The San Antonio Missions wrapped up their final year as a Double-A squad and as a Padres affiliate by falling short in the Texas League championship series. The squad had an uneven year, finishing the first half with a 42-28 while limping to a lackluster 29-39 record in the second half.
The loss of star prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. with a thumb injury started the downturn but the team also lost much of their starting rotation and third baseman Ty France to promotions to El Paso. The team did bear witness to a breakout season by new outfielder Josh Naylor and Austin Allen continued to rake out of the catcher position.
Missions’ broadcaster Stu Paul saw all of the action unfold as a play-by-play announcer, alongside Mike Saeger. Paul has been with the Missions since 2015 and has also called high school football games, women’s basketball for the University of Texas- San Antonio since moving to the Lone Star state. The veteran broadcaster answered some questions about the 2018 San Antonio Missions.
Our conversation with Stu was lightly edited for content and clarity.
MadFriars: Fernando Tatis Jr. was having a monster year until he broke his thumb. What did he bring to the field every day and how much did his absence affect the team?
Stu Paul: Fernando brought plenty to the table. Not only was he a leader, but certainly, his talent speaks for itself. His play at shortstop definitely stood out and he made plays that not many 23 or 24-year old shortstops could make.
He has excellent range to both sides and his bat continued to get better as the season progressed. He hit for more power and was the best offensive player on the team next to Josh Naylor. The Missions played so well with him leading off in the lineup. His maturity is beyond his 19 years. Once he went down with the injury, it seemed as if the entire San Antonio team went down with him, too.
Josh Naylor seemed to tap into his power more this year. How did he look at the plate and how did he adjust to playing the outfield?
Stu Paul: Josh Naylor’s bat was a major factor. He adjusted very well hitting against defensive shifts. His numbers spiked because of better discipline at the plate and he went the opposite way a lot. No doubt he is capable of hitting the ball deep and hard for a lot of home runs. He will always have the numbers.
His play in the outfield? At first, he had trouble reading certain types of batted balls off the bat. As the season progressed it looked like he became a little more comfortable and confident in left field and his throwing also showed improvement. He’s probably going to need another year of reps in the outfield at the Triple-A level. His bat will ultimately be his calling card wherever he plays.
How has Austin Allen progress behind the plate and is he a guy that could develop into a big league catcher?
Stu Paul: Austin Allen has had his ups and downs behind the plate, but also showed a strong and accurate arm. There were some scouts who had questions about his blocking ability.
As far as his offense, he’s capable of hitting home runs.
Michael Gettys has some of the best tools in the organization but struggled as a whole. Is he a guy that still has a chance to figure it out?
Stu Paul: Michael Gettys play in the outfield was very good. He can play anywhere out there and has a very good arm. When he can get on base, he can steal bases. The big question is can he get on base more often?
He had stretches where it looked like things were coming together offensively, particularly early in the year. If he can figure out a way to cut back on the swing-and-miss element, he still has a chance because he does have some legitimate tools and age is still on his side at 23.
Stu Paul: Both had limited time in Double-A. As far as Buddy? Buddy is a great athlete and can play defense in center field. He did struggle to make enough contact so it will be interesting to see the adjustments he makes heading into next year. His base-stealing abilities were second to none and he has top-shelf speed.
Hudson Potts is only 19 and has potential power capabilities. He can make the plays at third and has a strong arm. He will need a full year of Double-A next year for baseball people to make a fair and full evaluation as far as his play and future is concerned.
Logan Allen won Texas League pitcher of the year. What made him so good in 2018?
Stu Paul: He was outstanding. Logan showed excellent command with his pitches and kept the ball down. As the season progressed, he tired a bit, but he was a bulldog on the mound. His off-speed pitches were excellent and he recorded a lot of strikeouts. He is still just 21, and with the right tutelage, he will only get better.
Are there any Missions’ players that flew under the radar in 2018?
Stu Paul: Perhaps the only player I can think of is Peter Van Gansen. He’s not a big fellow, but down the stretch, he was one of the Missions better contact hitters. He can spray the ball to all fields. He can hit line drives and his play at shortstop and second base was very good. However, he is not a base stealer and I am afraid the scouts may ignore him because of his size. Just don’t mention that to Jose Altuve, but Jose has beaten the system.
Having said that, not everyone is Jose Altuve.