Ben Sestanovich is in his first year as the Padres’ Director of Player Development after serving as the Assistant Director of Player Development for the previous three years. In college, Ben pitched for Harvard University finishing his senior year second on the team with a 3.26 ERA in 30 innings.
He was kind enough to take some time with us to discuss some of the top Padres’ prospects to appear at Double-A Amarillo in 2019. Today is the fifth of our six-part series on each of the team’s affiliates.
You acquired Taylor Trammell, one of the top outfield prospects in baseball, at the trade deadline. What were your initial thoughts of him, and do you think he can stay in center field?
Ben Sestanovich: After Taylor came over, we ran him out in center field every day and saw some nice development defensively. We were excited to get him; an athletic left-handed bat that can hit at the top of the lineup and gets on-base at a high clip.
Edward Olivares had a big year. What do you see as his greatest asset?
Ben Sestanovich: Oly has always been tough to punch out; he makes a lot of contact. I thought this year he had a better approach at the plate. He took some real strides and the on-base factor came more into his game; which we want to see continue.
What was Luis Torrens‘ biggest improvement this year?
Ben Sestanovich: I think he became a better all-around player on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he would tell you that he wasn’t that happy with his previous season in Lake Elsinore. He really went to work in Winter ball, and it carried over into this year. The offensive numbers were good, but defensively I thought his receiving improved and he controlled the running game much better. Also, his pregame preparation with the pitchers really took a step forward.
Owen Miller hit .290/.355/.430 in his first full year of professional baseball. Does the organization see him as a second baseman or a shortstop going forward and what do you want to see him improve upon?
Ben Sestanovich: It was a big jump in terms of competition for Owen – advancing to Double-A. In terms of his position we want to keep him playing both second and shortstop and one thing that we’ve stressed to him is to stay agile so he can play a variety of positions.
Hudson Potts struggled in Double-A as a 19-year old. What steps does he need to take to improve?
Ben Sestanovich: He’s a guy who definitely faced some challenges in the Texas League this summer, but we can also lose sight of the fact that he was the youngest player in that league for most of the year. He had an oblique injury that he worked though, and it was an up-and-down year for him. He has big power, especially to right-center and that is something that we want to continue to accentuate.
I caught one of Reggie Lawson’s starts in early May and was really impressed. Is he back to full health and what is the biggest advance that he has made?
Ben Sestanovich: Reggie has always been a hard worker and the velocity kicked up this year. His fastball really plays, and his secondary pitches have improved as well. The curve has gotten a little harder and the changeup will flash plus. He’s really developed his total arsenal and he’s been impressive in the Arizona Fall League.
Nick Margevicius had a strong first month in San Diego but was sent down after a rough stretch as the season went on. What type of improvement did you want to see from Nick?
Ben Sestanovich: Nick has always thrown good strikes and he can really fill up the zone. The big focus with him was working on his glove-side fastball and making sure that he was working with a delivery that would allow him to use all of his pitches.
David Bednar was great coming out of the bullpen. What made him so tough?
Ben Sestanovich: To me, it was two things; his ability to throw his curveball for a strike when he was behind in the count and to get a swing and miss with his split-finger when he needed it. The split became a real swing-and-miss pitch which he could use to end at-bats.
What caused the big spike in velocity with Ronald Bolaños?
Ben Sestanovich: I think it was intent. This spring, we put some data in front of Ronald and let him know how well his fastball played at higher velocities and I think that kind of shifted what he was doing on the mound.
You can read up on our top player and pitcher from Amarillo and all of our 2019 season wrap-ups.