Padres Preview of Minor League Free Agency

With the off-season in full swing, the San Diego Padres have already made a few moves to shape their roster for 2016.

The organization started the off-season by dealing Joaquin Benoit to Seattle, acquiring infielder Jose Pirela from the Yankees and finally by trading closer Craig Kimbrel to Boston for a package of prospects headlined by outfielder Manuel Margot. While these moves will impact the Major League club, the Padres will need to look at free agents to fill their farm club rosters.

The Padres have 25 Minor League players who are currently eligible for free agency. Of the 25 players, 13 were on the El Paso Chihuahua’s roster at season’s end. San Diego has already restocked the system with young talent this off-season but a few minor league veterans will be needed.

The Minor League free agent list for the Padres is headlined by outfielder Donavan Tate, who was the third overall pick in 2009 draft. Former third rounder Jerry Sullivan could be on the move as well. Utility slugger Cody Decker finally got a shot to play in the Big Leagues this season but was outrighted off the 40-man roster a few weeks ago. He will now be eligible to sign elsewhere.

Below, we have the complete list of all the players who played in the Padres’ system in 2015, that are now eligible for free agency with analysis by Vincent Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America.

Right-handed pitchers: Juan Arias (DSL Padres), Jordan Hershiser, (Storm), Daniel McCutchen (Chihuahuas), James Needy (Missions), Aaron Northcraft (Chihuahuas), Adys Portillo (Storm), Chris Smith (Chihuahuas), Jerry Sullivan (Chihuahuas), Cecil Tanner (AZL Padres).

Left-handed pitchers: Eury De La Rosa (Missions), Jason Lane (Chihuahuas), Caleb Thielbar (Chihuahuas).

60% of El Paso’s rotation is eligible for free agency, as the “30-something” gang of Chris Smith, Jason Lane, and Daniel McCutchen may move on in search of a better opportunity. Lane, 38, has value as an innings-eater, but he could transition into coaching. His 164 innings pitched was good for second in the PCL. Smith and McCutchen finished fifth and sixth respectively in the PCL in ERA, but their solid performances did not earn them a 40-man roster spot.

“Both Smith and McCutchen seem inclined to move on,” said Lara-Cinisomo. I could see McCutchen looking for work in Asia, both are veterans who don’t throw hard, but can eat innings for an organization looking for veteran types to round out a Triple-A team,” said Vincent Lara-Cinisomo

James Needy, a sixth-rounder in 2009, will miss all of 2016, after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Needy, a Santana High alum, struggled in Triple-A in 2015, but was pitching better in Double-A, before his unfortunate injury.

“Needy is a guy I can see the Padres retaining. He can rehab the injury and look to come back in 2017. He is still a guy that the organization likes,” said Lara-Cinisomo.

Aaron Northcraft was acquired in the Justin Upton trade but struggled to a 5.58 ERA in 19 appearances for El Paso. He was more effective in San Antonio, as evidenced by a 2.93 ERA in 20 outings.

One name that should be familiar to most Padres followers is that of Venezuelan-born Adys Portillo. Portillo, now 23, signed a $2 million bonus way back in 2008. He has shown flashes of potential but has not been able to have consistent success. Last season, Portillo walked 10 batters in just four innings with Lake Elsinore.

“I think the Padres will be moving on from Portillo. With his arm, there could be interest from other organizations, but it seems like his tenure with San Diego will be coming to an end,” said Lara-Cinisomo.

Catchers: Miguel Del Castillo (Storm), Griff Erickson (Missions), Tim Federowicz (Chihuahuas), Adolfo Reina (Missions).

Federowicz is the most recognizable name on this list, and he missed most of last season after having knee surgery. Going into 2015, he seemed destined to be the backup to Derek Norris but never played in San Diego. Federowicz, 28, was acquired in the Matt Kemp deal last season. The former North Carolina Tar Heel hit just .179/.229/.346 in 22 games with El Paso. Still, he could be resigned as organizational depth.

