El Paso Notebook-2015

Thoughts and observations from our recent trip to the Sun City.

The strength of the Chihuahuas’ is a “lights out” bullpen. In addition to right-handed pitchers Nick Vincent and Cory Mazzoni, both who have been up with the Padres in 2015, they also have Jay Jackson, Jerry Sullivan and Leonel Campos. All three have more strikeouts than innings pitched and have allowed less hits than innings pitched; two very important metrics for relief pitchers.

“Our bullpen is excellent and they all have “stuff” whatever that means,” said El Paso manager Jamie Quirk. “But it plays. They all have velocity, they all can pitch and they all can get outs.”

The only weakness in the bullpen is the lack of a lefty with good numbers.

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Offensively the team has more of a collection of players that should be on a big league roster somewhere as opposed to any true breakout prospect. OF Abraham Almonte, Jake Goebbert, Rymer Liriano, Alex Dickerson, C Rocky Gale and INF/C Cody Decker have all put up the numbers to be in the big leagues somewhere.

Gale, 27, in particular, a 2010 draft pick who never got much regular playing time until recently, should get a chance soon as he is putting up his second straight solid offensive campaign and is easily the best defensive catcher the Padres have in the minors now.

The most interesting tidbit that came out of our interview with Rocky was his describing how to get better when you are not getting regular playing time.

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While most of the attention for upper level outfielders this year has been on CF Travis Jankowski and RF Hunter Renfroe in San Antonio, Alex Dickerson, who can play both corner outfield spots and first base, may be the first one up. The left-handed Dickerson, 25, has been the most consistent and the former Poway High star is adept at using the whole field at the plate.

Coming into tonight’s game he was hitting .306/.379/.500 and is tied for second in the league with seven triples. Keep in mind, Dickerson is six-foot-three and 235 pounds.

As one scout noted, “he swings at exactly what he wants too and has the best idea of what he is doing up there as not anyone on the team, but anyone in the league.”

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OF/1B Jake Goebbert, who came over in the in the Kyle Blanks trade last year and was with the Padres for part of last season, has improved every month and was hitting .421/.489/.711 in July. He is fourth overall in the PCL in on-base percentage at .395 and has played all four positions (center, left, right and first base) equally, but his best position is one of the corner outfield spots.

Goebbert, 27, is another left-handed bat that could be an attractive option to the big club if they do trade, as expected, Justin Upton at the trading deadline and decide to go with an internal option.

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Rymer Liriano has somewhat been the forgotten prospect after having a tough time in San Diego last season - .220/.289/.266 - but is quietly putting together a good year. He has vastly improved his plate discipline with a .378 on-base percentage and has stolen 12 bases in 17 attempts, which leads the team.

He is capable of playing all three positions, but with the amount of right-handed hitters in the big leagues and other left-handed options, he could be a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline.

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RHP Colin Rea, 24,has only had two starts since being called up from San Antonio, and although his second only lasted three innings because of a pitch count for The Futures’ Game, is the top prospect in Triple-A. Once he gets comfortable, and as Quirk, who has managed him in Double-A San Antonio and High-A Lake Elsinore last year, noted “trusts all of his pitches” we should see more quality outings.

He is going to give up some home runs in the homerdomes of the PCL South, but look for him in San Diego by September when he may have a chance to face his old roommate Matt Wisler.

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There is a good chance that neither LHP Jason Lane, 38, or RHP Chris Smith, 34, will be in San Diego this year but both of them are a lot of fun to watch. Neither one is going to touch 90 MPH consistently but watching how they locate, sink and cut their fastballs is a lesson in pitching.

Additionally, both of them are semi-coaches on the team and help the players understand what it takes to be pros on and off the field. Lane in particular, because of his experience as a position player and pitcher, is a mentor to nearly every player on the team.

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Last, but certainly not least, Cody Decker, 28, for whom there are always a lot of questions. With nearly 20,000 followers on Twitter and now his new passion on social media Periscope, the fans want to know when we will finally see the twenty-second round draft pick from UCLA in 2009 in the big leagues.

As someone who has covered Cody since he beat out Mike Trout for the Arizona League MVP in 2009 - yes, I bet many people didn’t know that - I don’t know; and neither does anyone else unless they are in A.J. Preller’s office.

However, if he is going to get called up this year is his best opportunity. He has a manager who has seen him play in over 200 plus Triple-A games in Pat Murphy who once said that he would want Cody on his team whether it “baseball, darts or tiddlywinks”.

Also, he is having a good year. Cody was El Paso’s representative to the Triple-A All-Star Game, leads the organization in home runs with 15 and is second overall in RBI with 55 - despite having less at-bats than most of the other leaders.

This year he has seen significant time at third base - and I thought he looked better defensively every game - he has a chance. He can catch, play first, third and has experience as a corner outfielder and should be a quality bench addition, particularly in the National League.

Throw in the fact that he will be eligible to be a free agent at the end of the year and that if San Diego still wants him in the organization they are going to have to place him on the 40-man roster or lose him to free agency; maybe.

In all probability it will probably come down to who San Diego does or does not trade at the deadline along with who they decide they need to bring up in September for experience. Personally, I hope Cody makes it because not only would it be fun, but he’s earned it.


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