PEORIA, Ariz. — In the penultimate day of minor league spring training, all four teams were in action against the Chicago White Sox farmhands, making their cases before pwning day rosters are set this weekend.
We focused in on the upper levels as left-handed pitchers Logan Allen and Adrian Morejon was scheduled to throw for the Triple-A El Paso and Double-A Amarillo squads.
Morejon was a late scratch for the start, but he will instead start on Saturday. No reason was given for the postponement, but a start Saturday would put him in line to start opening day in Corpus Christi before they return home on April 8 to open their new stadium in Amarillo.
Logan Allen was a little shaky in his first two innings, before settling down in the next three and showing the form he did last summer in San Antonio. His four-seam fastball sat between 88 to 92, and changeup looked good, but his breaking pitches were inconsistent, especially in the first two innings.
“I was just trying to get into a good rhythm, which is something that I have been missing all spring,” said Allen. “In the third inning I found it, and that’s when things started to really work.”
He will start the season with the Chihuahuas and seems to be the prime candidate for the first ticket on Southwest Airlines to San Diego if he can pitch the way he did in his last three innings.
Second baseman Luis Urias looked good, opening the game with a single up the middle and was solid in the field. Urias’s leg kick at the plate didn’t appear to be as pronounced as it was early last season when he struggled in El Paso.
Third baseman Ty France was also back in the minor league games after being one of the last players optioned from the big league squad. The Padres will play France at multiple positions next year, possibly even including some catching as Ben Davey reported last year. As one scout noted, France may not play with the Padres, but he is going to play in the major leagues somewhere.
In the Double-A game, center fielder Buddy Reed hit a wind-aided home run to right field. He will certainly be one of the most watched prospects in the Padres’ system this year. Will the Reed of Lake Elsinore and the Arizona Fall League show up, or the player who struggled with velocity in San Antonio?
He simply has too much talent for the organization to not give him every opportunity to show his immense tools can play.
Hudson Potts started the game at shortstop, as the Padres have said they will continue to play him in a variety of positions with the third base spot in the big leagues blocked for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure anyone really sees the six-foot-four, 220-pound Potts as a shortstop, but playing the position may improve his lateral movement which could make him a candidate to play second base.
We will have four full-season previews before the first minor league games, but below is a brief look at some of the players to watch at each level.
El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A): On the mound, Allen and former top pick RHP Cal Quantrill will lead the rotation. If Allen returns to the form he showed last year with the Chihuahuas, a 1.63 ERA in five starts (27.2 innings) he’ll be in San Diego before school lets out. Quantrill needs to show that he is the pitcher that he was in El Paso (3.48 ERA) and not in San Antonio (5.15 ERA).
In the field, every Padres’ fan will want updates on Urias, but outfielder/first baseman Josh Naylor could grab most of the attention with the power numbers he could post in the PCL. Naylor came into camp in better shape and it will be interesting to see how much improvement he shows defensively in left field.
Amarillo Sod Poodles (Double-A): After MacKenzie Gore, Adrian Morejon may be the next best pitcher in the Padres’ system and the difference between the two isn’t big. With RHP Michel Baez not expected to be on the opening day roster with undisclosed issues that have kept him from throwing, keep an eye on right-hander Reggie Lawson, who has made some very noticeable gains from the end of last season.
Hudson Potts will get the majority of attention, and rightly so, with his bat and finding out what positions he can and can’t play. Buddy Reed is a walking highlight film, but infielder Owen Miller, a third-round draft pick from Illinois State in last year’s draft, hit .336/.386/.460 in his first pro season between Tri-Cities and Fort Wayne, in addition to being the starting shortstop in the San Antonio Missions playoff run last year.
He can really hit.
Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A): Every year we seemingly write that the staff at a certain level is the best in a long time in the organization. It’s not hyperbole; the Padres’ system has been really good the past few years. But the staff in Lake Elsinore will be really special. LHP MacKenzie Gore and RHP Luis Patino should be among the top three prospects in the organization next year and six-foot-seven righty Mason Thompson, a top draft pick in 2016, looks like the nagging injuries of the past two years are behind him and was throwing in the mid-90s in camp to go along with a very good slider and changeup.
Oh yeah, sometime in May RHP Anderson Espinoza, who before Tommy John surgery was considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and Osvaldo Herandez, who was one of the better pitchers in the Midwest League in 2018, will be joining them.
Shortstop Gabrial Arias, Catcher Luis Campusano and center fielder Jeisson Rosario are all very good, but the real story is that Tirso Ornelas and his sweet left-handed swing are coming.
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low-A): Top 2018 draft pick LHP Ryan Weathers looked as good as anyone in camp. When he’s on, Weathers throws three pitches any time in the count, is a plus fielder on the mound and has the poise of a pitcher in his mid-30s as opposed to the 19-year old that he is. Lefty – I know another left-hander – Joey Cantillo had the best stas in AZL last season and had a brief cameo in the Summit City. He has some funk in his delivery to go along with a good changeup.
The double-play combination of Xavier Edwards and Tucupita Marcano should attract attention with both their bats and gloves. Edwards can really run and is one of the more polished high school players in recent memory.
Finally thanks to everyone for being so supportive of our Spring Training coverage this year. For the first time, we were able to send two different teams out to Peoria and hopefully, our coverage helped everyone become aware of the type of talent that we saw on the back fields.