So you like prospects? We do too, so we decided to carve out a place at the corner of the bar where we’ll talk them. . . non-stop, like that annoying dude discusses his car collection. Each week (hopefully) we’ll grab a select number of Padres minor leaguers we’re interested in and write about them, discussing everything from advanced statistics to prospect rankings to developmental strategy to first-hand scouting reports. (The format, you’ll note, is inspired by Baseball Prospectus’ Monday Morning Ten Pack.)
Austin Allen, C, Single-A Fort Wayne
As I noted in BP2016, Allen’s Twitter bio ends with the phrase “Somewhere Hitting Baseballs Hard.” It’s no lie. The first time I saw him in spring training, his sweet left-handed swing caught my attention. I made a point of watching his batting practice most days, and it was always the same: easy swings, loud contact. As FanGraphs’ David Laurila observed in May, “he’s looking for balls up in the zone and thinking middle of the field,” which isn’t a bad idea.
Allen brought that approach with him into his first full professional season at Fort Wayne, where he earned Midwest League Player of the Month honors in April with a ridiculous .460/.539/.603 line that included ten multi-hit games and only four zero-hit games. The 6’4” 225 lb Allen has cooled considerably since then (.267/.304/.379 from May 1 to July 25, including an 11-game hitting streak that remains intact as of this writing), but his overall numbers are solid. The 2015 fourth-round pick out of Florida Tech has performed especially well against southpaws, hitting .359/.391/.495 against them.
The biggest question surrounding Allen is whether he can remain at the catcher position. Last year the Northwest League ran wild against him, swiping 74 bases in 89 attempts in only 51 games. This year his caught stealing percentage is up from 17% to 25%, which is encouraging but still well below the Midwest League average of 35%.
Baseball America‘s Vince Lara-Cinisomo reported in May that Allen’s footwork behind the dish has improved but that he still needs work on his blocking, receiving, and game-calling skills. Allen has drawn praise for his work ethic, which doesn’t always translate into on-field success but which is nonetheless good to hear about someone who isn’t yet where he needs to be.
It’s a long way from the Midwest League to the big leagues, but if Allen continues to hit like he can and learns to master his craft defensively, he might be something. Even if the glove doesn’t come around, there’s value in a guy who rakes and who can slip on the catcher’s gear in an emergency, a la ex-Padre Robert Fick. It’s possible that Allen could be that guy. (Geoff Young)
Franchy Cordero, CF, Double-A San Antonio
A little background on Franchy Cordero. He was signed by the San Diego Padres as a non-drafted free agent on Nov. 1, 2011. He is from Azua, Dominican Republic and after being drafted he spent a season with the Padres Dominican Summer League team as a shortstop. He is a tall and lanky ball player (6’3”, 175 pounds) who throws right and bats left. He is currently ranked as the Padres no. 30 prospect by MLB Pipeline (update; the trade of Melvin Upton Jr. garnered pitching prospect Hansel Rodriguez, and Rodriguez moved into the no. 14 spot and bumped Cordero off the list). He has fallen a bit in rankings, primarily due to him being moved off of shortstop, but as he has played center field since the move this spring, I expect to see some movement back up the rankings after this season. I think this is true especially if he keeps up his current production.
Cordero spent two seasons in Rookie ball, part of a season in Low-A and parts of two seasons at Single-A ball. During those seasons he played shortstop. Well, he tried to play shortstop. His defensive prowess was not good, Bob. This year he started in High-A as a center fielder. He fields and throws well and has the speed to stick, but the best news is his bat showed up and he was promoted to Double-A in San Antonio. He currently sports a slash line of .319/.364/.513, and an .877 OPS for a Padres center fielder playing in the Texas league is a valuable prospect. He has cut down his K%, but needs to improve a bit there while improving his walk rate as well. But a 146 wRC+ could mean he moves up to Triple-A ball next year to fill the spot Manuel Margot leaves as he joins the Padres sometime in the spring. The Padres might actually have a couple of waves of talent in center field.
Surfs up! (Billy Lybarger)
Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Single-A Fort Wayne
Espinoza, acquired a couple weeks back for Drew Pomeranz, has struggled in his first two starts in San Diego’s system. Last Wednesday, in his organizational debut, the diminutive righty went three innings while walking two, striking out one, and giving up seven hits and four runs. On Monday Espinoza went 4 and 2/3 innings, striking out three, walking two, and surrendering two earned. Of course, it’s just two starts, and Espinoza is an 18-year-old pitching well above his expected minor-league class level.
Further, he didn’t look bad—at least not according to BP’s Will Siskel, who was on hand to view Espinoza’s start on July 20th. From a recent Monday Morning Ten Pack:
He lasted three innings, but in the latter two he worked 93-96, touching 97 twice, with natural though inconsistent running action and some sink. At higher velocities, the fastball run can be downright explosive. Espinoza works from a high 3/4 release point with a good arm action and an overall mechanical package that exudes premium fluidity and athleticism. His command and feel sometimes evaded him on this muggy night, and he impressed by remaining composed.
Numbers are cool and all (really—we love ‘em), especially when aggregated over many nights. But we’re talking about two starts here, and although the results don’t look particularly pretty, Espinoza, it appears, pitched just fine. Even in a three-inning outing abruptly ended by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ bats, Espinoza showed plenty of reasons to believe in the hype: a mid-90s heater, a developing curve, solid mechanics, and pitching guile beyond his years. There’s always good reason to be concerned with poor performance, but development is a slow, winding process—especially for an 18-year-old arm. Espinoza should be just fine. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Michael Gettys, CF, High-A Lake Elsinore
Remember Michael Gettys?
