Anytime the subject of the Emeralds comes up the first question invariably is on Franchy Cordero - mainly, can he play shortstop?
The quick answer is yes. He has the arm, the range and athleticsm to stay there. His main problem has not been what plays he can’t make but what plays he should make. The 19-year old still isn’t sure when, and in many cases where, he should throw the ball. Also, the rushing of his throws leads to an inconsistent arm slot, which usually causes the ball to fly.
Padres’ roving infield instructor, Eddie Rodriguez, who was in town to work with the infielders, has said that Cordero is making progress - even though the numbers say otherwise - and he is very much aware of what he needs to do to stay at shortstop.
Another problem, as former TinCaps and Storm manager Shawn Wooten once pointed out, is that many of the young Dominican players do not even come close to having as many games under their belts - with umpires and rules, as opposed to street ball - compared to their American teammates.
It frequently will take many young Latin players longer to develop compared to some of the top American high school talent where many of the players have been playing a hundred or more games since they were in their early teens.
When I was there Cordero not only uncorked wild throws but was also frequently out of position. Sometimes he looked lost on where he should be positioned for cut-off plays.
At the plate, the left-handed hitting shortstop has a rhythmic high leg kick, which is great for fastballs, but problematic on off-speed and breaking pitches.
All in all, he is a very talented player - but also a very long way from the major leagues.
CF Auston Bousfield, 21, a fifth round pick out of Ole Miss in this year’s draft, may be the most polished player on the squad. Bousfield takes solid routes to the ball in the outfield and a good idea of the strike zone at the plate. He profiles as a lead-off hitter whose main attributes are his ability to get on base with some gap power.
1B Marcus Davis was out with a sore hamstring during my visit and was just starting to take batting practice again. In his second time around the NWL Davis has impressed many with his revised approach which emphasizes patience and taking the ball the other way. He is good size and also has the ability to pull the ball for power. Defensively, he has adapted well defensively to first base after being in the outfield in college and his first year as a pro.
Two starting pitchers that will be getting the most from the Ems in the off-season are RHP Zech Lemond and RHP Michael Kelly. Lemond, a big rangy starter out of Rice University, was primarily a closer in college but right now the organization is using him as a starter. He has three solid pitches - two-seam fastball, spike cure and a surprisingly good change-up - and draft pundits predict if his elbow can hold up he could profile as a #3 starter in the big leagues.
RHP Michael Kelly, a first round supplemental pick in 2011, appears to have finally figured it out and is challenging hitters much more while staying way from walks. As with Lemond, he has good size at six-foot-four and maybe even better stuff.
The Padres have always believed that Kelly had the talent, it seems like he is finally on the right path.
In the bullpen, RHP Seth Lucio out of Tennessee Tech is someone to watch. A diminutive five-foot-ten, Lucio has a very big fastball that he can dial up to 98 and the mechanics to put it where he wants. He is still working on a second pitch, the change-up is his big hope.
If the change-up comes around he is going to go through the minors pretty quickly.
RF Nick Torres has played better than his numbers indicate and looks like he is still nursing some nagging injuries from the college season. Torres is a big guy and should put up some better numbers next year in Fort Wayne. On the positive front he is proving Baseball America’s assertion wrong that he can only play left field and has been in right in all but one game this season.
Torres was a pitcher in high school and had an opportunity to pitch at Cal Poly-San Louis Obispo but didn’t. He has the ability to play either outfield corner.