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)
Adam Cimber, RHP, Triple-A El Paso
Ron Fowler went on The Mighty 1090 on Wednesday morning and said that the Padres “expect to have some pitchers up from Double-A and Triple-A” when rosters expand in September. One name to monitor that may have a promotion in his future? A minor-league submariner by the name of Adam Cimber.
Cimber was drafted in the 9th round of the 2013 draft by the Padres out of the University of San Francisco. He has slowly but surely worked his way up the Padres system, spending a year in short-season ball, a year in Lake Elsinore, and two years mostly with the San Antonio Missions. This season, the 26-year-old has spent a hefty amount of time in El Paso, finding success in the hitter-friendly PCL. In 45 innings pitched (24 games), Cimber has registered a 3.40 ERA with a .236 BAA and a 1.02 WHIP. He’s has also struck out 40 hitters while walking only seven.
Cimber is mostly a two-pitch pitcher (two-seam fastball and slider), and is not overwhelming by any stretch of the imagination. His two-seamer usually sits in the high-80s, so he relies on a lot of deception and a lot of movement (check it out). An easy comp to Cimber would be former Padre great Cla Meredith, who was also a submariner. That might be too lazy of a comp, but at least it’s something! Cimber’s deception has been productive throughout his minor-league career. One would figure, at the very least, he will end up with the opportunity for a few big-league appearances in September. (John Horvath)
Javier Guerra, SS, Double-A San Antonio
Guerra returned to the Cal League to start this season, and he picked up where he left off last year, hitting just .226/.267/.358 in 89 games. The Padres responded by promoting him to Double-A San Antonio, with early speculation anticipating Guerra was moving up to clear space for Fernando Tatis Jr. in Lake Elsinore. Tatis has remained in Fort Wayne, however, and Guerra has played some of his best baseball since joining the organization.
It’s an extremely small sample, I stress, but he’s slashing .267/.340/.422 so far in 50 plate appearances, and he’s already cracked two home runs. Marcus Pond, over at Padres Prospectus, reported some ugly swings from a first-hand viewing recently, but he also spoke to a scout who still believed in Guerra long term, and was generally impressed by his fieldwork at short, an area that remains one of Guerra’s strong points.
The promotion is still something of a mystery, but between a change of scenery and a vote of confidence, so far it’s played out about as well as could be imagined. Guerra must keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season, at least, before reentering the conversation as someday shortstop in San Diego. Still, forward steps are a good sign for a prospect who has struggled over the last two seasons. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Tirso Ornelas, OF, AZL Padres 2
If you’re on #TeamPreller, you’re probably more interested in foreign-born teenagers than is healthy or socially acceptable. With that being said, there is a lot to be excited about on both of the AZL Padres teams, and Tirso Ornelas isn’t the hottest name on the roster (though it is the most fun to say). However, the Tijuana native is different from some of his higher ranked teammates. For one, he’s not a middle infielder from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. For another, he is 6’4” and has a powerful left-handed swing. Thirdly, he has *re-checks milb.com*, sorry, had one of the highest OBPs of any AZL Padre with more than 60 plate appearances. With the struggles that seemingly all of the hitters not named Luis Urías have had with walking, a 18.5% walk rate (along with the team lead in doubles) is quite refreshing. Not bad for a kid who won’t be old enough to vote until next March. (Marcus Pond)
Franmil Reyes, OF, Double-A San Antonio
Franmil Reyes was signed by the Padres in 2012 for 700k as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. At the time, Baseball America reported that he was more than likely going to be a bat-only guy who you would have to hide somewhere in a corner outfield spot. As harsh as that assessment was… it has turned out to be very accurate.
At 6’4” and 240 pounds, Reyes is currently playing RF every day for San Antonio. The outfield defense has been pretty rough, but the bat has been productive. In a league that is all but hitter friendly, Reyes has put up a .266/.319/.450 slash line with 16 home runs and 79 RBI. He has already equaled his home run total from last year (with Lake Elsinore) in roughly 100 fewer plate appearances. The slash line looks decent, but there is still much progress to be made. Reyes’s walk rate has dipped to 7.4 percent and he is striking out 21.6 percent of the time. He has a 109 wRC+ as well, which is kind of underwhelming. A position change is going to eventually be necessary for Reyes, too. Numerous people have stated that he is destined for first base (or DH).
