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.
He’s listed at 5’10 and 175 pounds and seems to have at least a semi-decent plate approach (three walks vs. one strikeout). He’s been playing in left in Single-A (a position the Padres big club has been struggling to fill since the injury to Alex Dickerson and the rough start by Travis Jankowski), so maybe that means there’s a chance they give him a shot at Petco before the end of the year. At 31 years old, the only players older than him on the Padres 40-man roster are veteran pitchers Clayton Richard, Craig Stammen, and Jered Weaver. It’ll be interesting to see the Padres’ plans for him and how aggressively they promote him through their system. (Marcus Pond)
Michael Gettys, CF, High-A Lake Elsinore
Can he hit?
That’s the question that has always hounded Gettys, the prospect, because he checks off all the other boxes; excellent runner, good fielder, big arm, plenty of raw pop, athletic frame.
But is the hit tool good enough?
Can he make enough contact with advanced pitching to let the other tools flourish? ‘Cuz raw power ain’t good for much beyond batting practice histrionics without consistent contact. And speed on the base paths isn’t worth much with a sub-.300 OBP. And defense only goes so far, even nowadays.
So far, Gettys is struggling. Over his last 10 games, he’s racked up eight multi-K efforts, including four three whiff games. He’s also walked just once over that stretch. The concern with Gettys’—who gained plenty of prospect steam last year by slashing .305/.363/.442 split between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore—is that he’s repeating the level. While he didn’t play a full season at Lake Elsinore last year, this is essentially his second look at High-A ball, in the hitter-friendly Cal League, and he’s striking out 42 percent of the time.
Add this year’s early performance to last year’s 37 percent strikeout rate in the Arizona’s Fall League, and Gettys’ prospect stock is back at ground zero. Is the swing too long, the approach too haphazard? Can he pick up spin and lay off stuff out of the zone? Can he make enough good contact with stuff in the zone?
In short, um, can he hit?
The answer, right now, is a resounding “no,” but it’s April. Gettys will need to adjust, and pronto, since this system is loaded with players looking to take each other’s opportunities. But he has enough talent to get a long look, and hopefully enough talent to turn things around for himself. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Javier Guerra, SS, High-A Lake Elsinore
A lot of what was written about Gettys can go here.
- Guerra’s physically talented, equipped with the kind of tools for an up-the-middle prospect that get scouts excited.
- He’s repeating the level. Guerra played 105 games at Lake Elsinore last year, and he’s back there to start to 2017.
- He’s striking out way too much. In 86 PAs so far, he’s whiffed at a 34.9 percent clip, a number that’s two percentage points higher than last year.
- There are a bunch of talented young shortstops who will eventually be looking to take Guerra’s place.
All in all, it’s not the way anyone wanted 2017 to start. After hitting just .202/.264/.325 last year, Guerra is off to a .147/.256/.253 start this year. It’s a big drop off from where he was a couple of years back, when he came over from Boston after OPSing nearly .800 as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League, on close to equal footing with Manuel Margot.
Nearly everything Bryant wrote about Guerra last year still applies. It’ll be interesting to see if he can start to turn it around some, because underneath a year-plus of struggles there’s still a good defensive shortstop here who once had a promising bat. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Josh Naylor, 1B, High-A Lake Elsinore
Just gonna throw a few things out there.
- Naylor is just 19 years old. (He will be 20 in a couple months.)
- He’s hitting a respectable .279/.340/.430 at Lake Elsinore, a line that doesn’t include last night’s game, where Naylor went 2-for-4 with a home run.
- He somehow has four steals already, as a first baseman who’s generously listed at 225.
- The No. 2 comp on his PECOTA card is Freddie Freeman.
That last bullet point isn’t to say, hey, here’s the next Freddie Freeman. It just shows that Freeman, now one of the game’s best all-around hitters, was also once a non-descript first base prospect. That’s the thing with the first base prospects. Because of the offensive demands of the position, they don’t really become exciting until they really start raking.
Naylor hasn’t put up those kinds of numbers yet, not anywhere close. But there’s a reason why he was drafted 12th overall in 2015, and there’s a reason why the Padres targeted him in the Andrew Cashner trade. In that sense, he’s an interesting guy to keep an eye on, even if he sometimes gets forgotten among the system’s flashier players. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Hudson Potts, 3B, Single-A Fort Wayne
Last August I laid out a tinfoil hat theory for why the Padres chose Hudson Potts as their second pick in the first round of the amateur draft. Some experts in the public sphere considered it an overdraft, a theory being Potts selection was originally related to an attempt to nab Jason Groome with their next pick. As is often the case, the explanation that requires the fewest assumptions is usually right.
Marcus’ weekly spotlight notes that Potts is off to a hot start as an 18-year-old in full-season ball. And his performance aligns with scouting reports from Hudson’s playing time after the draft. Here’s Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser from January:
A lot of scouts outside the Padres org praised them for the pick after seeing Potts in rookie ball and short season. He was considered an overdraft at draft time, but most of the early reviews on him are that the Padres were right on taking him where they did.
Glaser goes on to note he wouldn’t be surprised to see Potts as a top 10 player in a good system next year. As I noted in my article, the Padres have tons of scouting resources and experience. Many members of the front office have a track record of drafting success. We should be careful when analyzing their work from the outside. And being wrong is definitely a better outcome here. (Sac Bunt Chris)
Hansel Rodriguez, RHP, Single-A Fort Wayne
It’s easy for the less heralded pitching prospects in the Padres’ system to get lost in the shuffle of high-ceiling arms, especially those in the lower levels. Cal Quantrill, Logan Allen, and Enyel De Los Santos are all off to very good starts, and we haven’t even seen Adrian Morejon, Anderson Espinoza, and Jacob Nix yet.
Dominican right-hander Hansel Rodriguez, acquired in the Melvin Upton trade last year from the Blue Jays, is one of the lesser known pitchers in the system who’s looked impressive so far, albeit in a small sample size. Through three starts (17 IP) Rodriguez has a 3.17 ERA, allowing 16 hits, and just three walks to his 10 strikeouts.
Fangraphs lead prospect writer Eric Longenhagen wrote last year at the time of the trade that Rodriguez was more projection than stuff, with a 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame expected to fill out with time.
His fastball sits mostly 89-92 mph but has been up to 94 with some movement and bottom to it. He fills the strike zone quite well for a teenager and should have at least average control/command at maturity. The slider is below average right now, with good shape but soft break that even low-level hitters have been able to trace. It has flashed average and projects there. The changeup is behind but, as I’ve said before, quick and athletic arms develop good changeups and that’s exactly what we have here.
Longenhagen had Rodriguez as a number 4/5 type, but he’s still young enough (he just turned 20 in February) to dream on, holding his own so far in his first year in full-season ball against guys two years older than him. (Oscar)