2017 Fort Wayne TinCaps Season Preview

Synopsis: This should be a very exciting, prospect-laden team, particularly in the second half. To open the season San Diego will have five position players who are 18 or younger. Fernando Tatis, Jr. will be the big prospect to open the year although fellow infielder Hudson Potts is only a step behind him along with returning pitcher Logan Allen.

The team’s overall talent will pick up in June with the arrival of many of the young arms whose innings totals San Diego wants to manage this year.

Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Player Development:

1) What was the reason for leaving so many of your talented pitching prospects – especially the Cubans – in Extended Spring to begin the year?

Sam Geaney: We look at all of our young prospects as individuals and we have a wide variety of focuses and reasons for keeping them back. In general, we want them pitching in July and August and really expanding into next year rather than at the beginning of April.

2) You have four 18-year-olds in your everyday lineup. What types of performances are you looking for from them this season?

Sam Geaney: [laughs] Well Eguy is only 17, so that is not a wholly accurate question. We definitely understand that we are sending these guys to a very advanced level where they might be four or even five years younger than guys they are competing against. All of us felt good about their ability to handle struggles mentally, and more importantly be able to learn from it and bounce back.

From just a sheer talent perspective, we feel very good and believe they will compete.

3) You are sending two very young players with limited exposure to Fort Wayne in Eguy Rosario and Reinaldo Ilarraza. What did they do to earn this promotion?

Sam Geaney: First and foremost, we felt that these guys were mature enough to handle the promotion and leave the Complex Leagues. Eguy has handled everything that we have thrown at him since we got him. He’s very much a competitor and welcomes the challenge. He’s a sneaky athlete and a very intelligent and well-rounded player regardless of his birth date.

Reinaldo had a difficult year with a broken ankle but has been on our radar for a long time. We are starting to see more strength in his swing – he’s a smaller guy, but has some power – and his defense is very good. He will play all over the infield.

1B Brad Zunica*/G.K.Young*
SP Logan Allen – LHP (#17)
2B Eguy Rosario/Reinaldo Ilarraza*
SP Will Headean – LHP
3B Hudson Potts (#16)
SP Jerry Keel- LHP
SS Fernando Tatis (#13)
SP Jesse Scholtens – RHP
C Marcus Greene
SP Austin Smith-RHP
DH Brad Zunica*/G.K.Young*
SP Hansel Rodriguez- RHP
RF Jorge Oña (#18)
RP Ben Sheckler – LHP
CF Buddy Reed*
RP David Bednar – RHP
LF Jack Suwinski*
RP Wilmer Torres
RP Nick Monroe

*asterisks signify left-handed or switch-hitters.

MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in Fort Wayne: Fernando Tatis, Jr. (13), Hudson Potts (14), Logan Allen (17) and Jorge Ona (18). They should be joined by LHP Adrian Morejon (#6), RHP Mason Thompson (#15) and possibly RHP Reggie Lawson (#20) in mid-season.

Catch a Rising Star: For the first half keep eye on the lanky son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis. In the second, pitching will be arriving in the Summit City led by Morejon and Thompson.

Starting Pitching: The pitching staff in the first half is going to be much different than in the second and they will use a six-man rotation to start. The Padres are going to try to push a few of their starters at High-A Lake Elsinore up to Double-A San Antonio during the year, and when that happens Allen, Headean and Keel are the most likely to move upwards.
Logan Allen was as good as anyone in the first month of last year, but injuries held him back. He has looked good in the off-season and Spring Training. Headean’s potential has always outshined his actual performance. This spring his secondary stuff has vastly improved; particularly his change-up. It’s a shock that Keel is back at this level, but a dime to donuts he won’t be here but for a few months. When his sinker is on, he can turn into a left-handed version of Walker Lockett. Austin Smith, the Padres’ top pick in 2015, returns for his second year in the Midwest League and will need to improve the consistency of his mechanics. Hansel Rodriguez, the pitcher acquired from Toronto in the Melvin Upton trade, is a loose-armed righty who will be focusing on using his breaking ball more and more consistently this year in his first taste of full-season ball

Pen: The TinCaps pen will be made up of primarily college draftees, and won’t have many assigned roles early in the year. While Emmanuel Ramirez, Nick Monroe and Lou Distasio have significant experience in the Padres’ system in general and Fort Wayne specifically, they’ll be joined by 2016 draftees David Bednar, Mark Zimmerman and massive lefty Ben Sheckler, who will serve as the long man. Watch for hard-throwing righty Wilmer Torres as a potential break-out late in games.

Catching: Marcus Greene had a very good off-season in Australia hitting .307/.333/.457 and looked much improved in Spring Training from last season. Webster Rivas, – at 26, the oldest player on the TinCaps – was signed as a minor league free agent and is entering his eighth minor league season, most of it in A-Ball.

Infield: We first saw much of this infield in the AZL last summer. The two top prospects, Tatis and Potts, are only 18 and could be in their senior years of high school. Both put up solid numbers in the AZL and should play all over the infield, but San Diego likes Tatis better at shortstop because of his arm and see Potts more at third. Rosario is the guy all the international scouts on the Padres raved about in camp and the 17-year-old – that’s not a misprint, he’s 17 – simply hit his way onto the team in spring and in limited action in the AZL at 16 (.379/.438/.483 in 31 plate appearances) and the Dominican Summer League where he hit .341/.421/.470. He will see time at second and third. Ilarraza flashed signs of strong defensive ability and a good approach from both sides of the plate as the youngest member of the AZL club until Rosario’s late arrival last year. He was hobbled by a pair of leg injuries, but is moving much better and operating from a stronger base this spring. Zunica returns to Fort Wayne with a more compact swing and looked much more comfortable, and better, in the field in camp. At 22, G.K. Young will be the “senior citizen” of the group. Young’s potent left-handed bat was a big reason for Coastal Carolina’s NCAA championship last year but the combination of a long season and getting used to extra fielding work at Tri-City wore him down. Like Rosario, he hit his way onto the team and could be a sleeper.

Outfield: At 20, Oña is a much more polished hitter than the typical Latin American product making his stateside debut. He’s a veteran of numerous international competitions and could be in town for only a short stay if he hits as expected. Reed was the Padres’ second-round draft pick last year and is truly a premium athlete. Defensively, he is as good as anyone in the organization, but at the plate the key for him will be to get his timing down to release the rest of his game. Suwinski is a very talented Illinois prep athlete who San Diego gave over half a million dollars to bypass his commitment to Indiana. He was limited by injuries in the AZL last year, but he came into spring healthy and showing the power in his bat. Rod Boykin returns for his second year in Fort Wayne where he struggled to stay in the lineup due to injuries. He should see time in center and in left field.

On the Spot: Austin Smith was the Padres’ first pick in the 2015 draft and struggled in his first year. With the amount of pitching talent coming behind him, he might only have the first two months to prove to the organization that he should remain as a starter.

Under the Radar: Jack Suwinski has an advanced approach to hitting, which is the big reason San Diego invested the amount of money that they did with him. He can play all three outfield positions, but is best suited to left. He’s in an ideal situation, in that he won’t be expected to carry the team and most of the attention is going to be on someone else. However, he is also the type that very quietly could put up good numbers by the end of the season.

This article is reproduced with permission from MadFriars.com. Follow @MadFriars on Twitter for the best coverage of the Padres minor league system.