Synopsis: While the Dust Devils don’t have quite the same number of high profile prospects coming through the Northwest League as they did last year, there still is plenty of talent. On the mound, the team features two young right-handers in Sam Keating and Cole Bellinger while the position players should be led by catcher Blake Hunt and shortstop Owen Miller.
Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Player Development:
Where are Sam Keating and Cole Bellinger in their development a year after the draft?
Sam Geaney: They are slightly different, but then again there really aren’t any two players that are exactly alike. In general, when you talk to us about the pitchers that we are sending out to A-ball, it’s usually about developing a third pitch. At this level, it’s more about fastball command and having a usable secondary pitch.
Many of the guys that we get will feature one pitch and are trying to develop a second pitch, or have two average pitches and are trying to develop a third one. With Cole, it was more about getting stronger and continuing to develop as a pitcher. With Sam, we did some mechanical work on the front side which helped to increase his velocity and worked on just getting him a more consistent delivery so he could command his pitches better.
Owen Miller had some interesting college statistics. What have you seen with him that wasn’t in the statistics?
Sam Geaney: He’s a very good baseball player. A polished college shortstop that runs well has a solid arm and hands. Last year we had some very young Latin shortstops up here, so this is a little different, and in some ways, he may be a bit of a throwback to Chris Baker and Peter Van Gansen, who were up a here a few years ago.
He’s played three years of college baseball and is more advanced in some areas than a few of the guys here. He should be a very good and steadying influence on the team.
One of the players who has done very well in Fort Wayne is catcher Luis Campusano. Blake Hunt was picked in the same draft class. How do the two compare?
Sam Geaney: Blake is a little taller, while Luis is more compact and they are from different sides of the country. They can both swing the bat, and they see the baseball very well. Campy has a short, powerful swing while Blake uses his levers well.
Defensively, Campy’s blocking ability may be his best attribute while I think Blake calls a very good game. Both are working very hard at all aspects of what you have to do behind the plate, but for two guys that are both just a year out of high school, we are really pleased where they are now.
1B Luis Asuncion/Justin Paulsen RHP Henry Henry
2B Olivier Basabe/Luke Becker RHP Angel Acevedo
SS Owen Miller RHP Cole Bellinger
3B Kelvin Alarcon RHP Sam Keating
RF Aldemar Burgos RHP Adrian Martinez
CF Tre Carter LHP Ramon Perez
LF Mason House LHP Dan Dallas
C Blake Hunt
MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in Tri-City: None
Catch a Rising Star: San Diego gave Blake Hunt $1.6 million to get him out of his Pepperdine commitment, and the former Mater Dei star can give you a lot to dream about. At six-foot-three he is very athletic with a plus arm. At the plate, scouts saw above-average power potential which was hurt last year by shoulder injuries.
Pitching: As with most teams at this level the Padres will use a six-man rotation, and you will rarely see any pitcher throw more than five innings. Keating and Bellinger are two of the bigger names on the staff this summer. Henry Henry started the year in Fort Wayne but returned to Tri-City to develop a more consistent second pitch. Lefty Ramon Perez, the youngest of the club’s five Cuban signees in the 2016 signing period, is a big-bodied hurler who led the AZL staff last year.
Bullpen: While there definitely are pitchers that the organization does not see as starters, with 18 pitchers on the staff the concept of a “bullpen” is a somewhat nebulous term. Right-handed pitcher Joe Galindo was an all-star in the Northwest League in 2017 and advanced to Fort Wayne after the break. Some early struggles with command sent him back to Extended Spring, and he hopes his stay in Washington will be short. Lefthander Dan Dallas was selected in the seventh round out of the Buffalo, New York area in 2016 but has struggled with injuries and command issues but was able to escape the AZL to begin the year up north. The most interesting pitcher on the squad to open the year might be Carter Capps, who will try to rework his hop-step delivery after Tommy John surgery in 2016 and thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017. He and hard-throwing righty Andres Muñoz should both be quick to move up the ladder.
Infield: Owen Miller set a bunch of single-season offensive records at Illinois State in his junior year as he hit .384/.433/.537. Despite being projected as an eventual second baseman on the major league level, he is going to be given an opportunity to play shortstop regularly. The Padres have a ton of potential shortstops, but his bat could propel him into the spot in High-A Lake Elsinore in 2019. Interesting note, Miller only played travel ball after his freshman year and was better known as a star basketball player. With a crowded outfield, the organization decided to give Luis Asuncion, the MVP of last year’s Northwest League All-Star Game, an opportunity at first base. At six-feet-four he has the size and potential power profile to make it happen. Olivier Basabe, an eighth-round pick by the Padres last year, hit 272/.348/.389 in the AZL last year and along with switch-hitter Luke Becker, a ninth-round pick out of Kentucky from the 2018 draft, will get most of the reps at second. Basabe will also see time at shortstop. Reinaldo Ilarraza began the year at Fort Wayne, but poor hitting and some problems making the throw from third base sent him back to Extended Spring. Justin Paulsen, 23, has a nice left-handed bat will get some time at first and designated hitter.
Catching: Blake Hunt will get most of the reps, but Chandler Seagle was one of the better defensive catchers in the Padres’ system last year and should also get plenty of playing time. Jose Lezama, 19, a left-handed hitting catcher from Venezuela had a good year in the AZL last season hitting .313/.485/.375.
Outfield: Tre Carter began the year in Fort Wayne, but a .176 batting average in the first month sent him back to Pasco. Carter is a truly gifted defensive center fielder, and the former high school football star is one of the more talented athletes in the system. The key with Carter is being able to find and replicate a swing. If he can do that, the numbers will take care of themselves. Corner outfielder Mason House, 19, was taken in the fourth round of last year’s draft out of East Texas and put up a solid line of .293/354/.463 in the Arizona League as an 18-year old. His performance was in spite of an effort to significantly remake his swing as he faced velocity for the first time in his life. He whiffed 68 times in 177 plate appearances as he adjusted, and will need to show a more consistent approach with his new mechanics this year. This season should be about refinement. Dwanya WIlliams-Sutton, a 2018 fifth-round draft pick from East Carolina, had college career hampered by injuries. ESPN’s Keith Law liked his athleticism and power potential.
On the Spot: Tre Carter is only 21, and the Padres have shown that they are willing to wait on athleticism. His time in Pasco will be all about finding and maintaining a consistent swing and approach.
Under the Radar: Mason House is a wildcard who could either draw raves as a teenage switch-hitter with immense potential power or a player that doesn’t make enough contact for his tools to play.