The best way to look at this team is not as an A-ball level squad but as a short-season team simply because the youth of this squad is much more akin to a team in the Northwest League than one at this level.
Two of the infield starters, 2B/SS Josh VanMeter and 3B Dustin Peterson, are 19, 3B/2B/1B Fernando Perez is 20 and 1B Jake Bauers and RF Franmil Reyes are only 18 and C Ryan Miller is the “graybeard” at 21. Six of the regular eight everyday players are 21 and younger.
Right now the analysis should be based much more on short-season criteria, where the main factor is what they can do rather than how consistent they can be with their performances; which will explain the wild swings in their season.
Dustin Peterson can play third base, the errors notwithstanding. As someone who used to watch former Padres’ farmhand Edison Rincon struggle at third, this is not a similar situation. Nearly all of his errors have come on throws which have been the result of the former shortstop still being unsure in his footwork.
Everyday after batting practice you could see Peterson taking endless ground balls followed by endless throws to first. If Peterson doesn’t make it defensively at that position it won’t be for lack of effort.
Offensively he has 66 RBI in 84 games and looks very comfortable at the plate with good power.
By now most people are aware that Jake Bauers can hit but what many might not be aware off is that he is also a pretty slick defensive first baseman. The Fort Wayne announcers said that he saved a rather porous infield of many more errors in his ability to dig balls out of the dirt and come off of the bag.
Offensively, Bauers has slumped in the past two weeks along with the rest of the team, but still looked good at the plate – rarely swinging at bad pitches and looking to drive the ball the opposite way. He has a very advanced approach at the plate and probably profiles more as a doubles hitter who will draw walks than as a big time power guy.
Michael Collins, the TinCaps’ manager, also believes that Jake is a better athlete than given credit for and could play either of the corner outfield positions.
Franmil Reyes may be one of the biggest human beings that the Padres have as an everyday player in their system since Kyle Blanks. Just huge, and he is only 18.
Potentially very big power but he is still in the developmental stage of learning which pitches he can drive.
For those of us that are not from northeastern Indiana it is really difficult to overstate just how big a high school career Josh VanMeter had at neighboring Norwell High School, which is just outside of Fort Wayne. VanMeter led his team to the 3A state championship in baseball and the state semifinals in basketball while being an all-state selection in both sports.
Needless to say, the competition has increased for him as a professional and playing in the Midwest League as a teenager is tough enough without trying to replicate for your family and friends what you did in high school.
After hitting .221 in April and .200 in May he finally broke through in July with a .333 batting average which VanMeter attributed learning how to not play for the people in the stands and instead to play to his capabilities.
Last year we wrote about how catcher Ryan Miller, an athletic catcher taken in the fourteenth round from San Bernardino Junior College, may be a bit of a sleeper and he has looked much better both behind the plate and offensively. Collins, a former ten year minor league catcher, has been particularly impressed with his progress defensively and in calling games.
At the plate he’s shown a bit of pop leading the team in home runs with .500 slugging percentages in May and June.
OF Ronnie Richardson, 24, might be one of the biggest little guys (five-foot-six) that you will see on a baseball field with a body that looks more like the star high school football player that he once was. Richardson leads the team in being in HBP with 9. In his last year at the University of Central Florida he was hit 35 times in 61 games.
The man has consistently posted an on-base percentage in the .400’s so he must know what he is doing.
As for pitching closer Nick Mutz, 24, has posted some good numbers and LHP Payton Baskette, 20, seems like he could be a good fit as a left-handed relief pitcher. Former 2011 number one draft pick Walker Weickel really struggled this year in his second time around in Fort Wayne is in Arizona and Adrian De Horta, who had a good year in the AZL has found his command in Eugene, which deserted him with the TinCaps.