Padres prospect Joey Cantillo pitching for Fort Wayne TinCaps

Joey Cantillo was dominant for Fort Wayne in 2019. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Summary

The TinCaps had a few strong pitching prospects who should end up on year-end top prospects lists for the Padres, most notably Joey Cantillo and Ryan Weathers.  There are some sleepers that also could be valuable coming out of the bullpen including Henry Henry, and an interesting trio of Mexican pitchers who can either start or relieve. 

Overview

We use a simple formula for the awards. Whichever team the player appeared for most is where he is eligible. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.

Level

Low-A is the bottom rung of full-season ball, so it can be difficult to gauge how meaningful a prospect’s performance is in the grand scheme of things.  Some pundits focus primarily on the ability and potential demonstrated while others shift their gaze to the consistency of performance.

We lean toward a more a middle-of-the-road evaluation, relying on a couple of questions to filter through it: (1) how old is a prospect compared to the competition; (2) how raw or developed is the prospect heading into full-season ball; and (3) is he making the necessary adjustments in terms of mechanics and approach?

Joey Cantillo, Padres prospect pitching for Fort Wayne TinCaps

Joey Cantillo delivers yet again for the TinCaps in a dominant 2019 season. (Photo: Stephen Zabrecky)

2019 TinCaps Pitcher of the Year and Top Prospect

LHP/SP Joey Cantillo 1.93 ERA 128 K 27 BB 58 H 98 IP (unanimous)

A year after Cantillo, 19, got the nod as our pitcher of the year in the Arizona League, he got better this season. The big lefty added a few ticks on his fastball and developed more consistency with his changeup and the beginnings of a very good curveball.  The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Hawaiian will sit in the low 90s but can touch 94, which is a huge jump from where it was in high school.  

He started his pro career as one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft class and, while the physical tools are there, his most impressive feature might be his continuing ability to find ways to get better, both physically and translating coaching into increasingly better performances on the field. 

He was a late-season promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore and should lead the Storm staff in 2020.

Efrain Contreras led Fort Wayne in innings pitched. Photo: Jeff Nycz.

Runner-Up: RHP/SP Efraín Contreras 3.61 ERA  121 K 32 BB 97 H 109.2 IP (unanimous)

Contreras, 19, led the TinCaps staff with 109.2 innings pitched and continually pounded the zone with his fastball, changeup and curve. On the road, the Ciudad Juarez native had a 2.02 ERA in 62.1 innings as opposed to a 5.70 mark in 47.1 at home. Originally an unheralded 17-year-old signee in 2017, Contreras took some initial steps to get in better shape last offseason, but still has some work to do on that front. He’s only around 6-feet, 200-pounds so his durability will be a question, but the organization will let him start until he proves that he can’t.

Others of Note:  Ryan Weathers was the club’s top draft pick in 2018. At times, the lefthander was dominant with a potent three-pitch mix of a fastball, changeup and a slurvy breaking ball. The 19-year-old came out of the gate strong, posting a 1.82 ERA and showing a spike in velocity across five April starts, but missed three weeks with an undefined forearm issue and didn’t show the same stuff upon his return. While Weathers ended up throwing 96 innings, third most on the staff, he logged just 40 strikeouts over his final 50 frames. A full winter of health and conditioning should go a long way toward converting on his abilities more consistently.

The organization moved Henry Henry to the bullpen full-time where his fastball/slider combination played up. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound righthander threw 81.1 innings with 80 strikeouts against 16 walks, largely in multi-inning, high-leverage appearances. Henry has always had a big fastball, but this year he knew where it was going more

Omar Cruz in action with the TinCaps. Photo: Brad Hand.

often and his slider came a long way. … Omar Cruz, 19, didn’t arrive in the Midwest League until late June, but put up solid numbers for the TinCaps. The lefty posted a 2.76 ERA in 49 innings with 62 strikeouts against only 13 walks. Already physically mature while somewhat undersized, the Mexican native pounds the zone with three decent offerings. … Mexicali native Adrian Martinez, 22, has a more prototypical build than his countrymen and can get his fastball into the upper 90s. One of the Preller regime’s first international signees back in 2015, the righthander missed all of 2016 following Tommy John surgery and took some extra time to bounce back. He stepped into the rotation in August and performed well enough for an end-of-year promotion. … Gabe Mosser, 23, had a strong run for the TinCaps the year after the Padres selected him in the 27th round out of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. The righty posted a 4.25 ERA with a strong 76:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 72 innings before moving up to Lake Elsinore. Mosser’s ERA dropped to 4.00 for the Storm as the organization ratcheted back his workload, but his K rate went down and walk tally increased at the higher level.

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.

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