Peoria, AZ – With the big leaguers preparing to break camp and a showcase game for Padres staff only scheduled Sunday night, the minor league camp day featured a pair of morning intra-squad games.
Lefties Eric Lauer and Logan Allen highlighted the morning, each working five innings on opposite fields.
Lauer’s four-pitch mix and ability to move a fastball around the strike zone were impressive throughout big league camp. Against a lineup that included only two players with at-bats above Low-A, it was a total mismatch.
The 22-year-old, who appears ticketed to open the year in Triple-A El Paso, showed a fastball with run to both sides of the plate from 88-90, a change that landed at 80, a slower curve and a slider at 84-85.
Allen looked equally sharp, throwing his plus slider and change-up to go along with a fastball that was sitting in the low 90’s and touching 94.
“I was just happy to get some work in,” said Allen afterward. “The change-up was good as it has always been and the fastball command set up everything else.”
Allen, 20, could begin the year in either be in Double-A San Antonio or High-A Lake Elsinore, but today showed why he is one of the more highly regarded prospects in San Diego’s deep system.
“I don’t want anyone comfortable in the box,” said Allen. “Today I thought I did a good job of being able to command the strike zone on the inside part of the plate with hard stuff and go soft away.
“The key is to work all four quadrants and keep the hitters off balance. I threw 70 pitches today and felt great. I’m ready to go.”
Sunday also provided the first opportunity to see Frank Lopez, a still-16-year-old member of the 2017 international class. The Venezuelan righty is one of six members of the class to make his professional debut in the U.S. this year rather than the Dominican.
Lopez worked two strong innings, showing a fastball already in the low-90s and exhibiting feel for a slider he used against hitters who have four or five full seasons of experience. The second-youngest member of his signing class, Lopez will be throwing in the AZL two months after his 17th birthday.
LHP Dan Dallas, a seventh-round selection in the 2016 draft, also had a solid outing with a low 90s fastball in his inning of work on the back fields.
“I was really just trying to focus on my fastball command. I have been leaking a bit on the front side, so the goal today was to stay down in the zone,” said Dallas who missed most of 2017 with injuries.
“The change-up has been really good, but the curve has been spotty,” said Dallas. “Right now, I need to get the fastball command where I want it and today was a step in the right direction.
“The key for me is to just try to be aggressive and get ahead. Right now, I’ve been coming out of the pen and starting; but I’m good with either role. Hopefully this year things will work out and I will break with the Fort Wayne club.”
When the Padres sent Robert Stock out from big league camp, they asked him to focus on using his breaking ball more effectively. The former catcher did just that Sunday, mixing in a sharp mid-80s slider to complement his upper-90s fastball. He’ll be in the mix for a bullpen spot at one of the two upper levels.
Jared Carkuff, acquired with Edward Olivares in the Yangervis Solarte trade this winter, will also be fighting for a bullpen spot, likely in Lake Elsinore,
T.J. Weir, one of the system’s better relievers with the Missions last year, looked sharp. The sinker-slider righty touched 93 today in a multiple-inning outing. Batters had difficulty making solid contact as they constantly seemed to be attempting to dig his pitches out of the dirt.
Weir is fighting for a spot in what should be a pair of very deep bullpens at both El Paso and San Antonio.
The final position battles at the big league level will have an impact on the players in the mix at El Paso and San Antonio. If Matt Szczur doesn’t make the Padres roster, he’d have to clear waivers, and then accept an assignment to El Paso. If he does, then Travis Jankowski would probably head to the Chihuahuas.
Meanwhile, the Padres will also want Franchy Cordero to make up for the lost at-bats he’s had while dealing with an injury in Peoria, so he’ll, at the very least, get a rehab assignment, but could ultimately be optioned out for more work.
How that multi-step scenario plays out will determine how many spots are available in the Chihuahuas outfield for players like Nick Schulz, Nick Torres, Shane Peterson and Cole Gillespie. That then has a trickle-down impact in San Antonio.
Likewise, how the Padres resolve the Cory Spangenberg/Carlos Asuaje roster battle will impact who fits best as a third baseman in El Paso, and reframe the make-up of the Missions’ infield around Fernando Tatis. And the final resolution on whether to take three catchers to San Diego leaves a number of other receivers waiting for things to settle in the next week.
One of the infielders whose immediate next step will depend on questions outside his control is vlogger extraordinaire River Stevens, who handled all of his chances at shortstop today flawlessly. One of only four members of the 2012 draft class still in the organization (along with Jankowski, Walker Lockett, and Fernando Perez), Stevens got on base a few times, stole a base and scored a run.
John Conniff and David Jay contributed to this report.