What’s Brewing On The Farm: August 26, 2016

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Series intro and week no. 1week no. 2week no. 3, week no. 4

Eric Lauer, LHP, Low-A Tri-City

Eric Lauer was drafted 25th overall in the first round of this year’s draft. Our buddy Grant Jones covered Lauer in late May at Baseball Prospectus, where he noted the left hander’s fastball wasn’t a true out pitch but it sat at 93 and touched 94. Reports from John Sickels and Chris Crawford provide additional perspectives: the rest of his arsenal of a slider, 11-7 curve, and change up are at least average with the potential for more, and unmistakably major-league starting pitcher material.

John provides video of Lauer courtesy of Jheremy Brown. To my eye, I notice a quirk in Lauer’s delivery where he rotates his body to face first base immediately before getting into the windup. Former Padre Casey Kelly has a similar quirk.

So far this season Lauer’s made two quick starts in the Arizona Rookie League and 6 in short season Tri-City. As one (at least one Padre fan) would hope, he’s dominated as a polished first round pick for the Dust Devils, striking out 10.7 per 9 innings with a 2.17 FIP.

Thanks in part to Lauer’s command and repertoire, he’s seen as a “safe” pick to move quick and has middle-to-back-end rotation potential. While not exactly sexy (prospect-wise; he’s a dashing young man), pitchers today are valuable as they are fragile. In a world where Ian Kennedy is worth $70 million over five years, middle-to-back-end starters might be the new Moneyball. (That joke never gets old. Not to me anyway.) (Sac Bunt Chris)

Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Double-A San Antonio

Lindsey ranked 75th on David Marver’s top 75 Padres prospect list, which probably means two things:

  1. That he isn’t very good.
  2. That he’s interesting enough to earn the last spot on Marver’s ridiculously long list.

Lindsey was once looked at as a solid prospect, a then-22-year-old second basemen with shades of a hit tool and decent pop. Time has passed, games have been logged, and he’s no longer viewed in that light. Last season, Linsdey had a unbelievably bad year with the bat, hitting .189/.285/.296 between 333 plate appearances in San Antonio and El Paso. This year, he’s improved—but, um, not by much: .224/.293/.366 in 411 plate appearances at the same two stops. He’s also currently riding a 1-for-29 stretch after being demoted to Double-A, a stretch that includes an almost unfathomably high 16 strikeouts.

Look, Lindsey might be done as any kind of prospect, and perhaps not far away from looking for a new day job. If that’s the case—if this is the first postmortem on his playing career—he didn’t do half bad. He made it to Triple-A, for goodness’ sake, a phone call away from a big-league gig, and along the way he earned $873,000 as a signing bonus when he was drafted back in 2010 and cracked Baseball America’s top 100 list in 2014. Not many people can say that, about either thing. Lindsey’s career might not end how he’d like it to, but when the dust settles, he can look back at some fond memories of doing something at a level most of us can only dream of. (Sac Bunt Dustin)

Manuel Margot, CF, Triple-A El Paso

Searching for warts in Manuel Margot’s game ain’t easy. His all-around skill-set is part of the reason why he rates so highly in prospect circles. He’s got excellent contact skills, speed that makes him an asset in both center field and on the bases, and a solid arm in center. He even has plus-plus situational awareness.

If there is an area where he rates subpar, it’s his power. Consider this list of players from El Paso with more home runs this season than Margot:

Player Home Runs Plate Appearances
Hunter Renfroe 28 517
Austin Hedges 18 296
Ryan Schimpf 15 190
Hector Sanchez 13 185
Jabari Blash 11 229
Alex Dickerson 10 241
Carlos Asuaje 7 551
Diego Goris 7 261
Manuel Margot 6 521

Not only have eight different players out-homered Margot, seven of them have done it on fewer plate appearances—and six of them have done it on 200-plus fewer plate appearances. Hector Sanchez has 13 in not even half a season, and prior to this year he had only hit 34 homers in 1,579 minor-league plate appearances. The PCL, man. Margot’s 0.126 ISO is significantly lower than the team’s 0.172 ISO, and that figure includes a team-leading 11 triples, most of which were probably due more to speed (and defensive mistakes) than power.

Of course, Margot doesn’t have to hit for power to be a successful major leaguer. Plenty of above average big-league center fielders have gotten by without power as one of their assets. In fact, most of them probably have, as speed is a tool more associated with center fielders than power—think Juan Pierre or Billy Hamilton or Lorenzo Cain. At the same time, not hitting for any power is a concern, because it raises the bar on all of the other skills. With no pop, Margot needs to maintain a high on-base percentage and plus defense and base-running to be an impact player. If one or more of those skills turns out to be worse than expected at the major-league level, suddenly Margot looks more filler than cornerstone.

