The Padres have plenty of promising arms stocked at the Double-A level in San Antonio.
By JOHN CONNIFFFS San Diego
Synopsis: A very talented staff that keeps the ball down should thrive in the best pitcher's park in the system. If the Missions can hit just a little bit they will be in every game as one through five the starters are as good as any that San Diego has sent to San Antonio in the past.
Keep in mind in recent years the Padres have been aggressive in promoting prospects and we could see quite a few of the position players from Lake Elsinore in the Alamo City before the end of the year.
Three Strikes with Randy Smith, the Padres Director of Player Development and International Scouting:
How has Adys Portillo looked this spring particularly his control?
Randy Smith: He took big steps last year and was just dominating the Midwest League. He got promoted to the Texas League and got hit around a little but he bounced back. As he gets older his secondary stuff and control are going to continue to improve.
Remember this guy is really young and right now we are pretty happy about where he is at.
Quackenbush has had a lot of success with the organization the past two years. Some pundits believe he might be too reliant upon his fastball. Does the organization feel the same way?
Randy Smith: Generally hitters will tell you that as opposed to pundits. Right now the hitters haven't told him that. His change-up and curve have improved but he has also had a lot of success with what he has been doing. When he stops getting guys out that is when we are going to start making adjustments.
Huge season by Medica last year. Have you seen signs this spring to expect him to be able to maintain it?
Randy Smith: Tommy can really hit. I mean he can flat out hit. He had a really good camp and his shoulder feels the best it's been in a long time. We are going to continue to monitor it and if we think it can hold up we are going to put him behind the plate once a week.
He is really a quality receiver; moves well behind the plate and is great with handling a pitching staff. It's just a question if the shoulder is up to it.
* Portillo will begin the year on the disabled list.
MadFriars' Top 20 Prospects in Tucson: Adys Portillo (#7), Burch Smith (#10), Donn Roach (#13), Matt Andriese (#16) and Kevin Quackenbush (#20).
Catch a Rising Star: Burch Smith has some serious stuff and looked very good in his first full season of pro ball with the Storm. The lanky Oklahoman will probably not be one of the first called up but by the end of the season but because of his size, command and mid-90s fastball will profile higher than anyone on the staff.
Starting Pitching: As with the other two levels just below, this is a loaded staff. Donn Roach, who came over with Alexi Amarista in the Ernesto Frieri trade last year, and his turbo sinker is probably the closest to the majors right now. He is going to get a lot of guys out in AA but the big question is does it have enough tilt on it for the upper levels? Adys Portillo has the most upside with his body and consistent mid-90s fastball but he is going to need better command, especially of his secondary stuff, to get promoted. Matt Andriese along with Burch Smith were the aces of the Storm staff last year. DePaula, who missed all of 2012 with visa issues, is the lone lefty in the rotation and was impressive in camp.
Pen: If you go by saves then Quackenbush is the best reliever in the system and even if you don't its hard to argue with the numbers he has put up in a year and a half. A few numbers that jump out are a 0.81 ERA in a hundred career innings pitched along with 141 strikeouts. The former South Florida Bull relies on his ability to not only place his four-seamer where he wants too but also on the batter's ability to not pick it up. Jeff Ibarra at a side-arming 6'6” is a classic lefty specialist that provides an extremely uncomfortable at-bat for lefty hitters. Another pitcher to watch out of the pen is Matt Stites, who was the closer for the Fort Wayne TinCaps last season. Despite being only 5'11” and 170 lbs. he was consistently in the 90-93 MPH range and touched 100. As with Quackenbush Stites also put up cartoon statistics last year with a 60/3 K/BB ratio and a 0.74 ERA in 48.2 innings.
Infield: Medica had a huge year with a slash line of .330/.406/623 for the Storm and especially punished lefties with a .448 batting average. The left-handed hitting Bisson has logged considerable time at second, short and third during his three years in the Padres' organization. Last season was the best for the native Canadian as he stole 43 bases in 56 attempts to go along with a .288 average. If he can improve upon his .334 OBP he had a chance. Valdez is a very toolsy player but simply swung at too many bad pitches last year in San Antonio.
Catching: Rodriguez had a brief call-up to the Padres last year and is a good defensive catcher but .223 batting average in the Cal League makes it a tough slog to the major leagues.
Outfield: There isn't any real legitimate power threat in the outfield but both Rico Noel and Reymond Fuentes can fly and should share time in center. Noel is an outstanding defensive outfielder who stole 90 bases in his first year switch-hitting in the California League. His understanding of the game is every bit as advanced as his athleticsm but he is going to do better than a .649 OPS from the left side. Fuentes hit .298/.366/.429 in April and then didn't get above .216 for the rest of the year. Justin Miller played six different position but saw most of his time at third while hitting .311/.385/.475 and stealing 17 bases. The Paris, Texas native is the classic underdog story of the late round draft pick that just goes out and produces.
On the Spot: Reymond Fuentes is a former number one draft pick of the Boston Red Sox and one of the three top prospects sent over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. He had a tough year with the Missions last season and is going to have to show more than a .218 batting average and a .302 slugging percentage. He has a world of talent but needs to dramatically improve upon his plate discipline to have a chance.
Under the Radar: Tommy Medica is twenty-five, right-handed and playing out of position. But as Randy Smith noted, he can hit, he can really hit. Medica has good size and if he can show he can catch part-time he's going to be on prospect lists next year.
For more on the Padres' minor league teams, check out MadFriars.com