Before most of us were about to decamp for Spring Training 2020, COVID-19 struck and shut down everything. However, beyond our early camp coverage, some of our friends from FriarLounge.com were able to make it out. Below is a recap of some of the players they got to see when they visited Peoria back in early March in Peoria.
Reginald Preciado – Infielder/Outfielder
Reggie Preciado, a switch-hitting Panamanian was in Padres minicamp back in February, which says quite a bit about what the Padres think of the kid and his potential. Preciado, 16 at the time, is lanky at 6-feet-4 and 185 pounds with tools and potential. Preciado, who only turned 17 in May, was assigned by the Padres to the Dominican Summer League (DSL) March 4 just before things started to shut down in the US as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
In the spring, Preciado was often paired with shortstop CJ Abrams inside drills, so much so they had their own personal handshake.
Preciado played both shortstop and third base during the intrasquad games and held his own with the bat. He almost certainly will put more weight and muscle on his tall frame in the coming years and he could play as either a third baseman or corner outfielder when the dust settles because of his already large frame.
Blake Hunt – Catcher
Blake Hunt, a 21-year-old catcher, sometimes gets overlooked in the Padres’ stacked minor league system, particularly with the presence of highly touted catching prospect Luis Campusano. Hunt, a Southern California native from Costa Mesa, was part of the same 2017 draft class as Campusano.
He played last year at Fort Wayne getting over 400 plate appearances and showed some pop and the ability to drive the ball around the field. The 6-foot-4 Hunt is best known for his skills behind the dish and showed poise and leadership behind the plate with the Friars’ pitching staff. He showed a quick pop time while throwing out would-be base stealers during the backfield games and could be one to watch for the future.
Yeison Santana – Shortstop
Santana is a shortstop who showed some promise in the short-season Arizona Rookie League in 2019 with a .346/.429./.494 slash line in 185 plate appearances. He is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds with decent speed and could have been bound for Fort Wayne before the pandemic.
He will get looks around the diamond and could profile more as a second baseman. In Peoria, Santana showed quickness out of the box legging out several hard-hit infield singles and looked fluid in the field, bouncing between second and shortstop. Santana has plenty of speed as a top of the order bat but has work to do as a base stealer. He was thrown out in half of his attempts thus far in his career, but there is a buzz about this kid who took a big leap forward from his year in the DSL in 2018.
Justin Lopez – Shortstop/Infielder
Justin Lopez has three years under his belt in the organization after signing out of Venezuela in the Padres’ heralded international class of 2016. Lopez has played second base, shortstop, and third since joining the organization but has yet to put everything together. The switch-hitter has power but needs to cut down on the strikeouts and show more consistency with the bat, after another mediocre line in 2019 at Fort Wayne.
His next season will be his fourth in the system and expectations are certainly starting to grow. In the backfield games at the Peoria Sports Complex, he was aggressive at the plate and hit the ball hard on several occasions from both sides of the plate and was noticeably trying to see more pitches and work on his plate discipline. He spent much of his time in the field at third base.
Joshua Mears – Corner Outfield
On first look, Joshua Mears could pass as a linebacker in the NFL. If you are looking for a comp Justin Upton comes to mind, but Mears a right fielder is even bigger at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds.
The Padres drafted Mears, 19, in the second round last year. He is a raw talent that was clearly working on his plate discipline while in backfield games in Peoria, rarely swinging the bat but going deep in counts and took at least several walks in one of the games we saw. He struck out 36% of the time in his short stint in the AZL last year which clearly needs to improve, but he also had his best month in August and may have been sent him to Fort Wayne.
Hudson Head – Center Field/Corner Outfield
Hudson Head earned the largest bonus ever for a third-rounder when he signed out of high school in Texas last year. Head had already committed to the University of Oklahoma, but the Padres over-slot offer was enough to convince him to forgo his scholarship. He had 120 AB’s in the AZL in 2019, posting a solid .283/.383/.417 line and played all three outfield positions. He looks pretty fluid in center, his natural position.
During a recent interview with FriarLounge, Head mentioned that he showed up early to his first minor league camp and ended up spending quality time with Padres outfielder Josh Naylor and also minor league outfielder Grant Little. Naylor shared stories of his path to San Diego, who was also a drafted out of high school. Head looked good, showing good plate discipline at times while also being aggressive when getting his pitch.
He grew up emulating the swing and plate approach of former Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton who he watched the Texas Rangers. The Padres had Head batting at the top of the lineup, batting third in the lineup behind CJ Abrams and Tucupita Marcano the day we saw him during a backfield game.
Tirso Ornelas – Corner Outfielder
The 20-year old outfielder from Tijuana, Mexico has posted mixed results in three years in the Padres system. His 2019 was a disappointment as his strikeout rate went up at High-A Lake Elsinore, with both his batting average and power numbers down.
In Peoria, Ornelas’s performance was very much like what the Padres have seen thus far, full of mixed results. In his first at-bat against Ryan Weathers, he chased a fastball up and out of the zone while striking out, then against lesser talent later in the game slashed a stand up triple to the gap. Like Lopez, Ornelas’s upcoming season will be a big one for his future. He is a big talented outfielder who has lots of tools and potential, now he needs the results to match.