Synopsis: The TinCaps will generate the most excitement in the Padres’ system because eight of the Top 20 prospects begin the season here in addition to a few that just missed. The strength of the team is a dominant starting pitching staff, but it should also be strong up the middle with catcher Austin Allen, shortstop Ruddy Giron and centerfielder Michael Gettys.
Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Player Development:
(1) The first thing that jumps out to us about this team is the pitching staff. Who stood out most in the spring?
Sam Geaney: It is really a nice staff and quite a few of them impressed, but for me it was Austin Smith. We weren’t sure he was going to be ready to go to Low-A to start the year, but he kind of forced the issue. He came into camp in great shape and pitched very well.
We are really looking forward to seeing what he can do in Fort Wayne.
(2) What improvements should we expect to see from Michael Gettys?
Sam Geaney: I think he’s in a better place than he was last year. He’s matured quite a bit and he sees the game better and more importantly has a better understanding of what he needs to do to get better.
At the end of spring, he has a little more athletic set-up at the plate that he worked on with [Fort Wayne hitting coach] Lance Burkhart that really came through for him. He’s making very good contact at the end and we like what we saw.
(3) Austin Allen struggled initially in Tri-City before having a solid August. What improvements did you see in him from the offseason to now?
Sam Geaney: He had a tremendous off-season. Austin made significant improvements and continued to work very hard in the spring. There are things that he knows he has to improve upon defensively, but it is amazing how far he has come in nine months since we drafted him.
He’s also in better shape, his bat speed is picked up and I think he could really put up some numbers.
2016 Projected Lineup:
|2B||Peter Van Gansen
||RHSP||Enyel De Los Santos
MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in Fort Wayne: #6 Ruddy Giron, #8 Jacob Nix, #9 Austin Smith, #10 Michael Gettys, #15 Logan Allen, #16 Enyel de los Santos, #18 Jose Castillo* (on the disabled list) and #19 Phil Maton.
Catch a Rising Star: Austin Smith, Jacob Nix, Logan Allen, Enyel De Los Santos could all be candidates, but Logan Allen, who came over in the Craig Kimbrel trade from Boston, seemed to attract the most attention in the spring.
Seriously, there are several good picks and very few wrong ones.
Starting Pitching: The Padres have been affiliated with Fort Wayne since 1999 and have never sent a pitching staff like this to the Summit City. The team will feature a seven-man staff to begin the year with the three older pitchers, Lockett, Kennedy and De Los Santos getting their own games and the four younger pitchers Smith, Nix, Allen and Cosme, who came over in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles, splitting games to save innings.
Lockett and Kennedy could be in Lake Elsinore after a few months because there should be some room in the Storm starting rotation and a need to clear room for a few pitchers who were left back in extended spring training. When LHP Jose Castillo is back from a triceps strain, look for him to join the staff along with giant RHP Trevor Megill (6’8”) who is working through a groin strain. Also look for LHP Jerry Keel (6’5”) and RHP Trey Wingenter (6’7”) to make appearances in the Summit City sometime this summer.
Bullpen: After going back and forth this winter on whether he would start the Padres decided to keep Phil Maton in the bullpen, where he was spectacular in 2015 with the Tri-City Dust Devils. He struck out 58 batters in 32.2 innings against only five walks in 2015. LHP Will Headean pitched well in the AZL and for the Dust Devils in his debut season and also looked strong in spring.
Catching: Allen was picked in the 4th round of the 2015 draft, and with his size and bat there is a lot to dream on. A.J. Kennedy is the more advanced defensive receiver and should see time on days when Allen is the designated hitter.
Infield: Giron set the Midwest League on fire before eventually slowing down in the second half of 2015. The Padres wanted to keep the young Dominican at shortstop but he still should be in line to be promoted when San Diego thinks top prospect Javier Guerra is ready to move up from where he’ll start the year in High-A Lake Elsinore. Peter Van Gansen can play both short and second but will be at second as long as Giron is in Fort Wayne. He was the Dust Devils’ lone all-star and will be a steadying force defensively along with a top of the order hitter. Ty France was a late round pick out of San Diego State who hit .294 with a .425 on-base percentage for the Dust Devils. He could also see some time at first base if and when the organization promotes Carlos Belen from extended spring training. Zunica is only 20, but he’s also 6’6” and 255 pounds with a big left-handed stroke. If he doesn’t get too long on his swing he will send more than a few out of Parkview Field.
Outfield: If Gettys can improve his approach and cut down on his Midwest League leading strikeout numbers, he has as much upside as any prospect in the organization. Last season, Baseball America voted him the league’s best defensive outfielder and he came into camp leaner than in 2015. Rod Boykin is a top of the order hitter who many believe has the most speed in the organization. If he can drive the ball enough to keep the outfield honest he has a chance. Pena and Tejada should split time in right field. Tejada hit .293 for the TInCaps last year but is going to have to add more power to a .394 slugging percentage.
On the Spot: Michael Gettys returns for his second trip around the league and is going to have to prove that he can make consistent contact. The tools to do it are there.
Under the Radar: Austin Allen and Brad Zunica are both massive human beings who could put up some serious power numbers. Right now Allen is a little more advanced, but Zunica is strong enough to mis-hit a ball and still send it out to left field.