Kevin Kopps made his Double-A debut in San Antonio. (Photo: Joe Alexander)

Synopsis: The Missions have an interesting mix of veterans with big league experience and a few holdovers from the Padres’ 2016 international spending spree. The club doesn’t feature any top prospects but could contend in the re-branded Texas League.

Three Strikes with Mark Conner, Padres Minor League Field Coordinator

Tirso Ornelas has shown glimpses of what he can do on the field. What was the biggest thing the organization was working with him on to get the ball in the air more?

Mark Conner: He has shown ability over the years to put flashes together and he had a tremendous winter. The organization as a whole has been working with him, from the hitting coaches to the sports science division to lift the ball more and it is one of the last things to come.

A lot of the discussions with him have been on the swing path, the body movements, contact point and pitch selection. This spring he made really good strides and I look forward to the year ahead with him.

Chandler Seagle might be the best defensive catcher in the system but has struggled to hit. With Jonny Homza sidelined, does he have an opportunity to assert himself this summer?

Chandler Seagle (Photo: Jerry Espinoza).

Mark Conner: Yes, he definitely does. Chandler is an outstanding defender and has shown a well-above ability to block, receive and throw. Honestly, over the years he has continued to improve as a player. He has great self-evaluation skills to go along with a great work ethic.

Pitchers love throwing to him and he will get a lot of opportunities. Chandler has also put in the time with his offense which still needs some work, but there have been some strides in that area.

Any timetable for Reggie Lawson, and are you trying to send him back out as a starter when he is ready? And Efrain Contreras?

Mark Conner: Reggie has done well with his progressions through the rehab and has thrown a few simulated games. We really don’t have an exact timetable, but he is on the mound throwing to hitters in simulated games and is in a good spot. We still definitely see him as a starter long term.

Contreras is very similar and is also in a good place. The last time he threw it went well too and both guys are on good tracks. Barring no setbacks, we should see both by mid-summer.

2022 Projected Lineup

C: Chandler Seagle
1B: Brandon Dixon
2B: Connor Hollis
SS: Korry Howell
3B: Mitch Walding
LF: Esteury Ruiz
CF: Agustin Ruiz
RF: Tirso Ornelas
DH: Jorge Ona
UTIL: Korry Howell
SP: LHP Osvaldo Hernandez
SP: RHP Moises Lugo
SP: RHP Gabe Mosser
SP: RHP Matt Waldron
RP: RHP Kevin Kopps
RP: LHP Gabe Morales
RP: LHP Tom Cosgrove
RP: RHP Henry Henry

MadFriars Top 20 Prospects in San Antonio: RHP Kevin Kopps (#17)

Catch a Rising Star: The reigning Golden Spikes Award winner tossed three scoreless innings in big league camp, continuing a theme since joining the organization last year. Kopps uses a pitch described as a slider/cutter to dominate opposing hitters. The 25-year-old is essentially a finished product at this point. He should be in the mix for a spot in the Padres’ bullpen in the near future.

Matt Waldron in action with the Missions. (Photo: John Moore)

Starting Pitching: Osvaldo Hernandez will get the opening night assignment as the lefty begins his second season in Double-A. Hernandez, 23, was inconsistent last season but did have a solid stretch in June and July. He pitched to a 5.11 ERA in 100 innings. Moises Lugo broke out with a dominant run in Fort Wayne last year, then notched 22 strikeouts to go with a sparkling 1.80 ERA in 15 innings with the Missions. Knuckleballer Matt Waldron struggled in his Double-A debut after an impressive stretch in Fort Wayne. The 25-year-old’s development is one to watch; his ability to work in deep into games with the knuckler could be a valuable asset for the big league club if they need to dip into the system for innings. Sinker-baller Gabe Mosser started 14 games for the TinCaps last season, and figures to slot into the Missions’ rotation. Mosser doesn’t possess big-time stuff but he has always been able to give his club a chance to win. He pitched at least seven innings in two of his starts.

Bullpen: Tom Cosgrove quietly had a solid season in his first full season as a pure reliever. His successful stint also led to a stint in the Arizona Fall League where struggled a bit. In 26.2 innings with the Missions, Cosgrove allowed just 19 hits. Gabe Morales was erratic at times last year but his stuff from the left side can be absolutely filthy. Between Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne, Morales racked up 109 strikeouts in 75.2 innings. He should continue to pitch in the multi-inning role like he did last season. Henry Henry, the man with the 80-grade name is back for his second stint with the Missions. Henry isn’t overpowering but he gave the Missions 67 innings last year, pitching to a 3.90 ERA. Veteran right-hander Thomas Eshelman has spent parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues with Baltimore but he will begin the 2022 campaign in Double-A. Over the last three seasons, Eshelman has appeared in 31 games (14 starts), pitching to a 5.77 ERA. He hails from Carlsbad and attended Carlsbad High.

Catchers: The opening night roster includes three catchers, although Yorman Rodriguez will play all over. Chandler Seagle figures to get the bulk of the playing time, unless another roster move is made. Seagle doesn’t bring much with the bat (he hit .190/.257/.266 last year) but he is a tremendous receiver who is lauded by the organization due to his work behind the plate. Former Texas Longhorn Michael Cantu is on the roster. He fits a similar profile to Seagle – an excellent receiver but doesn’t supply much offense. He spent all of 2021 with the Chihuahuas where he hit .186/.274/.262. Juan Fernandez opens the year in El Paso, but he could wind up moving down and getting a significant workload for the Missions again this year.

Chris Givin in action with the TinCaps in 2021. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Infielders: The Missions may have one of the oldest infields in all of Double-A. The club features former big leaguers in Brandon Dixon and Mitch Walding who are 30 and 29 respectively. If anything, they should be productive players that can help the club win. Connor Hollis, a late-spring signing after being released from Tampa Bay is 27.  Chris Givin can play all over the infield but doesn’t supply much offense. He hit .160/.253/.247 in 92 plate appearances with San Antonio and .202/.293/.271 in Fort Wayne a season ago. Newly-acquired Korry Howell should see time all around the field, having logged starts at six different spots last year, but was primarily an outfielder last year. The 23-year-old acquired in the Victor Caratini deal adds speed and dynamism to the roster and the Padres have said they may try him again in the infield.

Tirso Ornelas showed the power the Padres wanted to see in the final month. (Photo: Jeff Nycz)

Outfield: Padre fans have dreamed about Tirso Ornelas patrolling right field in Petco Park since he signed with the organization as a 16-year-old in 2016. The Tijuana native had an inconsistent season last year in Fort Wayne but did finish strong. He led the High-A Central (thankfully rebranded as the Midwest League) in doubles but connected on just seven homers. Overall, his slash-line of .248/.344/.389 was slightly above league-average. Agustin Ruiz broke out in 2021 with the TinCaps, swatting 15 homers in 72 games. His offensive output led to a promotion to San Antonio where he struggled to make consistent contact. Ruiz should have every opportunity to reestablish himself this season. Jorge Ona has shown plenty of power when he is healthy but 2021 equated to another lost season for the power-hitting outfielder. Ona played in just five games last season after making his MLB debut in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. If Ona can stay healthy, he represents the best power threat on the roster.

Under the Radar: Esteury Ruiz has disappeared from most prospect lists but he is still just 22. He showed some flashes last season and his combination of speed and power make him someone to watch.

Posted by Kevin Charity

Kevin Charity has written for MadFriars since 2015 and has had work featured on Fox Sports San Diego. He is a lifelong San Diego native and is looking forward to seeing the current wave of prospects thrive in San Diego.

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