what's brewing on the padres farm system

Michael Kelly, RHP, Double-A San Antonio

While we wait for Cal Quantrill, Adrian Morejon, and the rest of the Famers that will be the foundation of the Padres’ dynasty (2021-2025), we must first drudge through “Jhoulys Chacin Pitching on the Road” piles of shit and ride Clayton Richard’s stapled shoulder to 5-2 losses.

It’ll be a long time before the Padres rotation is truly great, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to have to wait that long before it’s good. We’ve already seen what Dinelson Lamet’s capable of in his short time with the big club, and Luis Perdomo, while still mostly just stuff and upside, can every now and then give you a 6 IP, 6h, 2er, 1bb, 8k night.

While two OK arms don’t make a good rotation, three might! I wrote about Michael Kelly last year for one of our first What’s Brewing on the Farm segments. Kelly pitched at three different levels last year, including Triple-A El Paso, where he was mostly up and down. He struggled at Lake Elsinore (29.1 IP, 25K, 12BB, 5.83 ERA), looked great in San Antonio (49.2 IP, 49K, 17BB, 2.90 ERA), before getting knocked around again Triple-A (49.2 IP, 41K, 23BB, 4.89 ERA).

Kelly, who’s still only 24 and was a supplemental 1st-round pick back in 2011, has been terrific at Double-A, where he’s pitched the entire season. Even with the caveat that he’s repeating the level and San Antonio is a pitcher-friendly environment, 91 strikeouts in 84.2 innings (15 starts) is impressive.

As I wrote last year, Madfriars had Kelly’s fastball in the mid-90s; with his strikeout numbers, it’s safe to assume not only has he maintained that velocity this year, but his secondary pitches have also started coming along. Kelly will probably be promoted to Triple-A at some point, and considering how mostly trash the rotation is right now, a call up to the big leagues shouldn’t be far off. (Oscar)

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Last Tuesday night Padres Public converged on Eastlake, Ohio for a Midwest League game between the Fort Wayne TinCaps and the Lake County Captains. Nathan traveled from about a half hour away in Cleveland, and myself from somewhere in the middle of New York, a cool six-hour trip. Nathan made an additional appearance on Thursday night.

This is what we saw.

Ronald Bolanos, RHP

Bolanos, a 19 year old Cuban who signed last August for $2.25 million during A.J. Preller’s summer abroad, started his minor league career in extended spring training, but he was sent out to Fort Wayne in mid-May, and he’s now made 5 starts for the team. Thursday night was the fifth, and it was his longest start of the year, at 6 2/3 innings pitched. In his previous start, he went 5 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 9 batters against a very good Lansing team, his best start of the year. Thursday’s was on course to be better, but it had to settle for also quite good.
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what's brewing on the padres farm system

MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville HS (NC)
First round, third overall

Gore is like the high school version of two recent Padres draft picks, Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi. He’s got a different kind of scouting report than your usual coveted prep pitcher. There’s no blow-you-away velocity here—not yet, anyway. But Gore also has attributes rarely associated with a young pitcher. He possesses a deep repertoire of plus (or potential plus) offerings, he’s polished (at least for the HS breed), and he’s a super athlete, important for things like repeating mechanics and, ahem, staying healthy.

There are, of course, plusses and minuses in taking a high school pitcher this high. On the down side, there’s always plenty of risk attached to any pitcher, particularly a high school one. Gore, while dominant at the high school level, hasn’t proven that he can handle a professional workload or a professional hitter. And there’s always the issue of health, and being a good three or four years away, health is always an ominous shadow.

On the plus side, the Padres got a pitcher who hasn’t gone to college, where he’d potentially be abused to win a conference title or a game in Omaha. He’ll get professional instruction right away, where the Padres will be able to carefully handle his development and promotion schedule. Many major-league stars were drafted as high schoolers for a variety of reasons, and that’s part of the appeal here.

In a perfect world, Gore’s the right combination of upside and safety. That’s something of a rare mix, though the profile—any profile—still carries plenty of its own risk. Expect the Padres to take it easy with Gore early, but his advanced style could allow him to move through the lower levels somewhat quickly once he gets rolling. (Sac Bunt Dustin)

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

MLB Farm, one of Daren Willman’s sites, has some pretty cool features. One of its coolest ones is the cumulative org stats page, which allows one to easily compare statistics from players across an entire farm system. Here are some eye-catching early stats—both good and bad—from the first couple months of 2017.

(stats through Tuesday’s games)

Position Players

Michael Gettys: 34.4 percent strikeout percentage

Gettys has been on a role of late, popping home runs with good regularity and padding his slash line. Then again, he’s still striking out in bunches. On Monday and Tuesday of this week alone, he went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts and a walk. Even in his last 10 games, over which he’s crushed four home runs and hit .351, Gettys has struck out 16 times, no better than his seasonal rate. He’s just 21, but he’s also getting his second look at the hitter-friendly Cal League, and he’s actually striking out more frequently (by six percentage points) this year than he did last year at Lake Elsinore. Gettys is full of exciting tools, but the main sticking point with him will continue to be whether or not he can make enough contact to let those tools play at the big-league level.

