MadFriars' Preview: 2012 San Antonio Missions

Synopsis: Four of the top five Padres' prospects, from what many rank as one of the best minor league systems in baseball, will begin the year in San Antonio. With most of the members of the Cal League champion Storm heading east to join up with some holdovers from the Texas League champion Missions, Jaff Decker and Robbie Erlin, will make San Antonio the strongest team in the organization.

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

You don't usually skip someone from Fort Wayne to San Antonio. What were the reasons you moved Sampson up to the Missions. Did his curve ball improve that much in the off-season?

Randy Smith: We could have promoted him to Lake Elsinore mid-season last year but we thought getting him some playoff experience where he was - where they had a pretty tight race - was important. He has very good command of his fastball, good change-up and I think his curve has gotten much better.

What was the main thing you were working with defensively with Jonathan Galvez and Jeudy Valdez defensively?

Randy Smith: Well Jonathan was with the big club for most of the spring so we really didn't do much with him. With Jeudy its mainly about being aggressive and not staying back on balls. He can make all the plays and just has to become more consistent with the routine ones. It will be his second year at shortstop and he has all the tools to play there in the major leagues.

How has Edinson Rincon's adjustment to the outfield been going?

Randy Smith: Surprisingly well. He's going to outwork anyone and he has done well with Glen Barker [the Padres' minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator]. He's been taking good routes and has a good arm. So far we have liked what we see but as we all know things change when we start real games.

But yeah, I like what we have seen so far with Edison particularly in the effort he has been putting out.

2012 Projected Lineup:

1b Nate FreimanSP Keyvius Sampson
2b Jonathan Galvez SP Robbie Erlin
SS Jeudy Valdez SP Juan Oramas
3b Jedd Gyorko SP Andrew Werner
CJason HagertySP Hayden Beard
RF Jaff Decker RP Jeff Ibarra
CF Reymond Fuentes RP Matt Lollis
LF Edinson Rincon RP Miles Mikolas

MadFriars' Top 20 Prospects in San Antonio: Keyvius Sampson (#1), Robbie Erlin (#2), Jedd Gyorko (#3), Jaff Decker (#5), Juan Oramas (#17) and Matt Lollis (#18).

Catch a Rising Star: Keyvius Sampson. Sampson has gone from a lithe 185 lbs. draft pick in 2009 to a solid 225 lbs. pitcher who can eat innings and was arguably as good as any pitcher in the Midwest League last year at twenty years old. He skipped High-A Lake Elsinore and if his curve ball is as good as his fastball command and change-up he will be in San Diego sooner than later.

Sampson is MadFriars' Top Prospect in 2012.

Starting Pitching: While Sampson has the the highest ranking, expect to see Erlin and Oramas to move up first. If Erlin hadn't been felled by minor injuries in spring training he would probably be in Tucson right now. Last year after coming over in the Mike Adams trade the lefty was the Mission's best starter with his pinpoint control as he allowed only four earned runs in 26 innings pitched. Oramas, another vertically challenged lefty, posted the best strikeout and base-on-balls rates of any starter who worked fifty innings. What makes Oramas effective is his ability to change speeds and release points which makes it difficult for batters to pick up the ball. Werner, a refugee from the independent Frontier League where he pitched for four years, was very good in both Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore when given an opportunity. Last season the lefty had the lowest ERA of any Storm starter and posted a very solid 55/13 K/BB ratio in 68.1 innings pitched. After a tough year in Lake Elsinore, 6.17 ERA, Beard, twenty-seven year old Australian, pitched well enough in the spring for the Padres to give him the final rotation spot.

Pen: At 6'5", 230 lbs., Miles Mikolas, can bring it in the mid-90s and was just as effective after being promoted to San Antonio after putting up solid numbers in Lake Elsinore in the first half. With the Storm he was 12-for-13 in save opportunities with 42 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched against only 9 walks. With San Antonio he had a 1.67 ERA in 32.1 innings with a 26/6 K/BB ratio. Also joining him in the pen will be 6'9" Matt Lollis whose future the organization now sees coming out of the bullpen. Jeff Ibarra, a 6'6" 185 lbs. lefty with an interesting sidearm delivery will also add depth.

Freiman had 111 RBIs for the Storm.

Infield: This was the group that were the main components of the Storm winning the Cal League championship in 2011. Gyorko had one of the better seasons in recent memory in the Cal League but slowed down when he got to San Antonio. While he may not be the most athletic looking player few doubt his ability to put the barrel of the bat on the ball as his line drive stroke sprays hits to all fields. A former shortstop in college he has a strong arm, good hands and better than average range. 6'7" Nate Freiman is constantly referred to as "old for the league" and because of his size is also thought to have sizable holes in his swing. Regardless of what any one opines Freiman also had 61 extra-base hits and 111 RBIs last year in Lake Elsinore and has a .292/.354/.487 career line. Fun fact, Freiman was converted to a first baseman from Duke after being a high school pitcher and catcher. Galvez and Valdez will hit, they proved that last year with the Storm and this year in spring training, the real question is how consistent their defense will be.

Catching: After putting up big numbers in Lake Elsinore, .311/.386/.511, the switch-hitting Jason Hagerty struggled after being promoted to the Missions in his first month hitting .179/.230/.250. However he hit much better in August with a .270/.395/.381 line. Not many people doubt his ability on the offensive side of the plate, its behind it where he will confront his critics. Ali Solis is a solid backup who put up good offensive numbers in limited action with the Missions last year.

Outfield: After an up and down season with the Missions Jaff Decker seemed to find his stroke again in the Arizona Fall League and with a strong spring training. At camp Decker talked about the need to become more aggressive and not waiting for the perfect pitch. Expect to see a big uptick in his batting average. Defensively the Padres plan to play him at all three outfield positions as Decker has worked hard in all of his off-seasons at becoming more athletic. Fuentes, a former first round draft pick of the Red Sox and one of the components of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, has plus speed and batting practice power. Last year he stole 41 bases in 55 attempts but the organization would like to see him cut down on his 117 strike outs. Rincon has always been one of the more gifted young hitters in the organization, the question is where does he play defensively. At twenty-one he hit .329/.394/.487 in Lake Elsinore but lost most of the second half to injuries.

On the Spot: Edison Rincon. While no one denies that Rincon's bat is special the Padres also need to find a viable defensive position for him. Although the team will play still play him some at third a realistic future position for him is left field. The winds at Nelson Wolff will make the transition challenging but as Randy Smith said, they like the way he is working.

Everyone likes Valdez's potential.

Under the Radar: Jeudy Valdez. Next to Rymer Liriano, Valdez is considered to be one of the most athletically gifted players in the Padres' system. He can make all the plays at shortstop but like everything in baseball its about consistency and he must cut down on the 31 errors that he had last year at the Diamond in Lake Elsinore.

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