What’s Brewing On The Farm: August 18, 2016

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Series intro and week no. 1
Week no. 2
Week no. 3

Carlos Asuaje, 2B, Triple-A El Paso

Asuaje might best be described as a high floor prospect. Acquired as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade last offseason, he’s already spent significant time at three different positions (second base, third base, and left field) while showing off on-base skills and some occasional power at the plate. Even if he doesn’t develop into some kind of everyday monster—and there’s a good chance he doesn’t—there’s a place on every major-league team’s bench for a player with this skill-set.

Presumably, Asuaje is good at—or at least working on—other things that would make him valuable in a utility role, like base running or being able to get down a bunt or clubhouse meal spread manners. Of course, that’s the floor. Before you toss Asuaje into the Geoff Blum bin, consider that, two years ago, he racked up 65 extra-base hits between Boston’s Single-A and High-A affiliates, including the rare extra-base hit triple double (24 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs) in just 90 games at Single-A Greenville. After a subpar season last year at this dish, Asuaje has rebounded nicely this year with an .847 OPS through 515 plate appearances, although careful reader’s will note that performance’s context (the hitter-friendly PCL).

Maybe this guy’s strictly a role player, a 24th or 25th man on the roster who’s bound to be yo-yoed between the bigs and Triple-A. But maybe he’s something more—like an everyday second or third basemen, or a vintage Ben Zobrist type, a guy who plays every day but all over the diamond. At 24, the Padres are likely to start finding out soon, probably with a call-up to the big-league club this September and an extended spring training audition come next March. (Sac Bunt Dustin)

Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Single-A Fort Wayne

Anderson Espinoza has been on my top priority list since the big trade, and I had been fairly unlucky with achieving that goal until this past Thursday. His delivery features a moderate leg lift, a fairly standard path to slot, and throws from a three-quarter slot. He doesn’t feature much effort, though as the game went on he slowly added a tad more effort. The fastball is the headline pitch, as he reached as high as 96 while sitting in the mid-90s with hard arm side run. The command was inconsistent to a point, but fringier than anything. He showed the ability to throw to both sides of the plate though. His curveball has classic 12/6 break, with depth and mostly sat in the low 70s. There was obvious comfortability with the pitch, as he threw it often. The change-up was lagging on Thursday as he was inconsistent with the pitch, bouncing a few, but at its best was downhill with tumble and great separation from his fastball. Overall Espinoza showed three above average to plus pitches, with his curveball and fastball showing upward mobility with the ability to gain more consistency. Though I saw him on an off day, as an 18-year-old his arsenal was fantastic with the obvious potential to become a no. 2 starter at the big-league level. (Grant Jones)

Andrew Lockett, RHP, Double-A San Antonio

This has been a nice assignment to take, working on weekly posts about Padres prospects. This is my fourth entry, and it is quite a testament to A.J. Preller’s rework of the farm as we have now covered dozens of youngsters with potential and we can easily write a few more. This week I convinced myself there must be somebody worthwhile on the San Antonio Missions starting staff. I think I found my guy. No, not that guy. This guy:

unicorn(Photo credit: John54@fastballphotos.com)

Andrew (Walker) Lockett just might be a unicorn. As a 22-year-old right-handed pitcher called up and throwing well in the Texas League, he should be well known. As a 6’5” 225lb. right hander, he shouldn’t be hard to miss. But there isn’t much written or recorded about him. Maybe it’s because he has moved around so much this season. He had eight starts in Fort Wayne before being shipped off to Lake Elsinore to make 10 more starts before shipping out again to San Antone. He has made three starts so far but his numbers have improved as the season has progressed. Did I mention he was promoted twice? Did I say he was 22?

He must not be on the Padres radar, as he can’t crack their MLB Pipeline Top 30. Maybe they accidentally gave him 21 starts this year with 140 innings. Maybe the fourth-round selection in the 2012 draft is too quiet with his gaudy Missions line of 24 Ks and one walk and a 2.20 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. Oh look, a 0.837 WHIP. Unicorn. Honestly, if I hadn’t found a picture and one video of him hitting BP (tad long, good extension, barrels up pretty well and is fairly quick when getting on top) I would not believe this young man is real. He’s given up five home runs. Un.Real.

He made 17 starts and threw 87 innings last season so he is stretched out this year. He had good peripheral numbers but if there is anything more you’d want from this guy it would be more strike outs. I mean if you are going unicorn hunting, you’d want to pick a perfect one, right? Remarkably he has actually improved on his advanced stats from last season to this one, and in addition to the two big jumps in competition. The Jacksonville, Florida native should see more publicity sometime soon. Unless, you know, he’s just a unicorn. (Billy Lybarger)

Josh Naylor, 1B, High-A Lake Elsinore

There used to be a restaurant in San Juan Capistrano called Tiny Naylor’s, where the 5 and the 74 meet. Taking the 74 over the mountains puts you in Lake Elsinore, where another Naylor currently plays first base and sports a .315/.325/.466 slash line in 17 games. He’s a big kid, the sort you’d nickname “Tiny” to amuse your grandpa.

Naylor, who came from the Marlins in the Andrew Cashner trade, is the Padres’ no. 4 prospect according to MLB.com. He draws praise for his bat, which “has the potential to be special.” Specifically he has “plus bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination.”

Unfortunately he doesn’t do anything else well (not even play practical jokes). His run tool gets a 20 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale and his field gets a 40. That’s Billy Butler territory, which makes Naylor a likely future DH. Given that the DH could be coming soon to the National League, this isn’t necessarily damning, but it should temper enthusiasm. Guys who reach the big leagues without a defensive position tend not to stay long.

