Synopsis: Triple-A differs from every other level because so many players have big league experience or arrived from various organizations as minor league free agents. This year’s Chihuahuas squad will feature top prospects Logan Allen, Josh Naylor, and Cal Quantrill along some acquisitions who could find their way to San Diego this year.
Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Player Development:
What does the organization hope to see from Luis Urías?
Sam Geaney: He didn’t swing the bat like we, and Luis, know he can this spring. Between the hamstring injury last year and a little setback this spring, it didn’t allow him to get the work in that he wanted to.
We are going to get him going again in El Paso and get him back to that good spot. There is nothing drastic that he has to work on.
The same type of question with Logan Allen; what does he need to tighten up?
Sam Geaney: He had an opportunity this spring to compete for a roster spot at the back of the rotation, and it didn’t quite happen. We have a lot of belief in Logan. We are going to need more than five starters this season, and we have every confidence that Logan will be one of those starters at some point during the season. At this point on what he’s going to work on, and I’m pretty sure this is what Logan would say too, is just become a little more consistent.
How much will we see of Josh Naylor in the outfield as opposed to first base?
Sam Geaney: I would expect to see him primarily in left field, although this year you are going to see him in right field occasionally too. We have a lot of confidence in Josh to be one of our best offensive players, and he has made strides defensively as well. He came into camp in better shape but still has some room to improve defensively.
2019 Projected Lineup:
1B Ty France/Alex Dickerson* LF Josh Naylor*
2B Esteban Quiroz* CF Michael Gettys
3B Seth Mejias-Brean/Jason Vosler* OF Jose Pierla
SS Luis Urías
C Austin Allen
* indicates left-handed or switch-hitter
SP/LHP Logan Allen RHP/RP Brad Wieck
SP/RHP Cal Quantrill RHPP/RP Eric Yardley
LHP/SP Jerry Keel RHP/RP Gerardo Reyes
LHP/SP Dillion Overton LHP/RP Phil Maton
LHP/SP Dietrich Enns
MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in El Paso: Logan Allen (#8), Josh Naylor (#10), Cal Quantrill (#14), and Austin Allen (#18).
Catch a Rising Star: One of the Padres’ favorite statistics for hitters is their chase rate, the number of times a hitter will swing outside the zone, usually at sliders. It’s one of the many offensive metrics that paint Josh Naylor in a positive light. Naylor has yet to truly tap into his power potential, but this year might. He’s the organization’s best left-handed power option, and if he can improve his outfield defense, he could make an appearance in San Diego.
Starting Pitching: Logan Allen, unless he loses it, will be the first starting pitcher up from the minors this season. Last year Allen, 21, was the best pitcher in the Texas League. When he is on, he uses a great four-pitch mix to pound the zone early. Cal Quantrill, 24, was the eighth overall pick in the 2016 draft and showed improvement last year with the Chihuahuas after struggling in Double-A San Antonio with a 5.15 ERA. The key for Quantrill will be to improve his fastball command and find an effective breaking ball. Jerry Keel, 25, was 10-4 between San Antonio and El Paso with a 4.60 ERA. He had 108 strikeouts against 41 walks in 148.2 innings but gave up 162 hits. Keel, who relies on a heavy mix of sinkers and sliders, was working this spring on mixing in different pitches to change batters’ eye levels. Dillion Overton, 26, was 7-2 last year with a 2.90 ERA and showed an ability to eat innings averaging nearly six innings a start. The Padres acquired Bryan Mitchell along with Chase Headley and his $13 million salary, which the team ate after the first six weeks of the season. Despite his enticing velocity, Mitchell’s performance has never matched his potential as he posted an ugly 38:43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 73 innings.
Pen: The bulk of the innings are going to be determined by the shuttle that will be going on between the Chihuahuas and the big club. Currently, Phil Maton, 26, who spent all of 2018 in San Diego but was sent down when the Padres acquired Matt Wisler will probably be the first one up. Gerardo Reyes had 69 strikeouts between San Antonio and Lake Elinore last year in 55 innings. He can hit 100 mph and has a very good slider as well.
Two longtime Padres’ farmhands, six-foot-nine Brad Wieck, 27, and Eric Yardley, 28, should anchor the Chihuahuas’ pen this year. Wieck is a reliever that relies on a sweeping fastball-slider combination, added a curve this Spring to give batters a different look. Yardley’s mid-80’s moving frisbees looked as good as they ever have this Spring with the addition of more vertical movement to go along with a pitch that runs across the strike zone.
Catching: Austin Allen, 25, hit 22 home runs in San Antonio last year and made significant improvements defensively behind the plate. Right now, he’s blocked at the major league level by Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia and being pushed by talented young catchers behind him. He also was at first base for 19 games last year as well as logging time at DH. He should anchor the middle of the Chihuahuas lineup this summer.
Infield: The infield will be a giant mix-and-match with many players playing multiple positions. Luis Urías, 21, will split time between shortstop and second. Ty France, 24, was terrific in El Paso after his call-up from San Antonio, hitting .287/.382/.532 last August. He’s going to see time mainly at third and first base but look for the organization to give him some time at second, left field and maybe even at catcher. With the Missions, France was a big favorite of San Antonio manager Phillip Wellman for his ability to hit with runners in scoring position, where he posted a slash-line of .298/.398/.550. Jason Vosler, 25, Seth Mejias-Brean, 27, and Esteban Quiroz, 27, were acquired by the organization through trades and minor league free agent signings during the offseason. Vosler, who came over in the Rowan Wieck deal with the Cubs in the offseason, hit a combined 23 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A for Chicago in 2018, and his left-handed bat could do some more damage in the PCL this year.
Outfield: A big question this year will be, what does Josh Naylor, 21, look like in the outfield? Because of Naylor’s big bat – and his ability to not swing outside the strike zone – the Padres are willing to find out. If Naylor is healthy, look for him to put up the best offensive numbers of his career. San Diego is happy with the strides he has made in the outfield, particularly in his work ethic to get better. Michael Gettys, 23, had a great offseason in Australia hitting .307/.398/.604 with 16 extra-base hits in 28 games. If you enjoy watching a player with tools, watching Gettys play was like opening presents on Christmas when you were a kid. The problem Gettys has had throughout his six-year minor league career is making contact for his tools to play. If the hit tool improves, everything is there. Defensively, he will see the lion’s share of his time in center, where his speed and arm make him an exceptional defensive player. Jose Pirela, 29, spent all last year on the Padres and the majority of 2017 in San Diego as well. Pierla will see time in right field as well as some at second base for whatever time he’s in the Sun City.
On the Spot: If this is the fourth preview that you have read in this series, you know Luis Urías has some competition in the middle infield below him. We’ve consistently written over the years that Urías’s bat-to-ball skills are as good as anyone we’ve seen and believed him to be a plus defender at second base. He needs to get off to a fast start and return to San Diego to get the big league repetitions now that will be crucial to his development.
Under the Radar: In a system loaded with left-handers, it’s easy to see how a pitcher like Jerry Keel doesn’t jump out. Keel looked good in the Spring and added a four-seamer he will throw to right-handed hitters along with a curve. If Keel can improve his numbers against righties, he could put himself in line for a call-up before younger pitchers complete the development they need before they arrive in the big leagues.