When MadFriars first started in 2003, each of the Padres’ six affiliates outside of the Complex Leagues – Portland, Oregon, Mobile, Alabama, Lake Elsinore, California, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Eugene Oregon and Idaho, Falls, Idaho (the first announcing job of long-time El Paso Chihuahuas broadcaster Tim Hagerty) – each had a local beat reporter that covered the team.
In 2021 we are down to four affiliates outside of the Complex League, and only one who can really be classified as a beat reporter, Dylan Sinn of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
Dylan is originally from Chicago, Illinois and went to Indiana University and still covers Indiana sports, mainly basketball along with Purdue and Notre Dame sports. He also chips in with prep sports, but in the spring and summer, you will find him in the press box at Parkview Field.
He was kind enough to share his thoughts on what he saw with the TinCaps in his fourth year of covering the team and first year in High-A.
Dylan Sinn: I’ll start with Robert Hassell III. He’s the type of guy that we have seen in the Padres’ system the last few years; hyper-competitive who loves playing the game. He’s obviously a very talented guy and we saw a little more power from him here than was advertised. He’s going to need to get stronger and develop more power as he gets closer to the big leagues but he was only the third Fort Wayne player to hit three home runs in a game – so there is some power there now. He also has a great eye and great bat-to-ball skills.
WIth Brandon Valenzuela he has a great eye as well; he walked a lot when he was here so that kind of fit into the team concept that we saw. Angeles, like Hassell, has some really great bat-to-ball skills and a good eye. He doesn’t quite have the power yet, but he also doesn’t strike out much either.
I’m not sure where they will end up next year because San Diego has been really aggressive in challenging guys, like we saw this past season with CJ Abrams.
Tirso Ornelas just seems to be a mass of potential. He really turned it on in the last month. What differences did you see?
Dylan Sinn: The biggest thing was at the end of the year because you kind of saw the type of hitter that the Padres wanted to see from the beginning. I talked to AC [Anthony Contreras, the TinCaps’ manager] in the middle of the season and he said that the biggest thing they were looking for was more of the line drives to get up in the air a little bit more.
Basically turn some of those gap-to-gap doubles into balls that go over the wall. He led the High-A Central in doubles this season and hit some mammoth home runs. They think he could become a big time run producer by doing that and we started to see more balls go into the air as the season went on.
He also has a really good approach for a power guy. He has a very good idea of the strike zone.
How about his outfield defense?
Dylan Sinn: He’s not bad and is capable of playing there. I almost wonder if they might give him a little look at first base too. He has a good arm as well and showed some ability in playing the angles of the outfield walls in Fort Wayne, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
Justin Lopez seems like he has been in Fort Wayne forever. Where do you see him in the future?
Dylan Sinn: He’s another guy that has been here for awhile and he’s also still very young. I thought he had a good year, but I think they still want to see a little more consistency from him. He may have been the streakiest hitter on the team. He would go through stretches when he really struggled, then have 12 or 13 hits in a six-game series.
That will be the biggest thing for him going forward, consistency because he has the talent.
Jonny Homza got a lot of attention early. How did he look defensively at catcher and what is his best other position?
Dylan Sinn: He played five different positions this year, primarily catcher. I thought he was a good defensive catcher, he threw out his share of guys. As everyone knows, he played the infield until he became a pro and has done well. For most of the year, he was the TinCaps’ best bat and he struggled at the end of the year with some shoulder issues. The shoulder made it difficult for him to play behind the plate and I think hurt him a little offensively as well.
He has a good bat, but more of a gap-to-gap power and he can run a little. He is not one of these plodding catchers, he can move. Other than catcher, he can play in the outfield corners and he’s a good third baseman too.
Danny Denz was a lot of fun to watch this season. What does he throw?
Dylan Sinn: He came up in July and had a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings. He’s not someone that throws really hard, but he has more than you think. He has a very good curve ball that is useful for what he likes to do. He struggled a little in September, but he had a really good year.
I would definitely keep an eye on him going forward.
Dylan Sinn: Both of them made May and June really fun to watch in Fort Wayne. They accepted their responsibilities of being the top two pitchers on the staff. Elliott had a game where he struck out 13 and gave up one hit in six innings. He was the High-A Central pitcher of the month. He commands his fastball really well, and its not a big velocity fastball – 90 to 91 mph and that allows him to use his offspeed pitches in any count.
I was talking with Adam Kerner, one of the team’s catchers this year, and he said you could move the mitt anywhere in the zone and Elliott could hit it. The command is the key for him.
Waldron has a really interesting repertoire with the knuckler becoming a bigger and bigger part of it. The interesting thing is he still throws hard because he can get up to 93 or 94 with his fastball. His knuckler is more like an R.A. Dickey type, in that its a harder knuckler as compared to Tim Wakefield’s. His knuckler comes in at 80 to 81 mph, which is also different. There were times when he struggled with control, as all knuckleballers do, but it’s a really interesting combination.
One other thing about Waldron that fascinated me it that he hasn’t been throwing the pitch for very long. He just started throwing it at the end of Spring Training and the guy he was playing catch with said you should show that to the pitching coach, because its pretty good.
Then it became a big part of what he did this season. So he is only scratching the surface of what he can do.
I enjoyed Moises Lugo too. Where was his biggest improvement?
Dylan Sinn: He is a guy that flew under the radar and I think we are going to start hearing a lot more about him from prospect writers going forward. He has stuff. He got up to 96 mph while he was here. The issue with Moises was command, which got better as he progressed as the year went on. He also has a very good slider that he can throw for strikes or to get batters to chase.
So yes, I think the biggest thing for him going forward is command which will allow him to go deeper into games.
Last how about the bullpen. Who stood out?
Dylan Sinn: The one that comes to mind is Erik Sabrowski, who started the year and then moved into the rotation before he got hurt. He was coming off of Tommy John surgery and he looked really good. The fastball is around 92 to 94 mph and he has a great curveball – it might be the best that I have ever seen. It’s just an absolute hammer with a huge bite to it at around 72 to 74 mph. I am not sure if he is a starter or a reliever, but if its out of the pen that combination will play.
Some of the guys that came up at the end of the year, Kevin Kopps he was as advertised. I also liked Carter Loewen, who unfortunately got hurt. He was up to 96 mph and I think he will rise quickly as well.