The Padres have been running a pretty intense camp, with players in the clubhouse by 6:00 a.m. most mornings, and still there 12 hours later. They took advantage of some player meetings with league officials to give them a slightly later start on the field Sunday before 1:00 games against the Mariners.
The Triple-A game featured an odd mix as Tyson Ross and Brandon Morrow threw to Austin Hedges, but much of their defense was made up of made up of teenagers, paired with only Mike Olt and Hunter Renfroe among likely members of the El Paso roster. Ross worked a quick and impressive five innings, giving up only one unearned run, with only one well-struck ball and nine strikeouts. Morrow still appeared to be shaking off the effects of his extended illness, not getting to his normal velocity until well into his first inning. He ultimately worked two frames, leaving the final two frames to minor league free agent signees Derek Eitel and lefty Scott Snodgress.
Hedges, who got a few extra at-bats in addition to his normal spot in the lineup hit a wind-aided homer to left-center and had a few sharply-hit singles as well. Luis Urias, Ruddy Giron and Reinaldo Ilarraza all played the infield with Trae Santos at first. Each of the three teenagers had a few challenges against a Mariners group that included a number of guys who will be in Tacoma this year, several times rushing on grounders, and Urias got aggressive on the bases, leading to two outs.
In the Double-A game, Carlos Pimentel, who had a strong year in Triple-A for the Cubs last season, got stretched out to three innings. Though he fought location a little bit, it's easy to see him being a workhorse in El Paso in 2016. Catcher Jose Ruiz, whose defense has far outpaced his bat so far in his career, has looked improved offensively so far this spring. He's a guy who could get some attention in Lake Elsinore this year. Another lesser-known position player who could put up some numbers for the Storm is left-handed hitting outfielder Edwin Moreno. A strong but compact player, Moreno, 22, can add value on both sides of the game.
Back on the Padres side of the Peoria Sports Complex, Carlos Belen launched a massive homer to left-center. The toolsy third baseman has all the raw skills to be a major offensive force, but continues to struggle to make consistent contact. He could be in line for a roster spot in Fort Wayne to open the year. Because of the ease of working across the complex, the two clubs actually ran a fifth "extra" game, with a mix-and match of players. Among them was Brett Wallace, who continues to work to get extra at-bats on the back fields.
Among the many minor league free agents brought into the organization over the winter, outfielder D'Arby Myers and gigantic right-handed pitcher Martires Arias stand out as players who have likely earned roster spots. Myers, 27, originally signed out of high school with the Phillies back in 2006, but spent most of last year with the Angels' Double-A club. He could be in much the same role Tyson Gillies was for the Missions last year.
After John took a look at potential landing spots for position players yesterday, we'll take a quick look at the possibilities on the pitching staffs today.
Triple-A El Paso
Depending on what happens with the big league staff, Dan McCutchen and Justin Hancock may be the only two starters who were in the organization last year who open the year in the rotation. A number of veteran free agents, including Phil Humber, Luis Diaz, Pimentel, and Daniel Moskos could all be in the mix. Hard-throwing relievers Tayron Guerrero and Jose Dominguez will likely make up the back of the pen with a few members of the 40-man roster.
Double-A San Antonio
Elliot Morris and Bryan Rodriguez are likely hold-overs from the 2015 staff, while Rafael De Paula, Brad Wieck and some of the minor league free agents look to add depth to the staff. Zech Lemond will look to rebound back in his home state, though a move to the bullpen may be in the offing. The organization will have a decision to make about a starting or relief role for Ryan Butler when he finishes his suspension in early June.
Hi-A Lake Elsinore
The competition here includes a blend of the strong staff from Fort Wayne last year and potentially some of the college pitchers from last year's draft class. Dinelson Lamet, Thomas Dorminy, Ernesto Montas and Chris Huffman seem likely to stay in the rotation as they move up a level, though trade acquisition Jose Torres, who is already on the 40-man roster, may move one of those guys to the pen. Brett Kennedy might be the most likely of the draftees to open the year with the Storm as Trevor Megill has been slowed a bit by a minor leg issue this spring. Phil Maton has been working as a reliever so far this spring, and could be moved quickly to join a bullpen cast of Colby Blueberg, Yimmi Brasoban, and Kyle McGrath who were dominant for much of the year last year.
Low-A Fort Wayne
We've been saying for a month that this competition will be a dogfight. The trio of 2016 teenage draftees Logan Allen, Jacob Nix, and Austin Smith will all look for innings alongside Enyel De Los Santos, Jose Castillo, and the strong collection of college arms who were in Tri-City last summer. It's possible Jordan Guerrero could go out at the back of the bullpen with Corey Kimber. There are at least 20 guys with a legitimate claim for a spot on the TinCaps' 13-man pitching staff - a nice place for the organization to be, even if it's tough on the players.