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 in 2019 at Triple-A El Paso. Today is the sixth, and final interview, of our six-part series on each of the team’s affiliates.
Ty France was a 34th-round draft pick in 2015 and has improved every season. What were the biggest steps he took this year?
Ben Sestanovich: One thing, I think, that seemingly is always lost when discussing Ty is that he has always been able to hit. He showed that at San Diego State and he performed in his first year with Tri-City. To me, the big difference with him is each year he has consistently come into Spring Training in better shape and that has put him in a good spot to go out and perform.
I thought when he was in San Diego, he did a good job playing both second and third and he continues to improve.
Austin Allen has always been able to hit. What did you see from him defensively this year?
Ben Sestanovich: He has taken big strides, particularly in his receiving. Catchers have a way to impact the game in so many ways, and in the past three years we have seen him make real strides in his overall game behind the dish.
We got a lot of questions on Luis Urías this year. What was the main part of his game that the front office wanted to see him develop in El Paso?
Ben Sestanovich: Luis has always been an extremely talented hitter, particularly in his ability to drive the ball to all fields. For us, I think the challenge when we sent him back to Triple-A was to get him back into being that type of hitter.
From the second time he came up to the end of the year, he had an on-base percentage of .341, and I think that we started to see the adjustments translate into his performance on the field.
Michael Gettys hit 31 home runs but still struggled with making consistent contact – 168 strikeouts in 128 games. What is the plan going forward with Michael?
Ben Sestanovich: Michael has always been a very exciting player in terms of his tools; he has always been able to run, hit for power, throw and defend in center – the hit tool is the piece that we need to see continue to improve.
Seth Mejias-Brean had a good year and won some fans with his play after getting a call-up. Where do you see his future?
Ben Sestanovich: Seth was a very consistent part of the El Paso line-up for the whole season. His ability to play multiple positions and have quality at-bats made him a logical choice to add to the big league roster in September.
Jerry Keel threw the most innings for you guys in a really tough hitter’s environment. What did you see from Jerry this year?
Ben Sestanovich: Some of the traditional numbers in the Pacific Coast League can lead you down some strange paths given how offensive that environment was this year. What impressed me most about Jerry is that he took the ball every fifth or sixth day and gave his team a chance to win. There were some things that we worked on with him in terms of pitch usage that we saw some improvement.
Trevor Megill had a nice year with 71 strikeouts against 19 walks in 50.1 innings. What improved with Trevor this year?
Ben Sestanovich: For Trevor, it was just being healthy. Staying on the mound has been elusive for him the past few years, but when he’s healthy the numbers and results that you referenced followed.
I’ve always thought Eric Yardley is one of the better stories in the organization. Where has Eric gotten better in the past few years?
Ben Sestanovich: The lower slot that Eric throws from was always going to be a challenge with left-handed hitters; as it was kind of a similar question for Adam Cimber a few years ago. Eric throws a ton of strikes and has command of two different pitches.
Managers like using him because they know he’s going to throw it over and the movement on his pitches generates a lot of groundballs.