PEORIA, Ariz. — Luis Patiño dominated Mariners hitters for five innings and Padres Single-A hitters made plenty of loud contact to highlight Tuesday’s action, and served to give fans a preview of why Lake Elsinore could be one of the most talented teams minor league baseball has seen in a long time.
Patiño, punched out the first two batters he faced and was perfect through three innings, working off a fastball that sat 93-95 and touched 97. Mariners hitters got one ball out of the infield through four frames. Working at a fast pace, the 19-year-old had to work out of some traffic in his final two innings, but did so easily.
In the fourth, Patiño walked a pair, but Luis Campusano threw out both runners on the basepaths. Between a pair of singles in the fifth, he induced an easy double-play ball. His last pitch of the day was 96 MPH.
As well as Patiño showed, his offense was just as good. Campusano hit the ball hard all day. Jeisson Rosario slashed hits to both gaps. For the second day in a row, Esteury Ruiz drew a walk and swiped a base in his first plate appearance. He came back with a monster home run in his next trip. Jack Suwinski hit a late bomb deep over the left-center fence after spending a few innings on a side field getting his first exposure to first base since high school.
Elsinore’s rotation could be one of the best High-A groups we’ve ever seen. Patiño, MacKenzie Gore, and Mason Thompson will headline on opening day, and Anderson Espinoza and Osvaldo Hernandez should join them by early May. Some days, their entire defense will be 20 or younger with potential big league starters at most spots on the field.
Catching, catching everywhere
By mid-2016, the catching position looked like the thinnest spot in the organization. Then the club signed Alison Quintero internationally, snagged Luis Torrens in the Rule 5 draft, and made six of their 15 signed position players in the 2017 draft catchers. That depth is making roster-setting at Single-A a serious dogfight.
Blake Hunt, Jose Lezama, Quintero, Luis Roman, and Chandler Seagle all showed readiness to advance while playing in short-season and rookie leagues last summer. Slugging 2018 draftee Nick Gatewood is also a natural catcher though injuries kept him from behind the plate. Juan Fernandez and Jalen Washington, who both spent time behind the plate for the TinCaps alongside Campusano might also be best served with more work in Low-A, but will almost certainly have to advance because of the tide behind them.
Even if the Padres carry three catchers on both Single-A rosters, there will be multiple deserving players left on the outside looking in.
With two talented young receivers time-sharing at the big league level and Austin Allen and Torrens both on the 40-man at the two highest stops in the minors, it’s safe to say catching depth is no longer a major concern for the organization.
Around the Horn
The players who took the Mexico City trip returned to the field after an off-day Monday, giving us our first look at them on this trip.
Grant Little smoked the ball a couple of times. The team’s compensation-round pick out of Texas Tech had a long college season and then had a nagging hand injury in Tri-City, so this spring in Fort Wayne will be the first opportunity to really see what he can do on a daily basis.
Xavier Edwards, playing with the High-A group but almost certainly ticketed for the TinCaps, continued to show uncanny instincts on the basepaths and at the plate. He should share playing time up the middle with Tucupita Marcano and Justin Lopez, all three of whom could use development opportunities at shortstop.
Facing a line-up with the Mariners’ two best and most dynamic position players tested a pair of interesting Padres arms who will open the year in Extended. Miguel Rondon and Luarbert Arias, a pair of 18-year-old Venezuelans from the top of the Padres’ 2017 J2 class, were solid overall, but Jared Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez got to them both.
Rondon has added velocity since last summer, working in the high-80s with room for more growth to come. He also flashed a nasty curve ball, getting a pair of looking strikeouts. Arias came in and Kelenic turned his first offering, a 91 MPH fastball, around for a screaming line-drive homer to right. Looking a bit shellshocked, Arias walked Rodriguez, but then settled down and worked pretty effectively for three innings.
Jordy Barley, who returned from the White Sox complex on crutches following an awkward slide on Saturday, was back on the field full-go on Tuesday. Still just 19 years old, Barley has yet to turn his prodigious athleticism into consistent baseball production, but shows flashes in all aspects of the game.
With many older third base options away from the complex throughout the week, 18-year-old Yerri Landinez has gotten plenty of work with upper-minors groups. While he’s certainly taken some lumps, he has not looked completely out of place alongside players whose first taste of professional baseball came when before his age reached double-digits.