Synopsis: Ryan Weathers will get most of the attention, but the middle infield could be the stars by the end of the year. A few talented outfielders and some under-the-radar pitchers should make it another fun summer in the Summit City.
Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Senior Director of Player Development:
Ryan Weathers looked very good this spring. What is the most significant improvement that you have seen since you first saw him after he was drafted?
Sam Geaney: He went home and developed a slider, which is something he didn’t have last year and was determined to come back with. As you saw during spring training, he’s added a pretty good one. He can now throw all four pitches and is a fun guy to watch.
To quote Abbott and Costello, who’s on first?
Sam Geaney: About four guys; Lee Solomon, Nick Gatewood, Juan Fernandez, and Blake Hunt. We might even throw Justin Lopez over there occasionally, where he played in the Don Welke Classic.
As an organization, we like having the positional flexibility that this offers, particularly with catchers also playing first base.
You have a trio of exciting middle infielders in Xavier Edwards, Tucupita Marcano, and Justin Lopez. What should people expect to see this year from them?
Sam Geaney: Xavier and Tucu are two of the more advanced young hitters that we have. Both can run, put the ball in play and are outstanding defenders. Justin just had a great camp and off-season. He struggled a bit in the offseason in Australia, but when he was here, we were able to see some returns on what we sent him to work on.
There was a lot of growth. He’s running better; he’s always had a good set of hands and lot of the projection that Chris [Kemp, the Padres Director of International Scouting] saw in him.
2019 Projected Lineup:
1B Lee Solomon/Nick Gatewood* LF Dwanya Williams-Sutton
2B Xavier Edwards# OF Grant Little
SS Justin Lopez# OF Agustin Ruiz*
3B Tucupita Marcano* OF/DH Jawuan Harris
C Blake Hunt/Juan Fernandez
* left-handed hitter/#switch hitter
SP/LHP Ryan Weathers RP/LHP Dan Dallas
SP/LHP Joey Cantillo RP/RHP Carlos Belen
SP/LHP Ramon Perez RP/RHP Henry Henry
SP/RHP Angel Acevedo RP/RHP Jose Quezada
SP/RHP Efrain Contreras
SP/RHP Gabe Mosser
MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in Fort Wayne: INF Xavier Edwards (#13), SP Ryan Weathers (#15), Tucupita Marcano (#20)
Catch a Rising Star: Ryan Weathers doesn’t have the same ceiling as MacKenzie Gore, but he is incredibly polished as a 19-year-old. The MVP of his state’s high school basketball tournament is athletic on the mound and fields his position well.
If he performs like the Padres’ development staff expect, he should be in Lake Elsinore by the end of the year.
Starting Pitching: The TinCaps will go with a six-man staff and Weathers should be the ace. Joey Cantillo, 19, had the best results for the two Padres entries in the AZL last year holding the opposition to a .198 batting average and a 2.18 ERA in 45.1 innings. He’s got some funk in his delivery and batters have trouble picking up the ball. Ramon Perez, 19, was our pick for the top pitcher with the Tri-City Dust Devils after the Cuban lefty cut his walks and increased his strikeout rate from 2017. Efrain Contreras, 19, is a slightly undersized righthander at five-foot-ten, but the Mexican native struck out 76 in 68 innings against only 14 walks between the Dominican Summer League, AZL and the Northwest League. Angel Acevedo, the second oldest on the staff at 20, was one of the better pitchers in the Northwest League with his ability to mix pitches and pound the zone. He doesn’t have as much velocity as you may want to see in a starter, but he’s not going to beat himself. Finally, Gabe Mosser, at 22 – the AARP candidate of the TinCaps staff – was a 27th round draft pick of last year’s draft and found a way rise among the rest with 41 strikeouts in 30.1 innings against only seven walks in Tri-Cities and looked good in three starts with the TinCaps in 2018.
Pen: Dan Dallas, 21, was an All-Star in the Northwest League and the Buffalo, New York’s native has taken off since he moved to the pen with his fastball/slider combination. Henry Henry, 20, yes, it is a fabulous name, was transferred to the bullpen from a starter last year where the organization believes his fastball will play up more. Carlos Belen, 23, who has been in Fort Wayne before as a position player is now a fireballing reliever with a big fastball. Jose Quezada, 23, an undersized righty, drafted as an under-slot senior sign out of Texas Tech in the 10th round last year, gets his fastball on hitters quickly and can spin a nasty slider in late-inning work.
Catching: The TinCaps have three guys who can catch, and each should also get some time at first. Six-foot-four Blake Hunt, 20, will get most of the repetitions behind the plate. Hunt had a monster August for Tri-City, hitting .316/.378/.506 and looked like he was still hot in spring. Injuries prevented Nick Gatewood, 21, from catching last year, but the left-handed slugger hit .283/.323/.443 in the AZL last year after three years at Georgia State. Juan Fernandez, 20, returns to Fort Wayne after a wrist injury cut his 2018 campaign short.
Infield: Xavier Edwards, Tucupita Marcano, and Justin Lopez will form one of the more exciting infields in the Midwest League this summer. All three will rotate among second, third and shortstop, but Lopez – still only 18 but already in his third professional season – will see most of the time at shortstop. The switch-hitter is one of the better athletes, in an athletic system, and his added strength should help him outperform his previous statistics. The Padres selected Edwards, also a switch-hitter, out of high school in South Florida as a Competitive Balance A pick and convinced him to bypass Vanderbilt. He tore up the AZL and Northwest League with a .346/.453/.409 slash line to go along with stellar defensive instincts at shortstop and 22 stolen bases in 23 attempts. The 19-year old should see most of his time at second base and occupy the leadoff spot. Marcano, 19, has one of the better left-handed swings in the organization. He hit.395 in Arizona before “slumping” to only .314 for Tri-City. Lee Solomon, 22, hit .298/.365/.517 and paced Arizona League Padres with seven homers. A middle infielder in college, he’ll primarily play first base.
Outfield: Grant Little, 21, and Agustin Ruiz, 19, are the two headliners in the outfield, with Little seeing most of the time in center, and Ruiz in right. The Padres used their second competitive balance pick on Little after his.370/.462/.642 performance for Texas Tech. After a long college season and a minor thumb injury, Little struggled in his pro debut with the Dust Devils but could impress with his speed and gap power. A big second half propelled Ruiz to a top-10 finish for slugging and OPS in the AZL. If he can keep lowering his strikeout rate, the trend will continue upward. Jawuan Harris, 22, was a two-sport star at Rutgers and Dwanya Williams-Sutton, 21, has big-time tools but injuries at East Carolina prevented him from fully realizing his potential.
On the Spot: Luis Almanzar. In 2016, the Padres gave him one of the biggest bonuses in team history at $ 4 million dollars, but he is going to have to fight to get on the field with the talent in front of him at third and first base. He’s only 19, but a career .206/.278/.271 slash line in 592 plate appearances is not a great return so far.
Under the Radar: Justin Lopez may have as much athletic talent as anyone on the roster, and the Padres seem convinced this might be the season he emerges as a two-way contributor at shortstop.