PEORIA, Ariz — In the final days of Spring Training, today the Padres Double-A and Triple-A squads were home against the Chicago White Sox farmhands, while the Low-A and High-A were on the road.
John was with the upper-level squads, while David was on the road in beautiful Glendale.
The big news of the day was that Anderson Espinoza had to leave his scheduled two-inning start after just seven pitches. The righty didn’t look sharp warming up and then issued a leadoff walk to Luis Robert. While his velocity was there, feel clearly wasn’t. He threw just two more pitches before rehab coordinator Ben Fritz and a trainer went out to the mound. After a relatively extended conversation, the 21-year-old righty came out of the game.
The good news is that there was no obvious blow-out. Espinoza remained at the Glendale complex for most of the rest of the game and was generally in good spirits. But for a guy who has had several false starts in rehabbing since the injury first sidelined him the week before the 2017 campaign, any setback is a disappointment. We’ll have more information from camp today.
LHP Jerry Keel was on the mound for the El Paso squad and made a strong bid for one of the starting spots in the Chihuahuas’ rotation. Keel threw 85 pitches, with the final 13 in the bullpen. He gave up a pair of runs, all in the fourth inning, but looked solid with his sinker-slider combination. After his start, Keel explained that he had been incorporating his four-seam fastball along with a curve more this year to change the eye-levels of batters.
By now, most MadFriars readers are well aware of shortstop Owen Miller, who was taken in the third round of last year’s draft. Over three years Miller hit .345/.383/.511 for the Illinois State Redbirds. He didn’t miss a beat professionally, hitting .336/.386/.460 for the Tri-City Dust Devils and Fort Wayne TinCaps in 206 plate appearances. He finished the season at shortstop for the San Antonio Missions in the Texas League playoffs.
One of his teammates described the 22-year-old’s batting approach as “grind, grind, line drive; grind, grind, line drive.” He is very much a gap-to-gap hitter with a relaxed and fluid approach in the batter’s box.
He easily surpassed expectations in his first year and it will be interesting to see how his approach works for a full year in the Double-A level.
One of Miller’s double-play partners with the Sod Poodles, in addition to infielder Matthew Batten who is having an outstanding camp, could be Hudson Potts. While much has been written about the physical growth of Fernando Tatis Jr., Potts is also significantly bigger than when he was drafted at 17 in 2016.
Now 20, he is six-foot-four and around 220-pounds. After an explosive year in the California League and a good showing in major league camp this spring, San Diego is looking to play him at positions other than third base. Last year, he saw limited time at first base and this year they have played him at second base, where he got a bit of exposure in his year of professional ball.
When we asked some of the Padres development staff if Potts could play second at his current size, “I don’t know, but with that bat, we sure are going to find out.”
MadFriars readers might be a little tired of us raving about the tools of outfielder Michael Gettys, seemingly an annual occurrence. Well, this year will not be an exception. Gettys had a really good winter campaign in the Australian baseball league and the Padres have been excited about how good he has looked.
Today he showed off his cannon arm in right field to gun down a runner trying to score from second to catcher A.J. Kennedy.
Kennedy, looks much more comfortable at the plate in both batting practice and in games, getting the barrel of the bat consistently on the ball. Despite being among the best defensive catchers in the system, he has never hit. The catching position might be the deepest in the system, but if he can continue to make strides at the plate he could end up on one of the full-season rosters by the end of camp.
RHP Dauris Valdez – a truly huge man (six-foot-nine, 265-pounds before lunch) was impressive in his inning today sitting between 95 to 98 MPH while touching 100. He also flashed a very strong slider and should be a big part of Amarillo’s bullpen this season along with a lock to devour the 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan.
[On Twitter, I accidentally stated that I was unsure if Valdez would go to Double-A or return to the Storm. It is nearly certain that he will not return to High-A.]
While Espinoza’s departure took some wind out of the sails at Glendale, there was plenty to like from the Single-A group. Justin Lopez slashed one triple to the left-center gap from each side of the plate, gliding around the bases easily. The lanky Venezuelan shortstop will be returning for a second go at Fort Wayne even though he doesn’t turn 19 until May.
Venezuelan lefty Jesus Gonzalez, the youngest player in camp for the Padres, showed an impressive tight curve and sat 90-91 in three innings of work. He spent last summer in the DSL and should log plenty of innings in Arizona this year.