2017 San Antonio Missions Pre-Season Preview

Synopsis: The Missions will be much better than the team that began last year in San Antonio – and probably even stronger in the second half. The big name on the opening day roster is Luis Urias, who was the Cal League batting champion at only 19 last season. While the pitching lacks big names, there are some guys that could end up in the big leagues in Brett Kennedy, Michael Kelly and Enyel De Los Santos with his big fastball.

1) How much will we see Luis Urias at shortstop?

Sam Geaney: He’s going to be out there a few times a week. We still consider Jose Rondon very much a prospect, and Jose will get some more time at second and third base. We think it’s a big dual benefit for us and makes us more flexible.

2) Brett Kennedy has performed really well since you drafted him. What should we know about him?

Sam Geaney: The first thing that comes to mind with Brett is that he is very intelligent and always knows what he is doing out there. He handled a lot of innings [141.1] last year in his first full season and has a very good fastball. He’s put himself in a good position.

3) How much has Enyel De Los Santos’ secondary stuff and command improved?

Sam Geaney: They are continuing to get better. Right now, his changeup is ahead of his curve ball, and that will be an emphasis this year – the development of his curve. In camp, we had his fastball touching 97 and 98 MPH.

2017 Projected Lineup:

1B/DH Fernando Perez*
SP Brett Kennedy – RHP
2B Luis Urias (#5)
SP Michael Kelly – RHP
3B Noah Perio*/River Stevens*
SP Enyel De Los Santos – RHP
SS Jose Rondon
SP Jake Esch – RHP
C Stephen McGee/A.J. Kennedy
SP Kyle Lloyd – RHP
RF Franmil Reyes
RP Kyle McGrath – LHP
CF Alberth Martinez
RP Brad Wieck – LHP
OF Nick Torres (JM)
RP Rafael De Paula
OF/DH Nick Schulz

 * indicates left-handed or switch-hitter

MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in San Antonio: Luis Urias and Nick Torres

Catch a Rising Star: Luis Urias has a unique ability to put the barrel of the bat on the baseball and has a very good idea of the strike zone. That leads to a lot of hard contact. Urias has added muscle mass over the last few years, and if he’s able to translate that into more gap power, he’ll be a serious threat every time he’s at the plate. Luis makes it look much easier than it should.

Starting Pitching: This is a much better staff than last year, when the Padres sent four minor league free agents to San Antonio with varying – mostly negative – degrees of success. De Los Santos has the most upside, but still struggles with secondary stuff and command. In a normal system, he would be back in High-A, but it’s too crowded there. Kennedy was an 11th round pick in 2015 and the MadFriars Pitcher of the Year in the Cal League. He’s been consistently better than most expected and is well positioned to continue his success in the Texas League. Last year was a breakthrough for Michael Kelly, who has as good of raw “stuff” as anyone in the upper levels of the organization. The key is whether he will back it up this year. Despite having a big year in Fort Wayne in 2014 as a starter, Lloyd was always thought to have more of future coming out of the bullpen. However, last year he made 30 starts with a 3.31 ERA and found his change-up to go along with his plus forkball. Jake Esch, claimed on waivers at the end of spring training, spent most of his college career at Georgia Tech playing on the infield, but has pitched since the Marlins drafted him in 2011. Like most older conversions, Esch’s fastball plays above his secondaries at this point.

Pen: The Missions will trot out a very strong pen, especially on the left side with giant Brad Wieck and McGrath. On the right side, Auburn product Trey Wingenter emerged as a weapon last year, his first full professional season and Justin Hancock touched 97 MPH in his first outing in the spring as he converts to the bullpen full time. Sidearmer Eric Yardley comes back to San Antonio and has experience closing.

Catching: Both McGee and Kennedy will get an opportunity to let their defensive skills shine,. McGee, signed as a free agent after the Angels released him, has a reputation for defense and a career .227 batting average in four minor league seasons. Kennedy was a late round pick by the Padres in 2015 and spent most of last year with Storm. The Cal State Fullerton product is also known as a defense first catcher.

Infield: Urias is the star of the show. If he proves to be a competent shortstop, that will take his value up another level. Right now, he has the arm to play shortstop, it’s the lateral movement that’s a question. Rondon will begin the year with the Missions after seeing time in both San Diego and Triple-A El Paso last year. To get back, he’s going to have to show more range defensively and show better plate discipline to boost the .311 OBP he posted last year in the Texas League. Before injuries robbed him of most of the past two years, Perez was one of the more consistent offensive performers in the system. Longtime MadFriars’ favorite River Stevens and Noah Perio, who was previously in the Dodgers’ organization, will rotate in at third and could see time at second base when Urias is at shortstop.

Outfield: San Antonio should be strong on the corners with Torres and giant Franmil Reyes. It is somewhat surprising Torres is coming back to San Antonio after putting up good numbers in El Paso – .308/.343/.508 – but he should be back in Triple-A by mid-year. Reyes showed a glimpse of what he is capable of in the second half in the Cal League last year. If he’s able to continue to execute the mechanical changes he made last year, he will launch some mammoth shots into the wind in Nelson Wolff Stadium. Martinez, who blew out his knee in the second week of last season, will get the nod in center until the Padres are confident Michael Gettys is ready for the promotion from Lake Elsinore. Nick Schulz, our player of the year at this level last year, will continue to force his way into the lineup one way or another.

On the Spot: Jose Rondon was the primary piece in the Huston Street trade and the last of the four acquired players left in the system. He has people behind him and is going to have to show improvement this season.

Under the Radar: Franmil Reyes had a monster second half in Lake Elsinore. The biggest jump in the minor leagues is from High-A to Double-A but if he can make it, he’s a prospect in an organization that lacks corner outfield depth.

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