Tucupita Marcano, San Diego Padres prospect for Tri-City Dust Devils

Tucupita Marcano’s defense is also a plus feature of his game. (Photo: Mike Wilson)

We caught up with Sam Geaney, the Padres’ Director of Player Development for the first segment of our six-part interview on the top prospects in the Padres’ system.

Today Sam chats about the players he had on the two Padres Arizona League teams.

MadFriars: Tucupita Marcano didn’t hit that well in the Dominican Summer League last season, but had a huge year in the AZL and with Tri-City at only 18.

What changed?

Sam Geaney: Really not a whole lot.  We thought very highly of him because the underlying numbers – although, I repeat, we don’t put a whole lot of emphasis into numbers from the DSL – but he had a good walk and low strikeout totals.  Then we also saw a lot of things that we also liked in the Instructional League.

He did very well this year, but we also thought this is what he was capable of as well.

Nick Gatewood, San Diego Padres prospect batting for Tri-City Dust Devils

Nick Gatewood’s strong offense earned him a late-season call-up to Tri-City (Photo: Mike Wilson)

What is the plan going forward with Nick Gatewood?  He was taken in the eleventh round and was a very good offensive catcher at Georgia State. I know he was held out of catching with shoulder injuries, but still, put up solid offensive numbers this year.

Where do you see him playing next season?

Sam Geaney:  The plan is to put him behind the plate.  Because of his arm injuries, he was limited to designated hitter this summer.  We still had him doing some work behind the plate, and he has started a throwing program along with doing some work at first base.

We liked what we saw at the plate this year and think he is the type of guy that could hit for average and power.

What happened with Luis Almanzar this year?  He struggled at both Fort Wayne and the AZL.

Sam Geaney:  He didn’t really have any injuries, it was just a tough year.  There were some positives once he got back to the AZL.  We like where his approach at the plate is now.  I think the biggest thing he needs to do is get stronger so he can do some damage with the baseball once he gets his pitch.

Defensively he also showed some progress at third, but next season will be an important year for him.

Sean Guilbe, who Mark Conner selected in the twelfth round this year, had some really strange numbers this season; .218/.409/.421.  What can you tell us about him?

Sam Geaney: His numbers were a little different.  He’s a very physical kid that can play both second and third base.  He hits the ball very hard, and yeah, it was an intriguing stat line.

We took him out of high school in the 12th round and he has some intriguing tools.  We could see a lot of growth in the next few years.

Joey Cantillo had a great year.  What made him so effective this year?

Sam Geaney:  Joey is not only one of our hardest workers, but one of our more intelligent ones.  He has been able to take what he is being coached on into games and then continues to do more positive work off of the field. He has a unique look, a really high arm slot, along with continuing to refine his breaking ball.  He’s very young and will add some strength and velocity in the next few seasons.  

I thought he did a nice job when we sent him to Fort Wayne late in the year.

Manny Guzman looks like an interesting arm at six-foot-four, 190 pounds with 50 strikeouts in 49.2 innings against only 15 walks.  What can you tell us about him?

Sam Geaney:  Manny looks exactly like you would draw up a pitcher.  He has easy velocity and a starter look with his ability to throw secondary pitches.  He’s another quiet kid that is a good worker that took a big step forward this year.

Nick Thwaits was an over-slot pick that the organization selected in the fifteenth round this year and looked pretty good.  

What made him so effective?

Sam Geaney: Nick was very advanced for a high school arm, and from what I understand one of the more advanced high school arms in the draft.  Everything about him makes him seem older than his age from the way he goes about his work, bullpens, ability to throw strikes and repeat his delivery.  

Who are we missing?

Carlos Belen, San Diego Padres prospect pitching for Tri-City Dust Devils

Carlos Belen converted from first base to the mound mid-season. (Photo: Mike Wilson)

Sam Geaney: Carlos Belen who we converted to a pitcher this summer has been interesting.  He has a good arm and did pretty well.

I know his numbers don’t show it, but Gilberto Vizcarra made a lot of strides this year, especially defensively.  He’s from Mexicali and I think we are going to see more offensively from him in the future.

As subscribers, you make our coverage possible. Thank you! If you missed them, read our AZL position player wrap-up and our AZL pitcher wrap-up. You can track all of our our level-by level coverage over the coming weeks right here. Next week, we get to the Tri-City Dust Devils, including Kevin’s Q&A series with the play-by-play voices at each level. Know someone who would enjoy our coverage of the Padres’ system? Please share the word!

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.

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