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Cal Quantrill, RHP, High-A Lake Elsinore

Don’t tell Quantrill that the Cal League is supposed to be friendly toward hitters. He’ll stare you down, find the nearest baseball, and strike you out with 95 mph heat.

Quantrill’s latest masterpiece came against Rancho Cucamonga, on Tuesday night, against a lineup that included major-league rehabbers Logan Forsythe and Joc Pederson along with some legit prospects. Quantrill’s line: six innings, seven hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, and a career-high 12 strikeouts.

As others have noted, the most important thing the Padres can do with Quantrill is try to keep his arm healthy. Coming off Tommy John surgery in college, there’s no rush to push Quantrill up a level or work him for innings. We don’t know all that much about arm health, so just take it slow, monitor his condition after each start, and watch his innings and pitches. So long as the arm stays together, natural talent should carry Quantrill in whichever direction he points it.

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Yuniet Flores, OF, High-A Lake Elsinore

Are you on board with A.J. Preller loading up on young international talent, but not quite patient enough to see if any of these teenagers actually pans out? If so, you’re in luck, because there’s one Cuban that the Padres inked to a deal last August that’s already playing at High-A Lake Elsinore: Yuniet Flores.

Of course, there’s a catch—Flores isn’t a teenage phenom, he’s 31 years old. He debuted with the Storm on Sunday and promptly went 4-for-6, including a walkoff single. After playing in a few more High-A games, he is off to a .462/.563/.538 start in 16 plate appearances.

Is that enough to get excited about? I’m not sure. I’m a long drive away from Lake Elsinore (hello from Texas), so I haven’t had eyes on him yet. His stats from the Cuban National League are good but not great (.298/.371/.409 over an eight-year period). In terms of what he brings to the table, well… I honestly can’t even find even a shred of a scouting report on Flores.

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Like any devoted Fernando Tatis Jr. fan, yesterday I watched some of the Fort Wayne–West Michigan game on MiLB.tv. Tatis went 1–3 with a walk against a mostly dominant Kyle Funkhouser, a line that doesn’t highlight a long fly out to deep left-center field in the top of the sixth. But no heroics from Funkhouser or Tatis or anyone else could top the theatrics of the Appliance Race that took place in the middle of the third inning.

Between inning minor-league promotions are a staple of the scene, and often a bit strange—this game featured an Eye Ball Race and a Human Sandwich Race, both mildly disturbing. But whoever was the genius behind the concept of the Appliance Race—and this particular cast of contestants—deserves a raise. It stole the show.

Let’s set the scene. We’ve got three kids, all donning costumes of our favorite household appliances; one wears a range outfit, another a water heater, and the third is decked out in a foam dryer.

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Reinaldo Ilarraza, 2B, Single-A Fort Wayne

Forget the numbers—he’s struck out at a 34 percent clip in 24 professional games—the best indicator about what the Padres think about Ilarraza might be the assignment. He’s 10 days younger than the more hyped Fernando Tatis Jr., just 18 and already in Single-A ball. He’s nearly 3.5 years younger than the average player at this level.

After suffering though some injuries last year, it would have been reasonable for Illarraza to stay back in the Arizona Rookie League to start 2017, then progress to Low-A Tri-City by the summer. Instead, the Padres skipped that option and ambitiously sent him to full-season Fort Wayne, where he’s flanked by similarly young teammates like the Tatis, Eguy Rosario, and Hudson Potts. It’s clear that the Padres aren’t scared to challenge certain prospects, and with all four of these guys playing on the infield, there’s a chance they could play together a bunch in the minors.

Ilarraza, signed out of Venezuela in July 2015 for $300,000, gets good reports for his baseball instincts but isn’t without plus tools. He plays stronger than his 5-foot-10, 150-pound frame, and word is he has enough arm strength to play short in the long run. Right now, with Tatis at short, he’s playing mostly second base, but there’s a decent chance he’ll slide over to short more regularly once an opportunity opens. Not even listed in Baseball America’s Padres top 30, Ilarraza is an under-the-radar prospect to watch. (Sac Bunt Dustin)

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Franchy Cordero, CF, Triple-A El Paso

When I last wrote about Franchy Cordero, he was just knocked out of the #30 spot in MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings for the Padres. I thought he’d be back on their list and he was in fact rewarded for a solid season by returning to the list at #25. But an even better reward for his last season was the Padres placing Cordero on the 40-man roster. Cordero also played quite a bit this spring as he appeared in 17 games and had 27 at-bats for the big-league team. He did not hit all too well, going 5-27, and slashing .185/.343/.370. Good news here was he hit a double and two triples and stole two bases, so he did show some productivity while playing solid defense in the outfield.

Cordero should begin the season in El Paso playing for the Triple-A Chihuahuas. He was reassigned to the minors by the Padres on the 19th of March. If Manuel Margot breaks camp with the Padres, Cordero will most likely man center field. If Margot is sent down for team control considerations, then Cordero should be in right. Either way, Cordero will provide excellent insurance in case the injury bug bites the Padres in the outfield. With Jabari Blash all but assured of making the 25-man roster, it would make sense for the next outfielder up to be Cordero. (Billy Lybarger)

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what's brewing on the padres farm system

Farm systems are big.

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.

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