Lake Elsinore Storm 2011 Season Preview

The Storm is the most athletic team in the system with three center fielders for an outfield and an exciting athletic double play duo up the middle. Add the big bats of Jason Hagerty, Nate Freiman and Jedd Gyorko and Lake Elsinore should not have any problems scoring runs. On the mound the team will be led by giant Matt Lollis and others that have put up good numbers in the past.

Three Strikes with Randy Smith, Director of Player Development and International Scouting:

Matt Lollis really emerged as a top prospect last season. What has he improved on going into this year?

Randy Smith: For Matt the biggest thing is always going to be his conditioning and he's in better shape coming out of camp this year as opposed to last. He's throwing all of his pitches for strikes and he really has a chance to be pretty good. This is someone that has a chance to move up pretty quickly like last year.

Reymond Fuentes is one of the fastest players in the organization, but last year he had a .328 on-base percentage. What is the team doing to increase his ability to get on base more?

Randy Smith: He's like a lot of young hitters who are still figuring out what they are. This spring we really emphasized that despite the fact that he does have some power, he's a top of the order guy and needs to get on to play to the strengths of his game which is speed.

Who is a player or pitcher that could move up the prospect ladder on this squad?

Randy Smith: There are a few guys that come to mind but the first two are Nate Freiman and Jeudy Valdez. Nate is such a big guy and really put up some big numbers and Valdez has the potential to become a five-tool middle infielder; and we don't see a whole lot of those.

2011 Projected Lineup:

1b Nate Freiman SP Matt Lollis
SS Jonathan Galvez SP Jerry Sullivan
2b Jeudy Valdez SP Michael Watt
3b Jedd Gyorko/Edison Rincon SP Jose De Paula
C Jason Hagerty SP Chris Fetter/Pedro Hernandez
DH Edison Rincon/Jedd Gyorko
RF Rymer Liriano RP Zach Herr
CF Reymond Fuentes RP Stiven Osuna
LF Rico Noel Closer Miles Mikolas

MadFriars.com's Top 20 Prospects in Lake Elsinore (6): Matt Lollis (6), Reymond Fuentes (9), Jedd Gyorko (10), Jason Hagerty (11) Edinson Rincon (17) and Rymer Liriano (19).

Catch a Rising Star: Matt Lollis. It's hard to believe that anyone who is 6'9" 290 lbs. was "under the radar" but Lollis went from extended spring training all the way to pitching in the Cal League playoffs last season. The big man relies on a good sinking fastball with a big downward plane that makes it very difficult to get the barrel on the ball.

Starting Pitching: Lollis is the top prospect but both Sullivan and Watt were good last year for Fort Wayne finishing one and two in innings pitched. However after Lollis the best pitcher on the staff may have been a young twenty year old left-hander from the Dominican Jose DePaula who held the opposition to a .222 batting average, the lowest of any starter. Chris Fetter returns to the Storm after missing most of 2010 with injuries.

Pen: Mikolas, another plus size Padres' pitcher, at 6'5" 220 had 78 strikeouts in 81.2 innings pitched. Herr, an undersized left-hander from Nebraska returns for his second year after a good season last year where he posted a 3.04 ERA. Jeremy McBryde will start the year in the pen but could move back into the rotation as his arm strength builds.

Infield: Gyorko, a shortstop in college, is an underrated defender with a strong arm and good lateral movement. At the plate he may be second only to Jaff Decker as a polished hitter who uses the whole field. Most of his hits are up the middle or to the opposite field but as he looks to pull the ball more his power numbers will go up. Rincon had a big year in Eugene in '09 but struggled at the plate and especially in the field at Fort Wayne with 36 errors despite seeing quite a bit of time at 3b. In the summer he did show some glimpses of his potential with a .326/.382/.500 line in June. This year he will split time with Gyorko between DH/3b. At the other corner 6'8" Nate Freiman was among the leaders in nearly every offensive category for the TinCaps and led the league in fielding percentage. This year Galvez and Valdez will switch positions and both have tremendous potential at the plate as well, particularly Valdez.

Catching: Hagerty is the player that everyone will watch after the switch-hitting catcher had a monster second half hitting .351/.479/.586. While the Padres loved the offensive output they were most impressed by the progress he made behind the plate.

Outfield: Easily the best defensive outfield in the system with three center fielders.
Fuentes is the top prospect and will be in the middle was voted the best defensive outfielder in the Carolina League last season. Offensively the strength of his game is speed where he stole 42 bases in 47 attempts. The key for him will be to pick up on his .328 OBP. Liriano is one of the few potential five-tool players in the Padres' system. After early struggles in Fort Wayne, he came back with some solid numbers in Eugene. Getting out of the early season cold will help him but the key to his success will be pitch recognition. Defensively he has cannon. Noel, a fifth round draft pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2010, is another speedster who stole 14 bases in 17 attempts in 32 games to go along with a .426 OBP in Eugene.

On the Spot: Edison Rincon. He has tremendous potential with the bat but the organization needs to find a position in the field where he is comfortable. If the past in Eugene and Fort Wayne are indicators of the future, then third base is not the spot. However the Padres are going to try third again on a limited basis but the faster sun baked infields of the Cal League will be a much bigger challenge than what he has seen before in the Northwest and Midwest Leagues.

Under the Radar: Nate Freiman Freiman was a senior sign out of Duke was a pitcher/catcher in high school. He was thought to be too big with too many holes in his swing coming into pro ball but so far with a disciplined approach has proved the doubters wrong. He led the TinCaps with 57 extra-base hits last year and as he refines his game could emerge as the best power prospect in the organization. Frequently with players his size it takes a little longer to get everything working in sync.

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