Lake Elsinore finished the 2018 season with a 68-72 record. While they had identical 34-36 records in both halves of the season, they just missed out on a first-half title. Rancho Cucamonga caught fire in the second half and the Storm finished 18 games back in the second half. The team had a few standout performances but ultimately finished in the bottom half of the league in runs scored and home runs.
Buddy Reed had a breakout season, cementing his status as a prospect worth watching. Hudson Potts, former big leaguer Luis Torrens, and big Brad Zunica were a few of the hitters who produced in Lake Elsinore.
Eligibility for the awards is simple: We consider a player at whatever level he made the most regular-season appearances. So, while Buddy Reed and Hudson Potts finished up their seasons in San Antonio, they will be eligible here since the majority of their season was spent in Riverside County.
We distinguish between the player of the year and top prospect at each level. Player of the year is about whose production this season was most impressive. Top prospect takes into account a mix of this year’s production, opportunities to improve, and potential impact in the big leagues.
A mere 75 miles from PETCO Park, Lake Elsinore provides the best opportunity for Padres fans to see prospects coming through the system before they reach the big leagues. While The Diamond is a pitchers’ park by Cal League standards, that’s more of a reflection on how offense-heavy the game can be at other sites across the league. The High-A (or Advanced-A) league features a range of players in their second to fifth professional campaigns.
2018 Lake Elsinore Storm Player of the Year
OF Buddy Reed: .324/.371/.549, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 33 SB, 21 2B, 7 3B, 24 BB, 84 K (unanimous).
Reed, 23, came into the year with little fanfare. The former second-rounder struggled in Fort Wayne last year at the plate and dealt with a few injuries. In 2018, Reed dominated the Cal League, showing power, speed and great defense in the outfield. When he was promoted in July, Reed was leading the league in hitting. While some of his production was a byproduct of a very high BABIP in April, Reed maintained his production in the coming months, never hitting below .308 in any full month.
The former Florida Gator’s performance culminated in an appearances in the MLB Futures Game in Washington D.C., where Reed showed some power and made a great running catch to rob Fernando Tatis Jr. While Reed struggled in San Antonio, there is no doubt that Reed has established himself as a legitimate prospect in the loaded Padres’ system.
Top Position Prospect (unanimous)
3B Hudson Potts: .281/.350/.498, 17 HR’s, 66 RBI, 3 SB, 35 2B, 3B, 37 BB, 112 K.
Potts quietly had a big year in the Cal League, producing a robust wRC+ of 126. The 19-year-old was an extra-base hit matching, socking 35 doubles and 17 homers while hitting in the middle of the Storm lineup. The teenager needs to make more consistent contact but his offensive production while playing against players several years older than him was impressive.
Potts struggled upon his promotion to Double-A but the Texan did more than enough to establish himself as the top position prospect for the Padres’ High-A affiliate. He will enter next season as a 20-year-old in Double-A.
Other Players of Note
Not every High-A club can say they had a major league veteran behind the dish but the Storm could make such a claim. Luis Torrens, the former Rule 5 pick for San Diego spent the entire year in the Cal League, setting career-highs in virtually every statistic. Torrens, 22, hit .280/.320/.406, with 36 doubles, six homers and made improvements defensively behind the plate.
First baseman Brad Zunica tied Potts for the club lead in homers with 17. The six-foot-six first baseman has arguably the best raw power in the system but struggles to make consistent contact. He is eligible for the Rule 5 draft unless the Padres add him to the 40-man roster.
Nate Easley quietly had a productive year, heating up considerably in the second half of the season. Easley produced an OPS of .805 and walked in 9% of his plate appearances.
Outfielder Edward Olivares showed some flashes of potential, finishing strong in September. The outfielder was acquired in the off-season from Toronto, in exchange for Yangervis Solarte. Olivares slugged .455 in the second half, socking five of his twelve homers in August. Like Zunica, Olivares will be Rule 5 eligible, unless he is added to the 40-man roster.