Even though the Storm were eliminated in the first round of the California League playoffs they posted the best record of all six of the affiliates at 75-65. What was unusual about this season’s team, as compared to ones in the past, pitching carried them during the year.
RHP Zach Eflin, who was the best pitcher last year in Fort Wayne, was again the best pitcher on the team and one of the top in the league. Surprisingly, he doesn’t ever really get the notice that he should but the six-foot-six native Floridian is an interesting prospect with a good two-seam fastball and slider combination.
Storm pitching coach Bronswell Patrick deserves a lot of credit for all of the pitching staff, he should really be singled out for the work he did this year with RHP Colin Rea and RHP Elliot Morris, who came over in the Huston Street trade.
Patrick got Rea to become more aggressive with his fastball by pitching inside which allowed him to get better run when he was going for the outside corner. He also instilled in him the belief to make the opposition beat him instead of him doing it to himself. Rea led the team in wins with 11 and goes into the off-season this year in a much better place than last.
With Elliot Morris by tinkering with his delivery allowed his arm to get in a better position to command his four-seam fastball. Morris, another pitcher that is well over six-foot-four, is more of a power pitcher than both Eflin and Morris and had a 3.56 ERA in 48 innings with the Storm.
In the bullpen the stars were RHP Adam Cimber and LHP Brandon Alger, who took over the closer’s role when RHP Trevor Gott went over to the Angels in the Street trade. Both project as more middle relief prospects than a closers. Cimber is a sidewinder who held righties to a .236 batting average but lefties were able to touch him at .347 clip. He needs to have a little more confidence with his changeup.
Alger was 15 of 19 as a closer and held right-handed hitters to a .178 batting average and was very good against lefties as well at .206. A former starter he thrived in the bullpen with a 2.70 ERA in 63.1 innings and is very comfortable throwing multiple innings.
Keep an eye on him next year in AA San Antonio. If his season is anywhere close to what he did in the Cal League he will be in San Diego. ***
With RF Hunter Renfroe promoted in mid-season to the Missions, CF/RF Mallex Smith really stood out. The left-handed hitting Smith is a classic leadoff man and has a little bit of pop in his bat. He has a better than average arm for a centerfielder and will either be in center or on one of the corners depending on what the Padres do with Travis Jankowski next year.
Based on what he did this summer - you know, like leading the entire minor leagues in stolen bases - he may be the top centerfielder in the system.
C Dane Phillips, another left-right hitter may have the best bat of any catcher in the system. He has improved defensively, but is still very much a work in progress. He’s not Austin Hedges behind the plate, but then again Hedges is light years behind his bat.
Phillips is a smart articulate player who said that his priority in the off-season will be his defense. As Randy Smith said, if his defense picks up he’s an interesting prospect.
SS Jose Rondon, who came over with Morris in the Street trade, is a solid defensive shortstop who has some gap power as he hit 33 doubles this season and more importantly only 17 errors in 107 games at shortstop between LE/Inland Empire.
With the emergence of Trea Turner in Fort Wayne it will be interesting to see how the Padres balance the two with Rondon in San Antonio next year and Turner in Lake Elsinore.
At the beginning of the year I thought Alberth Martiniez was one of the more interesting prospects in the system. At times he put together some very good months, April (.306/.365/.468) and July (.343/.362/.525) stand out while May (.212/.282/.305) and August (.220/.269/.290) do not.
He finished with 28 doubles and 12 home runs but he’s going to have to become much more selective to have any type of success in AA.
3B Gabriel Quintana led the team in home runs with 18 but only had an OBP of .302 in the Cal League which isn’t a good sign.
Overall the Storm had eight players that finished with ten or more home runs this year.
In a nutshell its a good team, but for prospect pitching is by far their strength.