Jedd Gyorko was just having an amazing season before he was promoted to San Antonio. The numbers are simply off of the charts. Why was he so good?
Sean McCall: He was the best offensive player in the California League due to his productivity and consistency.
Every now and then I get spoiled by a player and this season it was a pleasure to watch Jedd go about his business. He played in every game before his promotion, had a hit in 67 of 81 games (back-to-back hitless only once!), had 32 doubles in the first half alone and had hitting streaks of 17, 11 and 10 games.
He competed every day and proved to be a very capable third baseman as well. He hits to all fields, trusts his hands, produces in the clutch and won a batting title (.365 avg.) in the process.
Big Nate Freiman was the team MVP this year with 22 home runs and 111 RBIs. He cut down on his strikeouts, finished second on the team in walks and first in total bases. What did you see this year from him?
Sean McCall: I saw a player with great work ethic, determination and a commitment to grind it out daily. Like Gyorko, Nate was both productive and consistent as well.
He played in 149 of 151 games, became the definitive team leader in the post-Gyorko era and clearly the catalyst in a championship run. When he squares up on a ball, look out! He's a consistent line drive hitter who belted a number of prodigious home runs, including two in the championship clinching win.
While he may not be known yet for his defense, thanks to his hard work he showed steady improvement during the season and, in fact, was a difference maker with his glove throughout the playoffs.
In pre-season Randy Smith of the Padres raved that Jeudy Valdez had a chance to become a five-tool player. He put up some solid numbers with the Storm. One, can he stay at short and two what are his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter?
Sean McCall: Though I had never seen Jeudy play before this season, with 40-man roster status comes higher expectations.
He started slowly both offensively and defensively, but made adjustments along the way to post some impressive numbers. From May 8 on, he hit .313 over his final 100 games and ended up tied for fourth in the Padres' organization with 92 RBI. He found his confidence and some power in July, with six HR's, 17 extra base hits and 30 RBI in the month.
He's a young player who has a great arm, runs well (34 SB's) and worked hard to improve his footwork, his approach on ground balls and his consistency. Time will tell on where the Padres play Jeudy defensively, but he certainly developed, improved and produced as a shortstop in 2011.
Reymond Fuentes was part of the Adrian Gonzalez trade and came to the Cal League with a lot of attention. Do you think he lived up to it and what part of his game do you see him improving upon next season?
Sean McCall: As a youthful 20 year old who was adjusting to a new organization and a more challenging level of professional baseball, I thought Reymond had a positive season. He is an evolving player who has the ability to make a difference in a game by utilizing his speed.
He was an everyday leadoff hitter, an excellent bunter (18 bunt singles) and a legitimate stolen base threat (41 steals). If he can learn to consistently hit to all fields, improve his initial read/first step on balls hit directly at him and maximize his gift of speed, Reymond will become an even greater asset and presence on the field.
DH Tommy Medica really hit when he was called up from Fort Wayne. What made him so successful and where do you think he will play on the field defensively?
Sean McCall: Where Tommy plays defensively will be determined by the health of his shoulder, which limited him to strictly designated hitter duties with the Storm.
I have never seen him play in the field, but whether he plays catcher/1B/OF down the road, he showed a plate presence and confidence at the Cal League level. He hit over .300 in the regular season (.333 in the playoffs) and has the ability to hit to all fields. He was a line drive hitter with home run power who also displayed a good awareness of the strike zone.
He also earned the nickname "Tank-top Tommy Medica" for his affinity and wearing of the laid-back California beach attire.
Jason Hagerty's offense gets quite a bit of attention being a big switch-hitting catcher, but how did his defense look this year?
Sean McCall: Hopefully everyone can appreciate the work and grind of an everyday catcher, and that certainly was the case for me this season in regards to Jason Hagerty.
What I also saw was a great team player who showed his leadership value on a daily basis but also did so under the radar. He is a steady switch hitter (.311 Cal Lg.) with the ability to drive the baseball from both sides. He finished with 35 extra base hits in 68 games and also displayed excellent instincts as a base runner. I appreciated his professionalism, attitude and demeanor that would fit well in any clubhouse.
Matt Lollis was one of San Diego's top prospects going into this season and was up and down. What did Matt do well and where did he get hurt?
Sean McCall: Like Fuentes, Lollis competed as a young player (only 20) who showed flashes of dominance while working on his craft. He was the Opening Night starter who, despite not getting run support or defensive support on numerous occasions, maintained his poise and mound presence on the hill.
He relied on a mid-90's fastball to average nearly a strikeout per inning, but I trust he will be even more effective as he matures as a pitcher and continues to incorporate a four-pitch arsenal to complement the fastball.
Beginning in early July, as the Padres monitored his workload, he was primarily used as a reliever. He transitioned well to a different role and was definitely a factor as a hard-throwing option out of the pen. The Padres will get to eventually decide whether to have Matt in the rotation or as a valuable member of an important bullpen.
Andrew Werner, who was signed out of the Independent Leagues, really put up some nice numbers between here and Fort Wayne. What were the reasons for his success?
Sean McCall: Andrew Werner was a second-half addition and a pleasant surprise with his instant Cal League success.
He earned a win in his first outing (recording 10 K's while allowing no runs, no walks and only four hits in six innings) and had continued success throughout the season that led him to become the Game One starter in the playoffs.
He isn't afraid to pitch to contact, showed great command, and kept hitters off-balance with a sinker, "slurve", changeup combination. He works hard in between starts and shows up to compete when it's his turn in the rotation.
After pitching at the Div. II level in college followed by his time in independent baseball, Werner showed Storm fans this year that the Padres may have found a diamond in the rough.
Nick Schmidt, the Padres number one draft pick in 2007, pitched as well as he ever has at the end of the year. Do you think he is all the way back from his injuries?
Sean McCall: The good news for Nick Schmidt is that, finally, health appears to be on his side. After shoulder woes at spring training, Nick's first outing with the Storm in 2011 wasn't until July 7.
He posted decent numbers through his first five starts but then had a dominant start August 3 in Bakersfield (8 IP, 0 runs, 2 hits, 8 K's) that Nick later said was his best as a professional to that point. Little did he know how impressive and important he would be in September during a Storm championship run.
His effectiveness and confidence soared in the playoffs. In three critical starts (one elimination game, two different series clinching games), Nick went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, allowing only 10 hits with 25 K's in 21 innings pitched. He proved not only to be healthy but a difference maker and a go-to starter when the season was on the line.