Synopsis: This may be the most exciting team in the system. The Storm feature a loaded starting staff headlined by MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño and it’s a high-upside outfield. Keep an eye on shortstop Gabriel Arias who will make his way into highlight reels and Luis Campusano, one of the better catchers in the organization’s deepest position.
Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, Padres Senior Director of Player Development:
The last time we asked you if the Storm rotation was the best it had ever been, it included Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Jake Nix, and Cal Quantrill. Is this one even better?
Sam Geaney: It has a chance to be. That group was very special, and we think this one can be too. I expect them all to be very solid.
Luis Campusano missed the end of last year with some concussion issues; how has he been this spring?
Sam Geaney: He’s healthy, and we are very excited by what he showed at the plate and with his receiving. It’s very tough for a player just out of high school to make it out of the Midwest League. We like the progress that he has made.
Jack Suwinski had a huge last month and looked great this spring. Do you plan to give him some time at first base too?
Sam Geaney: He’s in such a good spot to build on what he did last year, that for the time being, we are going to keep him in the outfield. Down the road, we may think of first base, but we like the way he hit at the end of the year and in spring. He should also see some time in center.
2019 Projected Lineup:
1B Olivier Basabe OF Jack Suwinski*
2B Esteury Ruiz CF Jeisson Rosario*
3B Eguy Rosario RF Tirso Ornelas*
SS Gabriel Arias OF Robbie Podorsky
C Luis Campusano
* indicates left-handed or switch-hitter
SP/LHP MacKenzie Gore RP/RHP JC Cosme
SP/RHP Luis Patiño RP/RHP Dylan Coleman
SP/RHP Mason Thompson RP/RHP Javier Guerra
SP/RHP Ronald Bolaños
SP/LHP Tom Cosgrove
SP/LHP Aaron Leasher
MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in Lake Elsinore: MacKenzie Gore (#2), Luis Patiño (#7), Tirso Ornelas (#17) and Jeisson Rosario (#19).
Catch a Rising Star: If MacKenzie Gore, 20, is healthy he has a chance to be one of the top prospects in baseball. Gore has a plus fastball, changeup, and slider – and his curveball is very close to being plus as well. Blisters affected his ability to spin his breaking balls in 2018, and too much time on the disabled list hampered his ability to have the precise fastball command that he showed in his first spring training.
This spring all those problems were gone.
Starting Pitching: If Gore and fellow lefty Adrian Morejon are the two top pitching prospects in the organization, Colombian Luis Patiño, 19, is not far behind. Patiño, despite being an even six feet, has mid-90s velocity on his fastball, a good changeup, and an effective slurvey breaking pitch. Like Gore, he is a premium athlete who has a lot of fun on the mound. Both Gore and Patiño could head to the land of the 72-ounce steak before the all-star break if he remains healthy. The Padres scored a coup when they landed six-foot-seven Texan Mason Thompson, 21, in the third round of the 2016 draft, after he missed nearly two years of high school baseball recovering from Tommy John surgery. Thompson endured two years of nagging injuries with the TinCaps, but looked great in spring training, sitting in the mid-90s and flashing a big slider. Cuban Ronald Bolaños, 22, was part of the Cuban contingent from the J2 class has “stuff” but has yet to put it together consistently in two years in the organization with a 4.86 ERA in 194 innings. Lefties Tom Cosgrove and Aaron Leasher, both 22, proved durable in their first full season after the Padres drafted them out of smaller colleges in 2017. Each struck out a batter per inning.
Righthander Anderson Espinoza, 21, once ranked among the top prospects in baseball but hasn’t pitched since 2016. He looked good in limited action in camp this spring. He’s staying in Extended Spring and if all goes well should join the Storm in early May. Osvaldo Hernandez, 20, another athletic lefthander, should arrive a little quicker. Hernandez was one of the better pitchers on the TinCaps staff last year with a 1.81 ERA in 109.2 innings.
Pen: While J.C. Cosme, and Dylan Coleman will probably play more significant roles out of the bullpen this season, former Storm shortstop Javier Guerra, 23, may be the most interesting reliever when he eventually arrives. MadFriars’ David Jay has the story about the strong-armed shortstop’s transition to the mound. Cosme, 22, put up strong numbers for the TinCaps after he came over from the Baltimore Orioles for Odrisamer Despaigne in the 2016 offseason, but missed most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. The organization believes his stuff will play up coming out of the bullpen. The six-foot-six Dylan Coleman, 22, who started at Missouri State before the Padres drafted him the fourth round in 2018. Coleman’s fastball/slider combination. works better in shorter bursts. He will likely work a regular multi-inning schedule.
Catching: In an organization where catching is a strength, Luis Campusano, 20, could be the best of the bunch. The Georgia prep product slashed .288/.345/.365 in the Midwest League while competing against players significantly older than he was and was solid defensively as well. He makes consistent hard contact and impressed with a low strikeout rate in his first full professional season.
Infield: Gabriel Arias, 19, might be the best fielding shortstop in the organization and his August slash line of .286/.353/.562 could be an indicator of things to come. If Arias is even an average hitter, he will be in the big leagues for many years. The glove and arm are real. Esteury Ruiz, 20, who came over with Matt Strahm from the Royals two years ago, reminds many of Alfonso Soriano, in that the slightly built Ruiz will take a hack at the plate and has the potential to turn into a 20 home run and 30 stolen base player. He’ll be asked to improve his defense and reduce last year’s 29% strikeout rate. Eguy Rosario, 19, flashed some pop as the youngest player in the California League last year. Olivier Basabe, 21, earned all-star recognition with a .382 wOBA in Tri-City before a promotion to Fort Wayne last year. Basabe played second, third, short and left in 2018, but will play mostly first this year.
Outfield: This is the best outfield in the Padres’ system, top to bottom. At six-foot-four and a lean 210-pounds, Tirso Ornelas, 19, may be the best true corner outfield prospect in the organization. A hand injury limited his time last season in Fort Wayne, but Ornelas has an exceptional eye at the plate, and the power is starting to come. The ambidextrous Jeisson Rosario, 19, Tirso’s best friend in the organization, is an electric defender in center field. He stole 18 bases but was caught 12 times – but that percentage should improve as he improves his reads. Rosario also shows exceptional strike zone command, but some question how much power he will develop. Jack Suwinski, 20, was enduring a miserable season when things started to click. He was hitting .208 on August 1 but torched the Midwest League for a .383/.443/.626 line in August. He was one of the top performers in camp this spring and has a chance to emerge as a key prospect going into 2020. Robbie Podorsky, 24, is the fourth outfielder and an indicator of how talented this group is, Podorsky hit .366 for the TinCaps before going down with injuries. He stole 23 bases in 24 attempts, and it’s hard not see Storm manager Tony Tarasco finding some way to get him in the lineup at every opportunity.
On the Spot: Esteury Ruiz is going to need to take a big leap forward to stay at second base. The Padres are loaded with middle infielders above and below him, and right now his glove is lagging behind his bat.
Under the Radar: While Tirso Ornelas is highly regarded as a left-handed power-hitting corner outfielder with enough defensive chops to fill in in center, Jack Suwisnki is not that far behind. Both could address one of the very few flaws in the Padres’ system, the lack of athletic power bats on the corners; particularly left-handed ones.
Both of them should very much enjoy the right-field wall at the Diamond.