Summary: Most of the top talent from the 2016 draft is still in the Arizona League and players that were signed in the international signing period for the most part have not arrived stateside.
So what is in Pasco?
The Dust Devils finished second in the North Division for the first half. They are led by a solid double-play combination in Nate Easley and Chris Baker. First baseman/DH G.K. Young, late of the national champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (which is a type of rooster), has been an offensive surprise and third baseman Boomer While, who led the SEC in batting average this spring, has gotten hot after a bit of a slow start. On the mound fourth round pick LHP Joey Lucchessi has been good but because he threw over 100 innings in college his innings are being limited along with LHP Eric Lauer, one of the Padres’ three first round picks just arriving in Pasco.
The Padres’ first pick RHP Cal Quantril and RHP Lake Bachar could also arrive in the near future.
CF Buddy Reed, is an athletic six-foot-four outfielder in a system that is increasingly putting a premium on athletic ability, is one of the more discussed prospects at this level. Reed was the Padres’ second round pick out of the University of Florida based more on what they believed he could become than any numbers he put up with the Gators.
How does he look? Solid defensively, but a little lost at the plate. Right now the main goal of the organization is to work on his timing - “to be on time” - is the mantra for the whole organization. The belief is regardless of how good your mechanics may be if you are late, you can’t hit. Right now the big goal with Reed is to work on his timing, rather than mechanics, which will be a longer project in the off-season.
Shortstop Chris Baker, a seventeenth round pick out of the University of Washington via San Mateo, California, has been very impressive. Good range, strong arm, solid approach at the plate and has some pop.
Dust Devils’ manager Ben Fritz believes he has the range to stay at shortstop based on his instincts. “He has a very good first step and has made some adjustments at the plate, mainly to get him more upright, to add a little more power.”
Baker played three different positions in college, mainly third base but really wants to stay at shortstop. Based on what he is doing now, he should have a pretty good shot to do that in Fort Wayne in 2017.
LHP Eric Lauer was all that was advertised for the three innings that he pitched on Friday night debut. He worked quickly flashed three solid pitches and was not afraid to bury the fastball inside to right-handed hitters. Right now he’s still working on a better change-up, but he has the fastball command and mound poise of ten-year MLB veteran.
The Padres will have very talented rotations at the A-ball levels next year with Quantril, Lauer, Chris Paddack, Anderson Espinoza, Adrian Morejon, Jacob Nix, Logan Allen, Austin Smith, Mason Thompson (third round, $1.75 million dollar bonus), Reggie Lawson (second round supplemental, $1.9 million dollar bonus).
Throw in the recently acquired Hansel Rodriguez and Joey Lucchesi, who is discussed later here, and there will be a prospect for every rotation spot in Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore next season.
LHP Will Headean has been up and down but seems close to getting over the hump. Fritz noted that he is so aggressive he needs to “take the foot off of the gas” sometimes, but he has showns some improvement. Right now Headean, who wants to start, is working on mastering the change-up. He has a good fastball, decent curve and good size at six-foot-four.
Joey Lucchesi led the NCAA in strikeouts this spring with 149 has one of the more unique deliveries in the game. With no runners on, his motion beings with his hands over his head, which are then brought down to his waist, followed by sharp pivot to first base with the ball being brought down low by his waist released like a catapult. Throw in a slight rocking motion that he has with his pivot - which he varies of course, and it’s a different at-bat for the opposition.
“I just don’t think the hitters can see it, let alone time it,” said Fritz. “Is it an unusual motion? Sure, but until he experiences consistent failure - in my opinion - everyone should leave him alone because it works.”
One of the reasons second baseman Nate Easley, the son of Damon Easley, one of the Padres’ coaches in the AZL, elected to go pro instead of going to Washington State was to speed up the process of moving from the outfield to second base. Easley had played centerfield in both high school and at Yavapai College (JC) but was told by pro scouts that his future was in the infield, mainly at second.
“Washington State’s plan for me was to play in the outfield and then if I was able to go to the pros I would transition to second. I just thought it was better to speed up the process.”
First baseman G.K. Young is right-handed but bats from the left side. His entire family is right-handed, but his father’s uncle, who helped to teach him the game when he was young, is like him; bats left and throws right.
“I don’t think there is anyone on the face of this earth that can hit a softball further than him,” said the six-foot, 225 lbs. former Coastal Carolina star.
“He’s a big man.”
“Oh, he’s around six-foot-nine, probably close to 300 pounds.”
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