PEORIA, Ariz.— While the festivities of Opening Day took over San Diego, Padres farmhands still had three more days of drills and games on the backfields of the spring training complex.
Thursday included the continued emergence of top 2018 pick LHP Ryan Weathers and a few bullpen arms returning from the big team.
Weathers, in his final start before presumably heading to Fort Wayne, went five innings and sat 90-94 with his fastball while flashing a good changeup. He appeared to struggle with command of his breaking pitch, which was more of a slurve than a definitive slider or curve.
The 19-year-old looks to be in better shape than he was in his debut last year and has a very easy athletic motion on the mound. He fielded several comebackers with little problem and easily repeated his delivery. As is rapidly becoming the case with many Padres left-handers, he also flashed a plus pick-off move to catch a runner sleeping.
Despite being just 19, Weathers looks and performs like a player much older than his years. If he’s healthy, he’s not going to be in Low-A for long.
Fort Wayne is a long way from Petco, but Weathers has a good chance to be their quicker than any other high school pitcher taken in last year’s draft. While he doesn’t project to have the upside of a MacKenzie Gore or Adrian Morejon, it’s also not difficult to see Weathers emerging as a solid major league starting pitcher.
Amarillo native Brad Wieck returned to the back fields and threw a solid inning touching 95 and flashing his sweeping slider. The six-foot-nine lefty appears to have added a curve to his arsenal which should help him against right-handed hitters.
Facing Wieck, whose three-quarters angle with exceptionally long reach make the ball appear to start behind a left-handed hitter’s head, takes more courage than most of us in the general population possess.
Eric Yardley impressed in big league camp with his ability to get ground ball outs, and he looks as sharp as he has in his career. While Yardley rarely tops 85 MPH, his nearly-underhanded sidearm sidewinding motion has always made the release point difficult to pick up. Now that his movement is better than past years, the 28-year-old is even more dangerous.
Previously his pitches moved more on a horizontal plane, but this spring he appears to have more vertical movement as well. Today against the Oakland A’s High-A squad, he threw a pair of innings with two strikeouts and nothing that was even remotely hit hard.
He should start the year in El Paso’s bullpen and seems a much better option than RHP Kazhisa Makita for a call-up.
Catcher Blake Hunt was in the Low-A squad’s game as the designated hitter and looked good at the plate with a pair of hits, including a scorching double down the left field line. At six-foot-four, there is some question if he can stay behind the plate long-term. As with Hudson Potts playing second base, the Padres intend to find out this season. Hunt should see time behind the plate and at first base, and if his right-handed bat looks like it did today, he’s going to find his way into a lineup.
In a final tidbit for the collective mental health of Padres’ Twitter, RHP Anderson Espinoza was walking around the backfields today with no pain. From a variety of accounts, his being pulled from Wednesday’s game was more of a precautionary measure, by him and the Padres, rather than a real setback.
By all accounts, he still should be on track to join the Lake Elsinore squad at some point in May.