MadFriars' Preview: 2012 Fort Wayne TinCaps

Synopsis: The TinCaps will feature some high end arms in Joe Ross, Adys Portillo and Matthew Wisler, and an intriguing mix of position players whose athleticsm outshines their baseball ability, Donavan Tate and Jace Peterson, or whose athleticsm is attempting to catch up to their baseball skills, Casey McElroy and Travis Whitmore.

Look for the TinCaps, especially the pitching staff, to be better in the second half than in the first.

Three Strikes with Randy Smith Padres Director of Player Development and International Scouting.

You took some really young pitchers north from spring training this year that are just out of high school in Joe Ross, Michael Kelly and Matt Wisler. What are your plans for them so they don't throw too many innings.

Randy Smith: I'm not really worried about that because we will monitor it and take care of it. All of these guys have earned it not only by their performances but their stuff is ridiculous. Most of them are hitting the mid-90s so its up to us to push them and let them go. Last year we were a second half team and I think that will be the case again this year. All of these guys have a chance to be really good.

Austin Hedges won the best offensive player in the Instructs. Did his bat continue to impress during the spring?

Randy Smith: He swung it really well early and then struggled a little into spring training. Recently he's picked it up again. Its going to be a challenge for him because that is a tough league but we think he's up to it. He's a really mentally prepared kid.

Donavan Tate has been injured so far most of his career with the Padres. If he's healthy what do you expect to see out of him this season?

Randy Smith: The last two years he's really looked good coming out of camp but he's just gotten hurt. We think if we can get him 500 at-bats we will see some of the talent all of us expected when we drafted him.

2012 Projected Lineup:

1b Jose DoreSP Joe Ross
2b Casey McElroy SP Adys Portillo
SS Jace Peterson SP Matthew Wisler
3b Travis Whitmore SP Cody Hebner
CAustin HedgesSP Frank Garces
RF Corey Adamson RP Justin Hancock
CF Donavan Tate RP Michael Kelly
LF Martiniez/Gaedele RP Matt Stites

MadFriars' Top 20 Prospects in Fort Wayne: Austin Hedges (#13) and Donovan Tate (#15)

Catch a Rising Star: Joe Ross and Austin Hedges. The Padres have nearly $6 million invested in both of these products from the 2011 draft and so far the reviews have matched the hype.

Starting Pitching: Last year Keyvius Sampson came into the Summit City with a lot of hype and lived up to it. Ross could be better. The 6-3 righthander has more velocity and may even be a little more advanced with his secondary offerings than Sampson was at this stage. How well he can throw something other than his heater will determine his success. Adys Portillo is only 19 and has a lot of stuff but so far, as TinCaps fans will attest from last year, the potential hasn't matched the performance. The organization believes he has made a big jump in the offseason with the consistency of his mechanics. Matt Wisler was a seventh round pick out of last year's draft whom the Padres were able to buy out of his commitment to Ohio State. Hebner is a slight 5-10 but like his hero Tim Lincecum generates tremendous torque in his delivery with 39 strikeouts in 37.2 innings pitched with Eugene. Frank Garces is a young lefty who was in the Dominican Summer League and most people around camp are very high on him.

Pen: After Kevin Quakenbush left for Fort Wayne, the Emeralds didn't skip a beat with Matthew Stites was five for five in save opportunities with a 4-0 record and 1.93 ERA. Hancock and Kelly are starters but without rotation spots. Both will pitch every fourth day for four innings out of the bullpen. John Barbato, who was given the biggest bonus of any Padres' pick in the 2010 draft, made the team but will throw out of the pen. Last year he had the best stuff on the Emeralds but struggled to repeat his delivery, hurting his control.

Peterson has one of the highest ceilings on the TinCaps.

Infield: A unique infield where everyone throws from the right-handed but hits from the left. SS Jace Peterson, a two-sport star at McNeese State in Louisiana, is the infielder that most feel has the most upside; particularly if he can stay at short. 2b Casey McElroy is the opposite a very good baseball player that is attempting to prove that he has enough athleticsm to succeed at higher levels. This season Dore moves to first after a disappointing year at both Fort Wayne and Eugene in 2011. Coming into last year's draft he was considered one of the better prep prospects in Florida. 3b Travis Whitmore was a late round draft pick out of Pitt who put up some solid numbers with the Emeralds last year hitting .297/.373/.431.

Catching: Austin Hedges is the top position prospect with the TinCaps this year and if he can hit like the Padres believe he can, will be one of the better players in the MidWest League. Defensively he could probably catch in AA right now. Backing him up will be Rocky Colantonio, a late round pick out of Brown University, who was the Emeralds' primary catcher last year.

Outfield: CF Donovan Tate is back for his second go-around with the TinCaps after losing much of last year to injuries and a mid-year suspension. He has made significant strides in his understanding of the game in the Instructs and Spring Training, he just needs to get out on the field. If he's healthy he may have an opportunity to show why he was the number three overall pick in 2009. Signed at 17 out of Western Australia, RF Corey Adamson is finally beginning to get the exposure to high level competition the organization believes he needs to reach his potential. He is still raw and the Midwest League will be a challenge for him but the Padres like the strides he has been making. Valparaiso's Kyle Gaedele was one of the more athletic picks the team had last year and struggled in his first summer as a professional. His last year in college he stole 23 bases to go along with a .500 + slugging percentage. Alberth Martinez led the AZL Padres in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage among players that had 100 or more plate appearances in 2011.

On the Spot: Donavan Tate. In two full seasons he has yet to play 35 games in a season and is now twenty-one. Throw in the fact of some questionable personal decisions off the field and he needs to justify the $6 million dollars the team spent to sign him.

Tate had a .406 OBP for Eugene in 2011.

Under the Radar: He's short, lacks range and does not come across as the most athletic player. However one thing Casey McElroy can do is play. He has hit at every level he's ever played at and the former Auburn Tiger showed what he could do last year in Eugene hitting .301/.381/.466.

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