Summary: The Storm entered the year as the most talented team in the organization, but didn’t quite meet expectations missing the playoffs by three games in the first half. The second half was worse as they finished with the worst record in the Cal League after top prospects Cal Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Jacob Nix and Josh Naylor all advanced to Double-A San Antonio.
Level: The California League has been around since 1941 when the Santa Barbara Saints defeated the Anaheim Aces. In 2008-2016 the California League ranked highest among full-season leagues in average runs per game. The league contracted in 2016 as both the Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks were relocated by their parent clubs to the Carolina League.
The league has a median age of 22.7, giving it a good mix of both high school and college players in their second full year of minor league baseball.
Stadium: The Diamond, the Storm’s home stadium in Lake Elsinore, California, is considered a fair ballpark for both hitters and pitchers by California League standards.
Player of the Year: C Austin Allen .283/.353/.497 22 HR, 81 RBI
The left-handed hitting Austin, 23, crushed the Cal League in the second half with 17 of his 22 home runs and a .309/.362/.574 slash line. As with most young left-handed hitters, there was a significant difference in his splits versus lefties (.219) as opposed to right-handed pitching (.300).
For context, while the Cal League is considered a hitter’s league, the Storm hasn’t had someone hit 20 home runs in a campaign since 2011 (Nate Frieman), and have never in their history with San Diego had a catcher hit 20 plus home runs.
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Joey Lucchesi 78.2 IP, 2.52 ERA, 19 BB, 96 K
Joey Lucchesi, 24, was the MadFriars’ Pitcher of the Year for the entire system, so it makes sense that he would be the pitcher of the year for his affiliate. Lucchesi was outside the Top 20 last year, but this past season he sharpened his two-seam fastball to go along with a lethal changeup.
At the time of his promotion to Double-A, Lucchesi was top five in the league in nearly every category including strikeouts (96), ERA (2.52), WHIP (0.95), K/9 (10.98), and K/BB (5.05). His continued success in San Antonio further cemented his rising prospect status.
Three Outside the MadFriars 2018 Top 20:
(1) Michael Gettys
How Acquired: 2014 2nd Round
AVG OBP SLG PA BB/K Hits XBH HR SB
.254 .329 .431 457 46/191 116 43 17 22
2017 Highlights: Gettys led the club with 22 stolen bases (in 30 attempts), 84 runs, and 46 walks, and finished second on the club (to Austin Allen) in nearly all other offensive categories including home runs (17), extra-base hits (43), hits (116), and doubles (22). After returning from a minor injury, Gettys had a fantastic July finishing with a slash line of .357/449/.548. He was able to show off his range and cannon in centerfield finishing near the top in outfield assists.
Negatives: While the tools are all there, the contact rate is not. The right-handed hitting Gettys led the league and organization in strikeouts (191) averaging one in nearly 40% in his plate appearances.
Projection: When he was drafted in 2014 he was a true boom or bust talent. He has all the tools to be a 25/25 type of talent with plus defense in center or struggle in Double-A.
MadFriars’ Assessment: The assessment on Gettys completely depends on who you ask and when you see him. Gettys will look like a top 50 prospect one night going 4-5 with 10 total bases and outstanding defense, and then fail to even put the ball in play the rest of the series.
When Gettys makes contact, he is an elite talent, the problem has always been – as we have all written numerous times – is getting there.
(2) Jose Castillo
Height/Weight: 6-4/200 lbs.
How Acquired: Wil Myers trade 2015
W/L ERA IP H BB/K HR WHIP
3-2 2.87 47.0 38 22/49 0 1.28
2017 Highlights: The highlight of Jose Castillo’s season happened before the season started. Castillo pitched for his native Venezuela in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. While he had a great overall campaign, the top moment was with Venezuela clinging to a one run lead late in the game against the U.S. Castillo entered the game with the tying run at 3rd and one out. Castillo struck out two MLB All-Stars in Christian Yelich and Nolan Arenado to end the inning and preserve the lead.
Negatives: At 6-4, Castillo has good size and athleticsm, the problem is maintaining a consistent arm slot. When it’s right, it’s great and when it’s not, the results aren’t pretty. He walked two or more batters in five of his first 12 outings, finishing the month of April with a 7.36 ERA. He didn’t walk more than a batter in any appearance the rest of the year until his final game in San Antonio.
Projection: Castillo is a fastball/slider reliever. He can sit comfortably in the mid-90s with his fastball and then flip up a plus slider in the low 80s.
MadFriars’ Assessment: In 2016 fellow lefty Jose Torres went from Lake Elsinore to San Diego in one season. Last year, Jose Castillo was our pick to do the same. While he only reached San Antonio, he showed enough for us to be excited about his future. Castillo has a ceiling of an 8th/9th inning shutdown reliever with a floor of a serviceable LOOGY.
(3) Rod Boykin
Position: Center/Left Fielder
How Acquired: 2013 12th round
AVG OBP SLG PA BB/K Hits XBH HR SB
.314 .376 .529 172 16/62 54 20 6 7
2017 Highlights: Boykin was a candidate to be stay back in Extended Spring after a disappointing 2016 in Fort Wayne where he hit .187/.275/.242. Returning to Fort Wayne last year he improved, but still had just a .744 OPS when he was promoted to Lake Elsinore in July to fill in for the injured Gettys.
Boykin welcomed his promotion by homering in each of his first three games with his new team. He hit so well that even when Gettys returned, he stayed in Lake Elsinore. In that first month, Boykin hit .320/.378/.613
Negatives: Before this season, Boykin had never had an OPS above .705 (2014, Eugene). Boykin was never seen as someone with much power, but managed to hit four times the number of home runs in 2017 as he did in his previous four years in the Padres’ organization combined.
Projection: Boykin is a solid outfielder, and despite being with the Padres for five years was still considered young for the Cal League. He plays above average defense, has an improving hit tool, and obviously power as well.
MadFriars’ Assessment: At the time he was drafted Boykin was a gifted two-sport athlete with limited baseball experience, but now is looking like a baseball player. And while all of us were pleasantly surprised by his resurrection in 2017, 43 games in the Cal League is a small sample size to make too much of a definitive assessment on him. He could find himself in San Antonio this year with some openings in the outfield and could set himself up for another successful campaign.
It’s always a good idea to place a bet on one of the better athletes in the system.
Up next, we take a look at one of the more propsect-laeden teams in the organization; the Double-A San Antonio Missions.