PEORIA, Ariz. — The Padres opened up their second full day of minor league exhibition games at the Peoria Sports Complex. It was a busy day in the desert, with three games taking place simultaneously in the backfields. Here are some notes about the action in the backfields.
RHP Nick Thwaits started the Double-A game and struggled with his command at times. The young righty walked the first batter he faced, although a few of the pitches were very borderline. Perhaps the small strike zone impacted him, as he had trouble locating his fastball in his later innings of work. He walked three batters in three innings of work and allowed some hard contact, including a booming triple to right center. His fastball was touching 90 mph and his curveball was clocked at 75 mph. Thwaits seemed like an obvious candidate for the Fort Wayne roster but Thwaits had a very strong showing in his pro debut last year and perhaps the organization has bigger plans for the Ohio-born hurler.
The Double-A team, which featured many guys who will be slated for Lake Elsinore, had an interesting defensive alignment. The squad featured Tucupita Marcano at second base, Gabriel Arias at short and Esteury Ruiz at third. Ruiz played 16 games at the hot corner last season in Fort Wayne. The outfield featured Grant Little, Jeisson Rosario, and Tirso Ornelas.
In the field Ruiz made a couple of nice plays, moving well to his right to cut down a runner at first. In the three at-bats I saw, Ruiz did not reach base.
At the plate, outfielder Jorge Oña had an impressive showing. In his first at-bat, the Cuban outfielder got into a three-ball count and fouled off several pitches. He also launched a couple of balls to right field that were tattooed, although they were foul by several feet. Ultimately, Oña struck out but the best was yet to come.
In his second at-bat, Oña nearly struck for a three-run shot, narrowly missing a homer by a few feet. It was the loudest contact observed by any player all day and it drove in a pair of runs. In a later at-bat, Oña worked a walk in another quality at-bat.
Oña struggled last season in Lake Elsinore and dealt with some nagging injuries but his power was evident Saturday. The Cuban is still just 22, so there is still some time for him to figure it out. He should be part of a solid Lake Elsinore outfield.
Shortstop Gabriel Arias had a pair of hits on the afternoon, socking a rocket into the right-field gap that was cut off for a single and another well-hit single up the middle. Arias finished the season strongly in Fort Wayne and could put up big numbers in the more hitter-friendly Cal League. Arias will play the entire season as a 19-year-old.
In the field, Alison Quintero started behind the plate and displayed a rocket arm, firing a strike to complete a 5-2-3 double play. The young backstop also had a single in three at-bats. Quintero, 18, spent most of the year in the Arizona League and made some strides offensively. While it would be a stretch to see Quintero in Lake Elsinore, he could find his way to Fort Wayne at some point this season.
With Quintero behind the plate, Blake Hunt played nine innings at first base. He struck out in one at-bat and finished his day with an opposite-field triple that was misplayed by the right fielder. Hunt could see some action at first, either in Fort Wayne or Lake Elsinore because there is no obvious candidate to play there.
Second baseman Tucupita Marcano drew a pair of walks and had a bunt single on the afternoon. Marcano has a keen eye at the plate and didn’t offer at anything out of the strike zone. On the surface, Marcano’s placement with the Double-A team seems aggressive but the Padres had 18-year-old Eguy Rosario in Lake Elsinore all last season.
In the outfield, Grant Little made a spectacular diving catch in left field to rob Milwaukee’s farm team of a hit. He also chipped in with a single. Little, 21, was drafted with the pick in Comp Round B that San Diego acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the Philip Hughes trade
On field 6, the Low-A and short-season spring training teams played a five-inning inter-squad game. Nick Gatewood, an 11th-round pick last year caught for the Low-A squad and struck out on a slider. Gateway had an arm injury last year and mostly DH’ed in the Arizona League. Gatewood has a powerful bat and quietly led the Arizona League in hits last season. He could be one of the offensive leaders for the TinCaps in 2019.
The most impressive showing on the mound came from reliever Dominick Taccolini, who struck out the side in an inning of work. The 24-year-old devoured Gatewood, Sean Guilbe and Jacquez Williams with a diet of fastballs and sliders in the lower half of the zone. Taccolini was a 10th-rounder in ‘17 and has yet to play above the Arizona League.