Look, it’s okay if you forget about him. One of the benefits of adding a bunch of high profile minor-league talent to an organization is that guys like Gettys—good, if flawed, prospects—tend to slide toward the back of the bus. The shiny new prospects—Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Anderson Espinosa, Chris Paddack, Adrian Morejon, to name a few—tend to hog the internet’s attention.
Gettys is quietly having an excellent year, though. Selected in the second round of the 2014 draft, Gettys started the season repeating Single-A Fort Wayne. The numbers tell the story:
|2015 (Fort Wayne)||529||.231||.271||.346||5.2||30.6||.227|
|2016 (Fort Wayne)||289||.304||.369||.416||6.2||23.9||.283|
There’s certainly some noise there, as Gettys’ .401 BABiP at Fort Wayne from this season was likely buoyed by a good bit of random good fortune. It also means he was probably hitting the ball harder. Combine that with a near seven percentage point drop in his strikeout rate, and it appears that the tools-first outfielder is starting to get the hang of professional baseball. After mastering Fort Wayne, Gettys jumped to High-A Lake Elsinore earlier this season, and he’s hit .291/.333/.436 in 126 plate appearances there. Cal League caveats for hitting environment apply, but Gettys has at least held his own in his first look at a higher league. Remember, Gettys—21 in October—wasn’t born until after the original Full House series ended.
There are still obvious concerns present. The walk rates haven’t been impressive, particularly given Gettys’ so-so power output, and so far in the Cal League he’s walked just six times to 33 strikeouts. The bat, in general, is far from a sure thing, and scouts still have issues with his ability to recognize pitches and avoid strikeouts. There are questionable routes in center field and, with a 31-for-45 stolen base tally, probably questionable decisions on the base paths.
Thing is, with the overhaul of the system, nobody’s really relying on Gettys. He’s there—a middle tier prospect in a suddenly upper tier system—and it’d be nice if things worked out, but it’s not going to break A.J. Preller’s best laid plans if Gettys doesn’t get past Double-A. He’s a potential plus defender in center with more tools than your local . . . ma and pa hardware shop (take that, big business!). He’s an Athlete who’s started to show signs of better performance. He’s Michael Gettys—don’t forget ‘em. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Chris Paddack, RHP, Fort Wayne
Chris Paddack is a great example of how unpredictable
young pitching can be. Prior to the righty’s breakout 2016 campaign, Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs saw something and ranked him second, while he failed to crack the top 15 at Baseball Prospectus or Baseball America, and John Sickels had him 13th.
A great named 2015 draftee out of high school, the 20-year-old’s signature this season is his insane success getting strikeouts while limiting walks, leading to a 1.54 FIP for the Marlins low-A affiliate and continuing for a 0.86 FIP with the Padres in 42 total innings.
His pitch repertoire is led by his stunning changeup, followed by a fastball that sits 92-94 which Farnsworth thinks could push higher as he strengthens and matures his 6’4’’ frame. Keith Law praised Paddack’s frame in a recent interview with Darren Smith as well, saying the changeup could be plus plus but his big question will be a mysterious third pitch, currently either a curve ball or slider that’s received varying degrees of less than stellar reports.
Here’s video of Paddack in a recent start courtesy of friend of the blog Adam McInturff. Another interesting note about Paddack, which you can see in the video, is the pause/hesitation after putting his front foot down to start his delivery. Adam notes its purpose is to give deception, though he can see it getting toned down for more consistent command.
No discussion of a promising Padres pitcher is complete without heartbreak, as Paddack was pulled from his start Monday with a “strain” in his elbow/forearm. Could be nothing, could be the Marlins knew something the Padres didn’t after Paddack missed time in spring training this year, or could be classic Padres pitcher injury bad luck. Hope Chris is ok. (Sac Bunt Chris)
Luis Urias, 2B, High-A Lake Elsinore
The most important tool in baseball is probably the hit tool. I say probably because I’m not a scout or someone who sees minor leaguers play on a regular basis. I’m just a dude who loves following baseball, especially prospects.
Back to the hit tool. It doesn’t matter how much power you have or how dangerous you are on the bases. Your ceiling is limited if you can’t hit, and gives players whose only tool is hitting a chance to play every day. Everyone loves a guy who can fucking hit.
Why am I going on and on about this? Second baseman Luis Urias, one of my favorite and, IN MY OPINION, most underrated prospects in the Padres system. You probably only know who Urias is if you’re a giant prospects dork, or if it’s your job to know.
If you didn’t know, well then let me introduce you to this bad motherfucker: .331/.396/.450, 134 wRC+ in High-A this year; .290/.370/.326, 110 wRC+ last year at Low-A; in 868 career plate appearances, he’s slashing .315/.395/.395/.789. Just for good measure, Urias was temporarily promoted to Triple-A for a couple games earlier this year, and he went 4-9 with a HR and a walk.
The boy can hit. I say boy because, well, he’s still only 19, and he’s going to play the rest of the season at that age. The Padres signed him in 2014 out of Sonora, Mexico, and all he’s done is establish himself as one of the best hitting prospects in the system.
OK you’re not totally convinced. That’s cool. Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s what ESPN’s Keith Law wrote about Urias in February when he released his overview of the Padres’ system:
Infielder Luis Urias (11) is short but strong, a contact guy who just needs to get into some power and very capable at second base. He has walked more than he has struck out in his brief pro career, and then this winter at age 18 was hitting second for Obregon in the Mexican Winter League, posting a .305/.385/.338 line. If he gets to even 40 power, he’s a big leaguer, maybe even a starter because of the OBP potential.
Sounds good to me. (Oscar)