Griff Erickson, a San Diego native, struggled at the plate with San Antonio last season, but he did have a track record of success at the plate, prior to 2015. Erickson hit just .227/.316/.398, with three home runs and 21 RBI in 61 games behind the dish for San Antonio. Erickson could intrigue a few organizations since he does possess a career slash-line of .286/.372/.491 in 62 games at the Triple-A locker.

Miguel Del Castillo has been in the Padres’ organization since 2009, after being signed out of the Dominican Republic. Del Castillo has never hit much but possesses a good arm behind the plate. For what it is worth, he did swat a career-high three home runs while playing for Lake Elsinore in 2015. He has a career slash-line of .235/.313/.308 in seven professional seasons.

Reina was taken from the Detroit organization in the minor league phase of the Rule V Draft in 2013. He reached Double-A in 2015, but hit just .205. Infielders: 1B Cody Decker (Chihuahuas), 2B Benji Gonzalez (Chihuahuas), SS Hector Gomez (Chihuahuas), SS Mike McCoy (Chihuahuas), SS Ramiro Pena (Chihuahuas).

Virtually every infielder who ended the season in El Paso can leave the organization, via free agency. Cody Decker got his first taste of Big League action, although he failed to collect a hit in 11 plate appearances. Still, Decker should draw interest around the league.

“I can see a lot of teams taking a flier on Cody Decker. He possesses a ton of power and does have some value as a guy who can play the corner infield. He shouldn’t have a problem finding a Triple-A job in 2016,” said Lara-Cinisomo.

Ramiro Pena had a solid season at the plate in El Paso but never received a call to San Diego. Pena has had success in the past as utilityman in the Majors, and should attract plenty of interest.

Infielder Hector Gomez was signed to a Minor League contract in August, after being released by Milwaukee. Gomez was impressive in El Paso, hitting .358/.400/.623, in 29 games. Gomez is still just 27, and it would be safe to assume that the Padres would have some interest in retaining him.

Benji Gonzalez has been a solid contributor in the system the last two seasons after he was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh. Gonzalez, 25, played all over the infield, and played at four different stops last season. Gonzalez is a good organizational depth piece, and he did hit a collective .271/.329/.366 last season.

McCoy, 34, has some service time at the Big League level, although he didn’t hit much in El Paso in 2015. McCoy helped out as a coach during the Padres’ Instructional League, as reported by MadFriars contributor David Jay. There is no word if McCoy has hung up the spikes for good.

Outfielders: Luis Domoromo (Missions), Tyson Gillies (Missions), Jake Goebbert (Chihuahuas), Donavan Tate (Storm)

Donavan Tate is the headliner in this category, and he has likely played his last game in the Padres’ organization. Tate, now 25, never lived up to the potential he appeared to have when San Diego selected him with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft.

To Tate’s credit, he was able to actually get on the field in 2015, and the talented outfielder has seemingly overcome the off-the-field issues that dogged his early career. Tate played 95 games with Lake Elsinore in 2015, and hit just .211/.290/.334, with a career-high six home runs, albeit with a strikeout rate that approached 30%.

“Tate will probably get another shot in affiliated ball, just due to his pedigree and talent. He hasn’t been able to put it together, and the Padres will likely move on. I could also see a scenario in which Tate may have to take the independent baseball route if he wishes to continue his career,” said Lara-Cinisomo.

Luis Domoromo is another bonus baby, having signed with San Diego in 2008 for $1.25 million. Domoromo struggled mightily in the first half of the season but slashed a superb .328/.371/.465 in the second half. Domoromo, still just 23, has played the outfield, but spent most of last year at first base.

“A few of the managers I talked to said that Domoromo might have been the best defensive first baseman in the Texas League. His bat came around in the second half of the season. I can see the Padres having an interest in bringing him back,” said Lara-Cinisomo.

Jake Goebbert spent all of 2015 in El Paso, despite accruing some service time in San Diego during the 2014 season. Goebbert, 27 hit .294/.392/.352, with 10 home runs. While Goebbert didn’t earn a 40-man spot in September, it seems like he may find a new organization in 2016. He’s left-handed and has shown good plate discipline in his minor league career.

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