It was nice to see him return with Mike Saeger to form one of the better broadcasting tandems in the minor leagues. He was kind enough to give us his impressions of the Missions this year.
This wasn’t the best year for the Missions but what would you say were some of the highlights?
Stu Paul: Without question it wasn’t the best of seasons, but we did see the development of pitcher Colin Rea as well as outfielder Travis Jankowski and as we know, both of them eventually got promoted to the major leagues.
Also, not to mention when third baseman Duanel Jones had to consecutive games where he had the game winning hit and both games were against NW Arkansas at our ballpark in early June. One night with two outs in the ninth, he had a two-run single that won the ballgame and the next night, he homered onto the grass berm in left field at Wolff Stadium. I’ll never forget his reaction as he ran around the base paths and then getting greeted at home plate by his teammates.
You saw two of the better Padres’ prospects this summer in Travis Jankowski and Hunter Renfroe. What did you think of them and what type of future do you see for them in the major leagues?
Stu Paul: What I see out of Travis is a prototype leadoff hitter. He won’t hit many home runs, but he is such an excellent disciplined hitter that he will drive the ball to where it is pitched and he can go to all fields. Not to mention his baserunning skills stand out as they are second to none. He will have more than his share of stolen bases and you can bet with quality hitters behind him, he will be among the National League leaders in run scored.
As far as his defense? He is excellent. Second to none! He is a major league outfielder now and gets to any ball whether he dives for it or not!
Travis is amazing! Reminds me of the late Tommie Agee when he played center field for the Mets in the late 1960s/early 1970s and helped the Mets win a World Series in 1969! Hunter Renfroe has improved over the course of the season after a slow start. Earlier in the year, Hunter did not show the same kind of discipline and patience as Jankowski did and he was striking out at an alarming rate and also he was not going too deep in hitters’ counts at the plate.
If Hunter is going to bat third or cleanup in the majors, he will have to learn to be more selective at the plate. I don’t mean to sound critical of him, but I know the Padres look up to him. Without a doubt, he can hit the home runs and drive in the runs. He needs to lay off a lot of those sliders down and away that plagued him earlier this season. I think Renfroe will get better with age and more experience and of course, let’s not forget that he is still only 23 years old. Good outfielder with a good arm, but he just needs to improve on his approach at the plate.
Stu Paul: Oh my goodness! At 21 years of age, he already showed me he had big league ball written all over him. His range at shortstop is excellent and he is the perfect number two hitter with some pop. He will hit his share of homers, albeit not as many as Bryce Harper. He is a very good contact hitter who will put the ball in play and move runners up and he can steal some bases as well. The sky is the limit for this Floridian and he can only get better.
With [Ian] Desmond or whoever leads off or bats in front of Turner, you can bet he will get his share of RBI. I was sorry to see him leave San Diego, but Washington was a good fit. As of this writing, the Nationals were eliminated for post season play, but they are a better team than what they showed on the field this year. With Turner having a full season under his belt, he can only get better. Having Desmond and [Danny] Espinoza playing on the infield with him, he will be a better player.
Yeison Ascencio finished in the top ten in batting average (.301) was in the top five in RBI (74) and walked a grand total of 14 times in 496 plate appearances. He also only struck out forty times but what are his strengths as a hitter and could he ever develop the patience necessary to become a major leaguer?
Stu Paul: I’m not sure if Yeison will ever be a selective hitter. Yes, as much as he kept progressing at the Double-A level, he must be more patient if he wants to make it to the majors and stick there. If and when he gets called up to the majors, he is going to obviously realize that the pitching at the major league level is much better than in Double A, so he will have to try to “examine and look” at the pitchers and see what kind of off speed stuff they have.
Sure, everyone can hit the fastball, including Ascensio, but he must realize that he will not be seeing as many fastballs as he will off speed stuff unless he shows he can master those pitches. As far as his defense? His arm is strong, but not always accurate, and his footwork in the outfield has been a concern! I hope that in spring training, an outfield coach/instructor will help him with his footwork as he can get a better jump and start on any fly ball hit his way.
Quite a few people have argued that Jose Rondon could be the Padres’ shortstop of the future but he hit .190 in 28 games with the Missions. What did you see of him that you liked on offense and defense and what does he need to improve upon?
Stu Paul: Rondon has a ways to go and unfortunately, he is nowhere near being ready for the major leagues. Unfortunately, he broke his elbow stealing second base in July and honestly, I did not get to see as much of him.
I can tell you right now, he needs to hit more! His play at shortstop was good and has a good arm, but needs improvement there, too. Still, a very young man and I should not try being critical of him, either. Let’s see what happens next year as I wish him a speedy recovery from his injury and have a great 2016 season. Chances are he will start the season back in San Antonio.
I’ve always been an Alberth Martiniez fan. Did you see improvements in his consistency at the plate this year?
Stu Paul: Absolutely, John! Alberth did more than a credible job in center field once Travis Jankowski got called up. He is certainly not Jankowski, but how many outfielders are? He does a good job in center field and can play some left field as well.
His power kept getting better and better and I think he is one of those “hidden prospects” that not too many people talk about, but his skillset his there. He hits well with contact and his numbers, like I said, were good, so I feel he’s going to start at least in Triple A next season.
Colin Rea started in San Antonio and made it all the way to the Padres’ rotation this year. What made him so effective?
Stu Paul: His maturity and control!. His fastball was excellent and he also showed good breaking stuff for a young man of 24. He showed he was a decent hitter, too. He kept the ball down and made sure that the opposition did not get a good piece of the ball and most of the time, they didn’t. Anytime you can possess control on any of your pitches, you will succeed and Colin Rea has showed me just that!
Casey Kelly made it to San Diego, but didn’t have great numbers in San Antonio at 1-8 with a 4.94 ERA. Was he better than his numbers and if so, why?
Stu Paul: Unfortunately, Casey was very inconsistent, but you have to realize that he did not always pitch in regular turn in the rotation and I think that hurt him a bit. His pitches, at times, were too predictable and his velocity was not always there and he got lit up from time to time. He turns 27 next year so it’s going to be a “BIG” year for him and needs one if he wants to show he can pitch in the majors again. A great guy off the field, but hopefully, he will be healthy and be in regular turn.
Justin Hancock was one of the better pitchers in the league this year. Can you give us a quick description of what type of pitcher he is?
Stu Paul: He can get his fastball up there in the low 90s and can hit 93, but not much beyond that. His slider is excellent and when he keeps the ball down, he can be tough. If he gets it up, then watch out. He will get lit up. He started off well and then when on a down streak. Hope he shows more consistency next year.
What did you see from James Needy before he got hurt?
Stu Paul: Man, what a shame on what happened to James. A big fellow, but a guy who had very good control and even though he was not always overpowering, I felt that he always got the ball over the plate and always pitched on the corners as well. One of our best pitchers, but it looks like he won’t be pitching at all next year and we probably won’t see him again until sometime in 2017. I wish him well on his recovery. He is still only 24 years old, so he has some time despite this terrible setback.
Finally, who was the Missions’ top position prospect and top pitching prospect?
Stu Paul: We discussed them earlier and they are now in the majors! Rea as a top pitching prospect and Jankowski as a top position prospect. Now to answer a question regarding any current Padres’ prospect who were with the Missions other than Colin and Travis, I have to say Hunter Renfroe on the position side and perhaps Hancock on the pitching side.