Even without the trip abroad, fall instructional league provides a unique opportunity for the player development staff to work intensively with young prospects. While the team will play in game situations, the focus is on individualized instruction.
"The instructional league program allows the time to make changes, minor or significant," said Smith, "without the player having to worry about the performance.
"We can encourage the use of a new pitch, make adjustments to a delivery or a swing in a teaching environment opposed to the competitive environment that we face in season."
The program primarily targets players with less than two years of experience playing in the United States, though several more experienced players who have struggled to put the pieces together or have lost time to injuries are also involved. Because the program will be at the Padres' complex in San Cristobal, 11 players who have never played in the United States – a larger number than the club has typically invited to Peoria in the fall - will also participate.
First-round pitchers Joe Ross and Max Fried will each spend half of the six week program receiving coaching, participating in drills, and playing intra-squad games and contests against Dominican Winter League teams conducting pre-season workouts.
Five of the club's eight top picks from the 2013 draft, including first-rounder Hunter Renfroe and high school infielders Dustin Peterson, Josh VanMeter and Jake Bauers, will also be part of the delegation. They will play with three of the Padres' highest-profile international signings of the summer, pitchers Jaimito Lebron and Mayky Perez and infielder-for-now Rudy Giron.
The most experienced players taking part in the full program are Jorge Guzman, who signed under a fraudulent name in 2008 and has since served two suspensions, and Duanel Jones and Tayron Guerrero, both of whom were signed before the 2010 season and have struggled to turn prodigious natural abilities into consistent skills.
As part of their rehab programs, Adys Portillo, Rymer Liriano and Jose De Paula will also get some work in. Portillo will ultimately head to the Arizona Fall League, while Liriano will play in the Dominican Winter League once he's ready.
The roster includes 27 pitchers and 29 position players in all. They may yet be joined by a few additional international signings whose clearance by Major League Baseball is still pending.
2013 Instructional League Players (players with no stateside experience marked with an asterisk):
Vladimir De La Cruz