Here’s the thing: Margot can still hit for some power in the majors. Perhaps his most impressive skill is his ability to make contact. In Margot’s minor-league career he’s only struck out on 11.3 percent of his plate appearances, including a 10.7 mark this year as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. The dude puts bat on ball. Check out this graph from a FiveThirtyEight article on the major league’s skyrocketing home run rate:

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Home runs in Triple-A are, on average, trending down. More importantly, home runs in the majors are mysteriously on the upswing—either because of the ball or the bat or something else altogether—and if Margot can keep making solid contact with big-league velocity, there’s a decent chance that some of his hard-hit doubles and triples might turn into home runs, even in still-sort-of pitcher-friendly Petco Park. It’s far from a given, and maybe home run power will always elude Margot, but there’s a shot his contact-heavy approach will lead to an unforeseen power spike once he cracks a big-league roster. And shoot, even if he remains a single-digit home run guy, he still might be good. (Sac Bunt Dustin)

Gabriel Quintana, 3B, Double-A San Antonio

Do you care if the Padres minor-league teams have good records? I’d imagine that most fans looking at minor-league box scores probably just check the names of the prospects they know and forget about the game outcome. This would be particularly wise if you followed the San Antonio Missions, especially in the first half of this season, when they were last in the Texas League South division with a 22-48 record (.314 winning percentage).

Well, for those that care about that whole “winning” thing, they’ve managed to turn things around in the Alamo City. In the second half (as of August 23rd), they’re sporting a 30-27 record (.526), and a guy who’s been helping them get into the win column recently is 3B/DH Gabriel Quintana.

Quintana is a 23-year-old out of the Dominican Republic who is in his first full season at Double-A.  Not particularly known for his defensive prowess, he does two things really well with the bat: hit dingers and strike out. Case in point: In his last 10 games for the Missions, he’s belted five homers and racked up 15 RBI along with a .297 batting average. He also struck out 13 times, which is… suboptimal.  His 37 at-bats over that span (along with two walks) give him a whopping 33 percent K rate. The dude strikes out a lot.

*checks season stats*

Yes, he has struck out 121 times in 2016.

There are still 13 games left in the season.

The Texas League doesn’t have a reputation as being a “hitters league,” so his 20 round-trippers seem pretty legit. But the strikeouts. Oh, the strikeouts. Something will have to be done about those if he’s going to have a chance to sniff the majors.

I love Quintana (he hit a home run at the last Lake Elsinore Storm game I went to, which happened to be on my birthday—and yes, I realize this is a dumb way to choose prospects to root for), and I think it’d be great to see what he could do in the hitter-friendly confines of El Paso. But there’s probably a reason that he’s an overlooked prospect in the Padres farm system, even at the upper levels where talent is a little thin.

But if you’re checking out a Missions game anytime soon, grab a glove and run to the outfield berm if the 6’3” Dominican steps up to the plate. He might not hit the ball, but when he does, it goes pretty far. (Marcus Pond)

Dylan Stoops, LHP, High-A Lake Elsinore

If I told you Dylan Stoops is a 24-year-old still in Single-A, you’d probably click that little “back” icon in your browser’s left hand corner and promptly return to finish that article about Donald Trump or the shedding habits of the Sphynx cat. But what if I told you Dylan Stoops is a 24-year-old just recently signed out of the Pacific Association (a low-level indy league that rarely—at least until recently—graduates players to affiliated ball)? What if I told you he played for the Sonoma Stompers, the same team that Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller wrote a (highly recommended) book about? What if I told you he struck out eight (with 22 swinging strikes) with no walks in his five-inning Storm debut?

You’re hooked, right?

Good, now go read Miller’s article about him. (Sac Bunt Dustin)

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  • ballybunion

    Well, this article sure made me swell with hope (I think it was hope) for the Padres’ future. I realize it was a random grouping of prospects, and that A.J. Preller is staking his future on the class of international signings he’s made of players whose names we haven’t learned yet, and will still need to learn to pronounce.

    Still, with the exception of Margot and Lauer who we mostly all know, these are players we cn keep an eye on for potential progress. Not every prospect is a can’t-miss who marches through the minors like Sherman through Georgia. If some of them can address the noted shortcomings, they can move up in the prospect standings, and thanks to articles like these, we fans can say ‘we knew about you back when…’