San Diego Padres minor leaguers faced off with the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, with the lower levels taking the walk across the Peoria Sports Complex.
While there were plenty of interesting story lines, the headline was obvious: Chris Paddack.
The righty, coming back from Tommy John surgery performed soon after he was acquired from the Florida Marlins in exchange for Fernando Rodney, progressed to a two-inning outing for the first time, and looks to be back on track. Relying on his fastball/change-up combo, the 22-year-old Texan struck out four while giving up only one slow infield single and two poorly-struck outs.
We only saw a couple of curveballs, and just one that was sharp, but the change is clearly a weapon. The collection of front office types (including AJ Preller, Dave Post, and most of the scouting department who are in Peoria for organizational meetings) and scouts from at least eight other organizations, were all buzzing about the showing.
Expect Paddack to be a few weeks behind going out to an affiliate, but it won’t be long, and he should be one to watch once he gets there.
While Paddack was throwing, Lake Bachar was going across the way, while Brett Kennedy and Jesse Scholtens both extended out to 80 pitches for the first time this spring back on the home side.
Bachar, who will turn 23 this summer, is looking to build on a strong showing in the Australian League and get back on track after a year sidetracked by injury issues. The Illinois native sits in the mid-90s with a low-effort delivery and has two different breaking balls to keep hitters’ timing off. He ran into a bit of trouble early, but got his work in well and will get a chance to show what he can do now that he’s healthy from opening day.
Manny Guzman was the other righty drawing interest as he mowed down Mariners hitters. Yet another big-bodied hurler from the Padres’ 2016 international free agent class, the 18-year-old Dominican showed easy arm action working in the low-90s with a developing change-up and biting curve. He’ll likely begin the year among the 90 or so players in extended spring training, but should be one to watch once the short-season clubs get going.
A sign of the depth in the organization is that lefties Noel Vela and Joey Cantillo, who both turned 18 six months after they were drafted last summer, are so far off most observers’ radar. Cantillo is the more advanced of the two, but Vela is adjusting well to the professional game after playing against low-level competition in South Texas as a prep. Both are younger than many of the players who will be taken in the upcoming draft, by which time they will have a full year of development work under their belts. Watch for Cantillo, especially, to get some love in the AZL this summer.
Yet another 18-year-old lefty, Cuban Ramon Perez, threw opposite Cantillo in an intra-squad game. While he’s not as tall as his listed 6-foot-1 height, he has a big body that he leverages for solid velocity. In many organizations, he’d been seen as a prize young upside pitcher. For San Diego, it’s not clear that, after throwing 50 innings of 2.66 ERA baseball in the AZL last year, he’ll see a full-season squad this year.
Around the Horn
With the wave of infielders getting ready to leave the complex for the first time, the Padres are working on ways to maximize the number of at-bats available for everyone. On Saturday, Esteury Ruiz and Gabriel Arias both started at third base, with Justin Lopez and Luis Almanzar at short. Eguy Rosario, Reinaldo Illaraza, Kelvin Alarcon, Tucupita Marcano and Deion Tansel all saw action on the infield in lower level games.
Expect to see all of them receive exposure across the infield as they work their way up through the system.
The organization is also working on some versatility up the chain a bit. Catcher Austin Allen, a lock for the Missions roster, will likely see some time at first base throughout the year, and was even taking some grounders at third in the morning. Kyle Overstreet, who has continued to play his way into more opportunities since being drafted in the 14th round in 2015, has been at first, second, third and behind the plate in drills so far. He has some serious thump in his bat.
At the lowest end of the system, Australian signee Jarryd Dale is a smooth-fielding shortstop who has some work to do at the plate. After getting close to the max the Padres could offer an international signee last summer, Dale played alongside Arias, Bachar and Buddy Reed for former system manager Michael Collins for Canberra, more than holding his own.
He won’t turn 18 until this fall, but Dale was working with the El Paso group in the morning. That’s a strategy the Padres have used in camp in the past to let younger players see what is expected at the upper levels of the system. Dale will likely be among the youngest players in the AZL this summer.
Injury news and notes:
While Paddack is still working to be ready to game situations, he’s in the group of players who are fully able to participate in all activities. But there are plenty of others who are in the injury/rehab group who are not yet ready for drills, much less games.
Here’s a rundown
The injury that will have the most impact on opening day rosters is righty Jacob Nix, who is once again struggling with nerve pain in his groin. The 22-year-old, who would otherwise be in line for the Missions rotation, had a flair-up of the issue just before coming in for big league camp. He has progressed back to bullpen work and should be on track to arrive in San Antonio on about the same schedule he had with Elsinore last spring.
The other highly regarded prospect who won’t be back to full activity before the season is Andres Muñoz, who has experienced some soreness in his elbow. It appears to be a minor soft-tissue issue, and he is in uniform doing conditioning work with the rehab group, but he is not yet throwing.
At the far other end of the spectrum, Seth Simmons threw an extended bullpen session Saturday and is nearing the end of his rehab from Tommy John Surgery. The 29-year-old righty signed as a minor league free agent in late May, 2016 and put up surprisingly good results for the Missions. But he had offseason surgery and missed all of last year. If he stays on track from here, he could be ready for a roster in late spring.
Anderson Espinoza is back to throwing at distance on flat ground, and fellow TJS alum JC Cosme, about two months ahead of him, is progressing toward bullpen work.
Other pitchers who would likely have been in the mix for full-season rosters who are not healthy include Dalton Erb, Mark Zimmerman (elbow), Wilmer Torres (back), and Elias Torres.
Two pitchers who have yet to appear in a game since joining the organization continue to work to get healthy. Wen-Hua Sung, who became the Padres’ first Taiwanese amateur signee in 2016, has had a variety of issues with his arm since arriving stateside. Harrison Simon had PRP therapy before the club drafted him from Loyola Marymount last June. The big righty should get a chance to get underway this spring.