Padres prospect CJ Abrams fields a ball in the AZL.

CJ Abrams will get every opportunity to stay on the infield for the Padres. (Photo: Joseph Coblitz/Burning River Baseball)

While instructional league programs across baseball have gotten shorter this decade, the annual fall development period remains a unique opportunity for young players to get highly-focused instruction time away from the day-to-day grind of the season.

Whether players are new to professional baseball, the organization, or just being asked to try new things, instructs provides a venue to work one-one-one with coaches and player development staff. While instructs used to be heavy on game settings, the Padres and many other organizations have shifted in recent years to fewer games and more controlled environments.

“We are running a three-week program,” said director of player development Ben Sestanovich. “All of them were fairly intense and thorough.  We thought the slightly shorter period was a nice way for the players to cap off their years.”

The 32 position players and 31 pitchers who reported to the Peoria Sports Complex this will work under the direction of more than 40 uniformed managers, instructors and coaches before arriving in San Diego for the Don Welke On Deck Classic on Tuesday, October 1. The game against the Texas Rangers’ instructional league group has become an annual showcase game for the Padres to highlight key young prospects and give them a taste of what could await at the game’s highest level.

While the Padres’ top pitching prospects have already reached their work limits for the year, the class at instructs includes several of the young arms from the 2017 and 2018 international classes who impressed during their first stateside exposure in the AZL this summer. Carlos GuarateGabriel Morales and Luarbert Arias, who will all feature in our AZL recap later this week, highlight a group of arms who hope to follow in the path charted by participants in last year’s program like Joey CantilloLuis Patino and MacKenzie Gore.

This year’s group ranges in age from righty Dauris Valdez, a 2016 signee who turns 24 next month, to lefthander Luis Gutierrez, who signed on July 31, his 16th birthday. Gutierrez, like the other three Top 30 international free agents the Padres signed this summer, is stateside for the first time.

On the mound, Gutierrez was joined by fellow Venezuelan Brayan Medina, who signed four weeks before him.

“We got them both in a few games and I came away impressed with just how they carried themselves and their poise on the mound for their first time wearing Padres’ uniforms and competing against older players,” said Sestanovich of the recent signees.

At the other end of the experience spectrum from the new additions to the system, Adrian Martinez is at the complex to cap off a strong campaign. The righty from Mexicali made his system debut before the Padres hired AJ Preller.

Taylor Trammell Padres prospect bats for Amarillo Sod Poodles

Taylor Trammell will follow his hot finish in Amarillo with th Padres instructional league program. (Photo: Eddie Kelly)

The two best prospects acquired by the club this year highlight the position player group. CJ Abrams, who was stellar after the Padres drafted him sixth overall, and trade acquisition Taylor Trammell will have the opportunity to get some extended exposure with Padres instruction staff.

“Anytime you acquire a player in mid-season just getting more time around them is important,” said Sestanovich to explain why Trammell is the only position player with experience above Hi-A Lake Elsinore participating in instructs. ” We didn’t have him in Spring Training, and he had never been to our complex.  So mainly it was a way for everyone to get to know each other better.”

The first six players the Padres selected in June are at the complex, but the group of college starting pitchers who the Padres drafted and saw limited action in their professional debuts after long spring seasons will get a full offseason before minicamp opens next February.

While the Padres have often used the instructional league as an opportunity to acclimate international players to the Peoria Sports Complex, shortstop Euribiel Angeles is the only player who spent the full season in the DSL who made the trip this year. The right-handed hitting 17-year-old struck out in just 10% of his plate appearances this summer.

Here is the full roster of 2019 Instructional League participants

Righthanded PitchersCatchers
Luarbert AriasJared Alvarez-Lopez
Matt BrashLogan Driscoll
Robert BrileyJonny Homza
Martin CarrascoBlake Hunt
Dylan ColemanTyler Malone
Keegan CollettBrandon Valenzuela
Efrain ContrerasGilbert Vizcarra
Mason Fox
Jeferson GarciaInfielders
Carlos GuarateCJ Abrams
Luis GutierrezLuis Almanzar
Henry HenryEuribiel Angeles
Reggie LawsonCharlie Aquino
Chris LincolnGabriel Arias
Frank LopezJordy Barley
Adrian MartinezXavier Edwards
Edgar MartinezChris Givin
Seth MayberryJustin Lopez
Brayan MedinaTucupita Marcano
Michell MilianoAnthony Nunez
Miguel RondonReginald Preciado
Mason ThompsonRipken Reyes
Dauris ValdezYeison Santana
Lefthanded PitchersOutfielders
Omar CruzHudson Head
Jesus GonzalezCristian Heredia
Gabriel MoralesGrant Little
Ramon PerezJoshua Mears
Bodi RasconIsmael Mena
Alexuan VegaTirso Ornelas
Noel VelaJunior Perez
Ryan WeathersJeisson Rosario
Agustin Ruiz
Angel Solarte
Taylor Trammell

Posted by David Jay

David has written for MadFriars since 2005, has published articles in Baseball America, written a monthly column for FoxSports San Diego and appeared on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He may be best known on the island of Guam for his photos of Trae Santos that appeared in the Pacific Daily News.

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