba to that of a coal miner from Louisiana.

Point is, Baez is big—he stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 225—and he’s bad, and you get the sense that his sole purpose on the mound is to find new ways to embarrass Midwest League hitters. Heading into his sixth start of the year on Monday, Baez had already transformed himself from unheralded international signing to bonafide prospect. Over his first four starts in the Midwest League he pitched 23 innings while allowing just two runs, with 33 strikeouts, three walks, and 17 spoken words to teammates.

On Monday, Baez upped the ante by striking out 14 and walking none in a 6 2/3 innings masterpiece against the Dayton Dragons, a team that demoted itself to the Pioneer League five minutes after the game ended to avoid a potential rematch. Somewhere, a wise prospect sage is hollering TINSTAAPP, warning us never to get too excited about a pitching prospect with six professional starts. I’ll wait until Baez gives up three runs in an outing before tempering my expectations.

/Big bad Baez. (Sac Bunt Dustin)

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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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I used to do this Twitter Q&A thing a few years back, so with nothing to write about last night, I decided to reboot the series. Twitter came through.

With Yangervis Solarte currently out with a strained oblique, this question gets a little more complicated. Still, I have a feeling the Padres will end up sticking with Solarte even if he comes back before the deadline (the guys at Gwynntelligence felt the same way on their podcast yesterday). There are some soft factors that make a lot sense there, plus the Tigers didn’t get back a whole bunch for J.D. Martinez in a recent trade. It seems like most teams just aren’t looking to add position players at the deadline, as everyone scrambles for more arms. The Red Sox could make sense for a fit if they want to be patient with their top prospect, third baseman Rafael Devers.

If Solarte stays in San Diego, that means he’ll be getting regular reps at second. That leaves Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje to duke it out over at third, with both of them likely getting time at second and in the outfield. Ryan Schimpf lurks in El Paso as an obvious candidate for a late-season recall, but it’s not clear that the Padres are too high on him.

I’m not sure if any team would actually trade for Erick Aybar, and I write that with all due respect to the lad. He works as a fine placeholder with the Padres, but I wouldn’t mind them getting “crazy” and putting either Spangenberg or Asuaje there (they could try both, although that’d leave nobody manning third). Sometimes a guy ends up playing better there than you’d think, plus it give you an extra opportunity to get another interesting position player on the field every day. Jose Rondon could also get a look at some point, although he’s currently on the DL at Triple-A El Paso. Aybar’s 33 years old and a replacement level player; I’d like to see the Padres use the second half to audition a few other players at short.

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