2015 San Antonio Missions Pre-Season Preview

Synopsis: How far the Missions go this year will depend upon their pitching. They will have the best starting staff in the Padres’ organization, and it is joined by a very good bullpen.

Offensively, the top of the order should be good with shortstop Trea Turner, center fielder Travis Jankowski and right fielder Hunter Renfroe, and if outfielder Yeison Ascencio and catcher Jason Hagerty continue to hit as they did last year, the offense will be vastly improved from last season.

Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Player Development:,p> Tell us a little about the decision to promote Trea Turner to San Antonio and have him skip Lake Elsinore?

Sam Geaney: Anyone who saw Trea in big league camp saw a very talented player with tremendous tools. He does a bit of everything and when he was on the minor league fields he was the best player on the field. We wanted to put him where he would be challenged and San Antonio seemed to be the best fit.

Hunter Renfroe had a big year in Lake Elsinore but struggled in San Antonio. What did you see from him this spring?

Sam Geaney: He has some really impressive power - I mean it really stands out - but I also think it’s somewhat unfair to put all of the commentary on him in the power bucket. This spring he really challenged himself to become a better hitter with improved plate discipline. He was very receptive to instruction and we think a second exposure to this level will confirm that he is the type of hitter and player that we believe him to be.

Who stands out in the starting rotation to you?

Sam Geaney: I really shouldn’t single out just one pitcher because I really do like the staff that we are sending out there, but Colin Rea did stand out to me. He is a big strong kid that can dial it up to 97 with a very hard cutter/slider that checks in at 91. He can also spin a pretty good curve ball.

2015 Projected Lineup:

1b Luis Domoromo RHP/SP Justin Hancock
2b Diego Gorris RHP/SP Elliot Morris
SS Trea Turner RHP/SP Colin Rea
3b Benji Gonzalez RHP/SP Bryce Morrow
C Jason Hagerty RHP/SP Bryan Rodriguez
LF Yeison Ascencio RHP/RP Jerry Sullivan
CF Travis JankowskiLHP/RP Brandon Alger
RF Hunter Renfroe RHP/RP Tayron Guerrero

MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in San Antonio: OF Hunter Renfroe (#2) and RHP/SP Elliott Morris (#16).

Note: Shortstop Trea Turner’s status as the player to be named later in this winter’s three-way trade for Wil Myers is the game’s worst-kept secret. He will head to the Washington Nationals once he is eligible to be traded in mid-June. If he was not included in the trade he would easily have been one of the top five prospects in the organization.

Catch a Rising Star: Hunter Renfroe has supplanted Rymer Liriano as the top outfield prospect in the Padres’ system. The former Mississippi State Bulldog can play all three outfield spots but profiles best in right. He is a tremendous athlete and has special power, but right now it’s about getting the repetitions for him to better recognize pitches. He only had 570 plate appearances during his three years in college.

Starting Pitching: Justin Hancock and Colin Rea both rely on two-seam fastballs and run into more trouble than usual when they get the ball up. During the Arizona Fall League, Hancock was dialing up his fastball to the mid-90’s and if his secondary pitches can continue to develop he has a chance. Rea, a solid 6-5, 220 lbs., had a breakthrough last year in the Cal League when he started to throw the ball more inside which stopped batters from taking away half of the plate. Elliot Morris, who came over in last year’s Huston Street trade with the Angels may have the most upside. Another big right-hander, he has good command of a four-seam fastball and finally his two-seamer and secondary pitches are starting to come around. In essence, he has the most “stuff” of the three in terms of raw velocity. Bryce Morrow returns to San Antonio and is a true success story having fought his way out of the independent Frontier League. Last year he had a 3.13 ERA in 89 innings for the Missions. Bryan Rodriguez threw 149 innings in the Cal League and was somewhat overshadowed by some of the top prospects on the staff. The big Dominican is 6-5 and only 23. Despite a 4.16 ERA he posted some good strikeout-to-base-on-balls ratio of 104 to 46.

Pen: Bullpens have been historic strength of the Padres’ organization and this year will be no exception in San Antonio or Triple-A El Paso. Giant (6-8 but only around 190 lbs.) right-hander Tayron Guerrero has been described as an “angry stork” by one of his former catchers and can touch the high triple digits with a delivery that is very hard to pick up. Last year, converted starter lefty Brandon Alger was one of the better relievers in the system with his ability to go multiple innings and get batters on both sides of the plate out. Veteran Jerry Sullivan returns to the Alamo City after spending half of the year in El Paso. Sullivan can go long or close and in 2014 he posted a 1.80 ERA with the Missions. Right-handed sidewinder Adam Cimber threw 77.2 innings in the Cal League and finished with a 2.90 ERA, which is impressive for anyone. He is very tough on right-handed batters but last season, left-handed hitters hit .347 off of him.

Infield: As noted above, Trea Turner is probably the most impressive prospect but he should be gone in mid-season to the Washington Nationals as the “player to be named later”. It’s a shame because despite a somewhat sub-standard throwing arm he does everything else very well and has surprising power in very lithe frame. Casey McElroy should see time at second, third and maybe a little bit at short. He is a solid player but injuries have also eaten up much of his development time. Diego Goris and Benji Gonzalez can both hit, as they showed in Lake Elsinore last year, but also tend to chase sliders and can be exposed by some of the better pitching at higher levels. Luis Domoromo should split time with Jason Hagerty at first base when he is not catching and has shown flashes of being a better player than his statistics indicate.

Catching: The switch-hitting Hagerty, 27, returns to San Antonio after hitting .266/.368/.417 with the Missions last year. The left-handed hitting Robert Kral struggled with injuries and lack of opportunities after having a big first half in Lake Elsinore in 2014, and opens this season on the shelf again. Another switch-hitting catcher, Griff Erickson, 27, a minor league veteran of eight seasons in the Dodgers organization and a graduate of Westview High School in suburban San Diego, joined his home town team in the offseason and is considered a plus receiver defensively.

Outfield: Renfroe has a chance to become something special and could move up by mid-season. Before a tough wrist injury last year, Travis Jankowski was considered one of the better prospects in the Padres’ system. At 6-3, 215 lbs. the left-handed hitting former Stony Brook star is a plus defender and has the capability to be a real top-of-the-order threat after stealing 71 bases in 2013 in Lake Elsinore. To make the next jump, he has the difficult task of attempting to cut down on his strikeouts while increasing his power numbers, particularly to his pull side. If he can do that, he has a chance to be a top prospect again. Yeison Ascencio would be in Triple-A if it wasn’t for the backlog of outfielders with the Chihuahuas. He hit well last year but still needs to show more plate discipline. Despite hitting .333/.372/.568 in El Paso he had a grand total of four walks in 90 plate appearances which makes you wonder what happens when the ball doesn’t find open space.

On the Spot: With Justin Upton’s contract with the big club expiring at the end of the year, a good season by Hunter Renfroe could have him penciled in as next year’s starting left fielder in San Diego.

Under the Radar: Although it’s not a sexy pick, Brandon Alger’s ability to eat innings and strike out over a batter an inning could earn him the first ticket to San Diego. Equally effective against right- and left-handed batters, he could put up even better numbers in the more pitcher friendly Texas League.

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