The Fort Wayne TinCaps missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last ten seasons, but the Midwest League squad had arguably the most talented team in the Padres system. Led by MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño in the rotation and Gabriel Arias and Jeisson Rosario at the plate, Fort Wayne finished the 2018 campaign with a 64-74 record.
Radio play-by-play announcer Mike Maahs saw many of the TinCaps’ games from the press box. Maahs has worked for the Wizards/TinCaps for 17 years, 16 of them as a broadcaster. In addition to his responsibilities for the TinCaps, Maahs is in his 24th year as a broadcaster for Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he calls men’s and women’s volleyball and women’s basketball.
Mike was nice enough to answer some questions about the 2018 TinCaps.
MadFriars: Luis Patiño had a breakout year in Fort Wayne. What made him so special?
Mike Maahs: In my mind, what made Luis Patiño special was the composure that he exhibited. You have to remember that he is just 18 years old, yet, more often than not, he looked like someone who was 25 or 26, and didn’t let tough situations get to him. He has supreme confidence in all of his pitches and wasn’t afraid to throw any of them at any time.
His teammates noticed that too.
MacKenzie Gore had a frustrating year with blister issues but looked the part of the future ace people think he could be. What did you see from him this year?
Mike Maahs: Gore has tremendous potential, no doubt about it. What was frustrating to everybody was the fact that he was on the disabled list not once, not twice, but three times during the course of the season. As a result, he made only 16 starts all season long, and pitched just over 60 innings. What I was impressed with was how he handled everything that was thrown at him. Not only did he have to deal with the injuries, he also had to deal with all of the hype of being just 19 years old, signing with the Padres right out of high school, and being told by some services that he was one of the top left-handed pitching prospects and one of the top prospects overall.
If he can stay healthy in 2019, the fans are going to love him in Lake Elsinore and perhaps Amarillo as well, as he certainly does possess a lot of talent.
Ryan Weathers got to Fort Wayne for a brief cameo. What were your thoughts on his limited sample in Fort Wayne?
Mike Maahs: Ryan Weathers made just three appearances for the TinCaps and pitched just a total of nine innings, allowing eight runs (three earned) on 11 hits, walking one, and striking out nine. He threw the ball hard and definitely showed promise. Nine innings is a small sample size though, and I would like to see him in Fort Wayne in 2019.
Mason Thompson spent a second season in Fort Wayne. Does he still look like a guy with mid-rotation promise?
Mike Maahs: Mason Thompson is a little bit of a puzzle to me.
As is the case with most of his fellow pitchers, Thompson shows a lot of talent and potential. However, he gave up 61 runs (51 earned) on 95 hits in 93 innings. That’s over a hit per inning. His longest outing of the season was six innings, which occurred on May 1st.
He showed flashes of brilliance at times, but, I would like to see him (a) stay healthy, and (b) be able to stay in games longer in 2019.
Esteury Ruiz hit a big home run in the prospect game at Petco Park. Is he a guy that could be a special hitter?
Mike Maahs: Esteury Ruiz can become a dynamite player if he continues to work hard each and every day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody swing as hard as he does, especially when you consider that he’s listed at five-foot-eight and 169 pounds. He combined both power (12 home runs, 20 doubles, and 5 triples, and 53 RBI’s) and speed (a team-high 49 stolen bases in 60 attempts).
Offensively, he – like just about everybody else in the system – needs to cut down on the strikeouts (141 in 439 at-bats) and learn to lay off swinging at breaking balls down and away with two strikes in the count. Defensively, I would like to see the Padres pick a certain spot for him in the infield; probably second base. He definitely can provide some excitement for the Padres in the future.
Jalen Washington quietly had a pretty good year at the plate. How did he look defensively and is he a guy that could fly under-the-radar in 2019?
Mike Maahs: Jalen Washington clearly became the TinCaps’ chief utility player in the second half of the season, especially in the month of August; as he alternated between catcher and first base, with some occasional designated hitting. Not bad for a person who played a lot of shortstop last year at Ohio State.
Offensively, he batted .234 in 100 games, collecting 22 extra-base hits, eight of which were home runs. I would like to see him cut down on his strikeouts (82 in 321 at-bats).
I really think that he felt more comfortable both offensively and defensively in the final six weeks of the season, and I think one of the main reasons was that he knew that he was going to be in the lineup nearly every day coming down the stretch.
I also think that being able to play multiple positions will be to his advantage as he progresses through the minor league system.
Osvaldo Hernandez posted some eye-popping numbers. What kind of stuff does the southpaw possess?
Mike Maahs: I think that it was a toss-up as to who was the better pitcher for the TinCaps in the second half of the season, Luis Patiño or Osvaldo Hernandez. Both pitchers exhibited talent and confidence. Hernandez finished the season with a record of 11-4 and an ERA of 1.81 in just under 110 innings of work. The 11 wins tied him for the most in the Midwest League, and until the final week of the season, he had the lowest ERA in the league. He was durable (19 starts and 21 appearances overall) and pitched at least six innings (or more) in nine of his 19 starts.
In terms of what type of pitches that he throws, it’s a good mixture of the fastball, the slider, and a change-up – which I would like him to throw more of. Like Patiño, Hernandez showed both patience and self-confidence when they were on the mound.
It will be interesting to see how he progresses through the Padres system.
Are there any other under-the-radar types that Padres fans would look for in 2019?
MIke Maahs: Being a little selfish, I’m anxious to see how everyday players like Gabriel Arias (who came alive at the plate in late July and most of August), Luis Campusano (who hit well for average and hits the ball hard), Jeisson Rosario (who covered a lot of ground in center field), Robbie Podorsky (I called him both a “pepperpot” and “sparkplug”), and Jack Suwinski (who was one of the two best players in the Midwest League in the month of August) fare next year at higher levels in the system; and I’m hoping to see players like Owen Miller, Olivier Basabe, Gabe Mosser, Henry Henry, and Ryan Weathers come back to Fort Wayne in 2019.
For more of our post-season coverage of the TinCaps, you can read about our Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. Check out all of our level-by-level coverage including subscriber-only interviews with Padres director of player development Sam Geaney.