Gabriel Arias might be the best defensive shortstop in the Padres’ system. Photo Jeff Nycz

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

Today Sam chats about the Padres’ prospects with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in 2018.

MadFriars: Esteury Ruiz did some interesting things at the plate this year, but do you think he sticks at second base and if so, what do you want to see him improve upon?

Sam Geaney:  We definitely still see him as a second baseman.  He’s going to continue to work on his defense and he has the athletism to stay there.  We really liked the way he looked and the improvement he showed in the Instructional League.  

He had an interesting year offensively with speed [49 stolen bases in 60 attempts] and power [37 extra-base hits].

Gabriel Arias dramatically improved in the second (.730 OPS to .570 OPS) and got better every month in the second half. What happened?

Sam Geaney:  Defensively he was strong the entire year.  At the plate, we were very encouraged by some things that we saw developing in Spring Training mechanically and slowly started to take shape during the season.  Jon Matthews [the hitting coach for the TinCaps] really did a good job in getting him to change his approach.  

The swing and the approach will need to continue to be monitored as he goes forward, but he’s on the right path.

Same question on Jack Suwinski.  He put up his worst numbers in July (.151) and then tore the cover off the ball at .383 in August.  Was it just moving him to a different spot in the order?

Jack Suwinski turned around his season in August. Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz

Sam Geaney:  He dug himself at out of a big hole and in some ways was starting to feel that his season was getting away from him.  Again, he was able to implement some of the mechanical things we were working with on his swing and incorporate them into the game more.   

He’s a very positive kid, he never stopped working even when things weren’t going his way.

If he hadn’t gotten hurt, Robbie Podorsky had a better year than last, and last year was pretty good.  At 23, he’s a little older could he have a shot at moving up to Double-A next year and what are you looking for him to improve?

Sam Geaney:  I think before there are any decisions on Robbie we need to get him healthy.  When he’s healthy he is a well-rounded player on both sides of the ball – and he will perform. The injuries he had were related to his non-throwing shoulder and his back.  He’s making good progress and we hope to have him back at full strength by the spring.

Nick Margevicius really emerged this year.  What made him so effective?

Sam Geaney: The first thing that jumps out is that he has tremendous maturity for someone so young [22].  He had a great offseason coming into the year and really bought into what we were trying to do with him.  The big thing I noticed about him was that his curveball got a lot better.

Nick Margevicius advanced all the way to Double-A this year. Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz.

In the course of the year, he threw a ton of strikes and the curveball really added to what had been mainly a fastball/changeup combination.  He also made a slight tweak on his changeup grip which also made a big difference.

He had one of the better seasons in the system.

How would you describe MacKenzie Gore’s season?

Sam Geaney:  Challenging.  There were a lot of positives when he was on the mound, but he wasn’t on there enough as much as we or he would have liked.  There were times when he had all four pitches really working, all of them are capable of being plus.

He’s looking forward to really working this offseason and he should be entirely healthy next year.

Last year you made a big point of stating that Luis Patino was going to be someone to watch.  If I remember correctly you called him “one of the more athletic pitchers in the system”  Based on his year that assessment looks pretty good.

How was the progress of his secondary pitches this year?

Sam Geaney: [laughs]  Anytime I get one right we have to talk about it.  There are enough things that I am wrong on.

He has one of the best fastballs in the system.  It had a huge spin rate and this year his slider emerged as a good pitch and his changeup also picked up.  There is also more in him.  His velocity has gone up every year we have had him and he also has a good curve, which we expect to see more of next season.

Like Nick [Margevicius], he is another guy that really worked hard in the offseason.  It’s nice when you see the guys that kill their offseason put together quality years like both of them did.

Last year Osvaldo Hernandez had a bit of a disappointing season, this year he was much better.  What changed?

Sam Geaney: Osvaldo had a good and consistent year.  He found his curveball and it allowed him to go deeper into games and become more effective.  Along with MacKenzie [Gore] and Luis [Patino], he is another one of our very young athletic pitchers.  

Last week I inadvertently did not ask Sam about Owen Miller and Ryan Weathers.  So we played catch-up this week.

Owen Miller, San Diego Padres prospect fields for Fort Wayne TinCaps

A shortstop through college, Owen Miller will play all over the field professionally. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Owen Miller just had a better year than really anyone anticipated.  He ended the year in Double-A with San Antonio.  What impressed you the most about him and going into the year is the guy to beat out at shortstop in Amarillo?

Sam Geaney:  Owen has a very short and quick swing that found a lot of barrels this summer.  He was everything that our scouts described him to be when he started.  He’s a very advanced kid and should move quickly through the system.  

He will go to camp with a chance to compete for that spot.

Ryan Weathers, San Diego Padres prospect pitches for Fort Wayne TinCaps

Ryan Weathers got a late-season “taste” of the Summit City. (Photo: West Michigan Whitecaps)

You promoted Ryan Weathers to Fort Wayne, which is unusual for you guys to make such a jump with a high school player from this year’s draft. 

What did you see to make that move?

Sam Geaney: We wanted to challenge him.  He showed a lot of characteristics that we like; fastball command, good breaking ball, and changeup for a young age. We liked what we saw when we were around him in the Arizona League and thought his stuff and maturity had a chance to play at a higher level.

Also, a lot of times we like to give guys a taste of where they will start next year.

Don’t miss any of our post-season level-by-level wrap-ups. You can check them all out here.

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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