When looking at Naylor’s 6’0”, 225ish lb frame (BP2016 notes that “as long as Naylor is playing professional baseball there will be concern about his body and skepticism about what that listed weight purports”), it’s fun to dream on the recently retired Prince Fielder. However, the vast majority of prospects don’t proceed to swat 319 big-league home runs. A more sobering comparison is to Houston’s Jon Singleton.

Singleton was taken later in the draft (8th round, 2009) than Naylor (1st round, 2015) but regularly inhabited the top 100 prospects according to Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus, peaking in the top 30 for each. Naylor doesn’t have that pedigree, nor has he enjoyed Singleton’s success to this point. Consider their stints in the South Atlantic League:

Player

Year Age PA BA OBP SLG HR BB SO
Singleton 2010 18 450 .290 .393 .479 14 62 74
Naylor 2016 19 370 .269 .317 .430 9 22 62

Now 24, Singleton has batted .171/.290/.331 in 420 MLB plate appearances, striking out 36 percent of the time.

On the one hand, each individual is different and you don’t want to scout the numbers. On the other, you don’t want to ignore them. These are valid data points that, when combined with the visual descriptions of trained experts, lead to less exciting dreams.

Maybe Naylor will rise above his weaknesses and become something. Hopefully it’s more than what Singleton has become. (Geoff Young)

Cal Quantrill, RHP, Low-A Tri City

When the Padres signed Cal Quantrill for over-slot money in June, there were more than a few heads that turned. The eighth overall pick in the 2016 draft hadn’t pitched all year as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, so the thought was that he’d be a nice upside pick—especially for a team like the Padres that had ample number of picks—who you could sign for (relatively) cheap.

There was some valid criticism of the Padres’ first pick. Quantrill, talented as he might be, was a huge risk. Despite more and more pitchers coming back from TJ surgery, there are also some whose stuff not only doesn’t come back but just can’t stay healthy at all (RIP Corey Luebke). So here are the Padres taking a pitcher no one’s seen throw in forever, betting big that what they saw in private workouts with Quantrill is the type of pitcher can be a number one or two starter.

Here’s then-ESPN’s Eric Longenhagen take on the Padres’ selection:

The Padres dropped a huge bomb here by selecting Quantrill, who didn’t pitch this season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Quantrill was a candidate for the top overall selection coming into the season (if he would have pitched and looked good), and he topped out at 94-95 mph with a plus changeup when healthy.

That’s a pretty underwhelming 1-1 candidate based on that brief scouting report. I was fine the pick, I guess. I was more excited with what the Padres were going to do with the rest of their draft, but that’s a blog for another day (in five years, when they’re all Famers).

Anyway, Quantrill. He looks good. Like really, really good, according to the smart people. His stats with the Tri-City Dust Devils back up the scouting reports (11 IP, 0 ER, 2 BB, 17 K), and that’s after striking out 16 in 13 2/3 innings pitched with the Arizona League Padres. Here’s what ESPN’s Keith Law had to say about Quantrill in a recent chat:

Everything I’ve heard has been very positive. Stuff, delivery, athleticism. Could end up being the best guy from the draft, which was what he was supposed to be before he got hurt.

I’d like to see a larger sample size against stronger competition before getting too excited, although that’ll probably have to wait till next year seeing as Quantrill’s almost certainly on an innings limit. So far the results and scouting reports have been extremely encouraging, and for the sake of the Padres (and my sanity), I hope he’s as good as they think. (Oscar)

Brad Wieck, LHP, Double-A San Antonio

The San Antonio Missions are currently viewed by most Padres fans as the red-headed step children of the Padres farm system. While Nick Torres and Jose Rondon have had solid seasons in the Lone Star State, both have been promoted, leaving Dinelson Lamet as their lone Top 30 Prospect (according to MLB.com). While they lack the flash of a few of the position players in El Paso or the high ceiling pitchers in the lower levels, there are still a few names worth knowing (besides Franchy Cordero, who I’m in love with).

Do you remember Alex Torres? The not very good LOOGY with the Mario Brothers-style hat that the Padres traded to the Mets? Well, along with getting Cory Mazzoni back from New York, the Padres received Brad Wieck as the ever-popular “player to be named later.” Dude’s been having a good, under-the-radar season out of the bullpen this year.

A seventh-round pick by the Mets in 2014, Wieck began his professional career as a starter. After posting a 5.21 ERA for the Storm at the end of 2015 he was moved to the bullpen, and has absolutely crushed it. After posting a 1.54 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in Lake Elsinore to start the year, the 6’9” lefty was moved to Double-A, where he’s continued to dominate. In 19 1/3 innings, he’s allowed ONE run on 10 hits, while walking eight and striking out 29.  That’s a 13.5 K/9 rate.  Also, the next home run he gives up will be the first that he’s allowed in 60 1/3 innings in 2016.

Did I mention that he’s 6’9”? And a lefty? His body, coupled with his penchant for striking dudes out, makes him seem like an ideal candidate for a future spot in the Padres bullpen. Thus far, he hasn’t been used as a closer (a position currently occupied by Colby Blueberg and Phil Maton in Lake Elsinore and Yimmi Brasoban in San Antonio), but instead has pitched in the mid/late innings (six through eight, usually). He’s not just a LOOGY either, pitching an inning or more in 11 of his 14 appearances in the Texas League.

I’ve read that taller pitchers can have difficulty repeating their mechanics, but it appears that, like current Padre closer Brandon Maurer, life in the bullpen has been good to Wieck. He’s 24 years old, and since the Padres have embraced the tank, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start the year in Triple-A next year and get a shot at the big club in 2017. (Marcus Pond)

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