Despite this (and you know me, I have to be positive), Reyes only turned 22 years of age last month. His peripheral numbers haven’t dipped much at all going from the Cal League to the Texas League, which is a plus. And power is never going to be an issue for him. That alone makes him an interesting project and someone to monitor, at the very least. (John Horvath)
Eguy Rosario, 3B/2B, AZL Padres 2
Rosario, 17 years old until August 25, has already played on three different affiliates in the Padres system. He tore up the DSL and the AZL as a 16-year-old last season, which prompted the Padres to aggressively promote him to Single-A Fort Wayne to start 2017. Somewhat predictably, he was overmatched there, slashing just .206/.296/.278 in 204 plate appearances. The Padres then curiously sent him all the way back down to the AZL, skipping short-season Tri-City altogether.
Back at the rookie league level, Rosario is raking again. He’s hitting .324/.387/.491 in 119 PAs, and he’s cut his strikeout rate down by 8.4 percentage points. There’s not much power in his game right now—and he may never project for much, currently listed at 5-foot-9—but he has 27 steals on the year to go with some intriguing bat-to-ball skills.
All told, he’s still on or ahead of schedule developmentally, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Padres handle his promotion schedule from here. There’s a chance he could get a taste of the elusive Northwest League later this year, or even rejoin a rejuvenated Fort Wayne team. On the other hand, the Padres may decide to slow things down and let him finish out the season in Arizona, at a level more suited to his age. He remains an interesting if occasionally overlooked prospect in a system with many of them. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Single-A Fort Wayne
Any Padres fan with a pulse and internet access doesn’t need to be reminded who Fernando Tatis Jr. is. What might be worth mentioning though, is that at 18 years old he is a full three years younger than the average Midwest League player. A year and a half ago, he hadn’t played a single professional game and was outside of the White Sox top 30 prospects. Yet, here we are, in August of 2017, and many people are arguing (count me among them) that Fernando Tatis Jr. is the best prospect in a Padres system loaded with talent.
Tatis’ meteoric rise comes from the rare intersection of potential and production that he is displaying. You don’t have to be a scout to see the promise here, his numbers speak for themselves. Although his stats on the year are impressive enough, breaking them down into monthly slices gives us an even rosier picture of the young shortstop.
One of the only knocks on Tatis coming into the year was a slightly low BB% and what scouts identified as a struggle to identify breaking pitches. Let’s see how he’s done in that department by looking at the progression of his strikeout and walk rates:
|Strikeout Rate (K%)||Walk Rate (BB%)|
Positive trends don’t get much better than this. In four months, he’s dropped his strikeout rate by 8.2 percentage points while raising his walk rate by 6.6. On top of an improving approach and ability to recognize breaking pitches, this may be a sign that the league’s pitchers are pitching more carefully to a dangerous Tatis. This is an incredibly positive development, no matter how you slice it.
Finally, let’s just a quick look at his major non-counting stats.
Tatis keeps getting better and better, and in July he put up numbers that would be impressive for any player at any level, but seem otherworldly for an 18-year-old in full-season A ball. After a tough April in the frigid Midwest, he’s been spectacular. On the year, he’s OPSing .854 with 17 home runs and 27 stolen bases, while reports of his defense have been positive. His power-speed combo should play well anywhere.
Look, Padres fan, I get it, you’re jaded after years of disappointing teams and countless prospects that flamed out and stunk, but what this kid is doing at 18 is unusual. These aren’t bloated numbers by a too-old-for-his-league kid and this isn’t someone who scouts have reservations about. Tatis has answered every question that’s been asked of him so far, and there’s plenty of evidence that suggests he’s still going to get better. Just this one time, maybe, it’s okay to get a bit excited. (Ryan Luz)