Synopsis: Affiliated baseball returns to Amarillo after a 37-year absence. While this probably isn’t the Padres best minor league affiliate, Sod Poodles fans will see plenty of talent at Hodgetown including Adrian Morejon, among the top left-handed prospects in the game.
Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Player Development:
What are your plans with Hudson Potts going forward?
Sam Geaney: It’s a bat we believe in and I would look for the majority of his time to be spent at third base. We are also going to have him get some reps in at second base.
What is the biggest improvement you have seen in Adrian Morejon from last year?
Sam Geaney: Adrian was flashing above-average stuff and you would see him hit one out of three really nasty breaking balls. Now because he has made some improvements in his delivery, he has gone from someone flashing above-average stuff to consistently plus.
Owen Miller has really hit since the draft. What do you see as his biggest challenge playing a full year in Double-A?
Sam Geaney: He’s moved up to a very advanced level very rapidly. We are going into it with our eyes open and we expect to see some adversity. Playing shortstop defensively night-in and night-out will also be a big challenge, but we have confidence he is going to be able to raise his game. It’s a big jump.
2019 Projected Lineup:
1B Brad Zunica* OF Edward Olivares
2B Matthew Batten OF Buddy Reed*
3B Hudson Potts LF Jorge Ona
SS Owen Miller
C Luis Torrens
* indicates a left-handed or switch hitter
SP/LHP Adrian Morejon RP/RHP Andres Munoz
SP/RHP Reggie Lawson RP/RHP David Bednar
SP/RHP Pedro Avila RP/RHP Dauris Valdez
SP/RHP Jesse Scholtens
SP/RHP Lake Bachar
SP/RHP Emanuel Ramirez
MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in Amarillo: Adrian Morejon (#6), Hudson Potts (#11), and Michel Báez (#9) should join them once he’s healthy
Catch a Rising Star: Adrian Morejon, 20, was one of the main reasons the Padres decided to spend big in the 2016 international market. Morejon is arguably the best pitcher that San Diego will send out to the upper minors this year. He’s not the tallest guy in the world, but he can consistently bring a high mid-90s fastball, to go along with a very good changeup, curve and a knuckle-curve (which is a type of changeup, only with more of a drop).
Starting Pitching: After Morejon, one of the more exciting pitchers to watch in the San Diego system is Reggie Lawson, 21. Every bit of six-foot-four, he added a devastating slider to his big league-ready four-seam fastball during instructs last fall. Pedro Avila, 22, is another example of San Diego General Manager A.J. Preller trading a superfluous major league player for a low-level minor leaguer with a chance. Avila was a little too hittable last year with the Storm, which resulted in an ERA of 4.27. He isn’t the biggest guy but his three-pitch mix has resulted in over 300 strikeouts in his last two seasons in the Padres system. Jesse Scholtens, 24, was one of the better pitchers in Double-A San Antonio for the first six weeks of the season, before struggling in Triple-A El Paso and then returning to the Missions. Lake Bachar, 23, has split time between the starting rotation and bullpen since the Padres drafted him from a D-III University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2016. He has among the highest breaking ball spin rates in the system.
Pen: The bullpen will be a major strength for this team. Andres Munoz, 20, has one of the most electric arms in the Padres’ system. He regularly sits around 100 MPH but can run into problems controlling both his fastball and slider consistently. David Bednar, 24, saved 10 games last summer for the Storm and struck out 96 in 69.1 innings against only 29 walks. He would have gotten more opportunities to close if not for Dauris Valdez, 23. The gigantic righty – he’s every bit of six-foot-nine, and at least around 265-pounds – also has a triple-digit fastball, but 29 walks, 3 hit batters, and 17 wild pitches in 53 innings attest to his need for refinement. We saw more consistency from him this spring.
Catching: Luis Torrens, 22, logged only 135 plate appearances while spending all of 2017 on the Padres roster as a Rule 5 selection. Last season in High-A, he set career highs in virtually every offensive category, hitting .280/.320/.406, with 36 doubles, six home runs. While he sometimes appeared disconnected behind the plate, he has made improvements defensively.
Infield: Hudson Potts, 20, and Owen Miller, 22, will get most of the attention in the Sod Poodles’ inaugural year. The Padres drafted Potts out of Southlake Carroll High School in 2016 at only 17 years old. He was one of the top offensive performers in the Cal League last year with 35 doubles and 17 home runs before joining the Missions in August. With the signing of Manny Machado, the Padres plan to give the six-foot-four Potts some time at second base. Miller posted a .345 batting average in three years for the Illinois Redbirds, then kept up his performance with a .336/.386/.460 line between Tri-City and Fort Wayne. Miller sprays line drives all around the field but may need to show more patience against pitchers who can throw more pitches for strikes more often. He will see time at second and third in addition to shortstop. The left-handed hitting Brad Zunica, 23 – another massive human being at six-foot-six, 260-pounds – has shown flashes in his four-year career but needs to make contact more consistently. Anytime a player that is drafted in the 32nd round makes a Double-A roster and is expected to start, it’s a great story. Matt Batten, 23, out of Quinnipiac University – a school better-known for its political polling than baseball – hit .260/.368/.337 for the Missions last year. Kyle Overstreet, 25, will see time at third, first and some at catcher. Overstreet hit .287/.327/.367 and usually finds his way into a lineup in big games.
Outfield: In a system full of premium athletes, Buddy Reed, 23, may be the best. He absolutely tore up the Cal League hitting .324/.371/.549 with 33 stolen bases in 79 games. He put on a show in the Futures Game, before struggling to a .179/.227/.235 line in San Antonio. Reed bounced back in the Arizona Fall League at .333/.397./485 after a tough time in Double-A. The question is which version will show up in 2019. Edward Olivares, 23, who came over in the Yangervis Solarte trade, excelled in the second half with the Storm, hitting .300/.346/.462. Some believe he could be a better defensive center fielder than Reed. Either way, both will cover a huge amount of ground in the Sod Poodles outfield. Jorge Oña, 22, will be the left fielder. He has struggled to produce in two seasons with the organization but was highly regarded for his bat before leaving Cuba.
On the Spot: The Padres gave Jorge Oña the second-highest bonus in team history, but he has struggled to stay on the field. Defensively, he is limited to left field and he is going to have to show much more power to have a chance at the big leagues.
Under the Radar: Since Owen Miller was drafted last summer, he has hit, and hit and then hit some more. The Wisconsin native is probably a better fit at second base than shortstop, but his bat will play.