Cherished Memories

Lake Elsinore Storm Notebook

LAKE ELSINORE — Thoughts and observations from our recent trip(s) to see the Storm just up the I-15 from San Diego.

Summary:  This is a decent Storm team in terms of prospects.  Shortstop Javier Guerra, who came over in the Kimbrel trade, was MadFriars’ top prospect and second baseman Luis Urias may be the best prospect in the system that Padres’ fans really don’t know much about.

Centerfielder Michael Gettys joined the squad in late June and is easily San Diego’s best outfielder below Double-A and there are some interesting bullpen arms in RHP Phil Maton and RHP Colby Blueberg.

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Guerra, 20, does have a world of talent and as most scouts have noted he has one of the better arms of any shortstop in baseball.  While he has made 29 errors this year he also leads the Cal League in total chances with 456 which means he is getting to many balls that others can’t.

His biggest problem this year has been at the plate where he is hitting .203/.266/.332 with 129 strikeouts in 396 plate appearances.  He has shown some power with 28 extra-base hits but that is not enough to offset the glaring lack of content,

At one of the games we were at Kevin Charity, one of the MadFriars writers, and I observed that in his four plate appearances that night he saw nothing but a steady diet of breaking pitches and change-ups. He was 0-4 with three strikeouts.

“He can drill a fastball,” said one scout. “He takes a huge hack but his biggest problem is that he doesn’t know how to lay off of pitches outside of the zone or that he doesn’t have to try to hit a ball 500 feet every time up. So far this season he has yet to make any adjustments.”

Last season in Low-A Greenville in the Red Sox organization he hit .279/.329/.449 but according to some the left-handed hitting Guerra was greatly assisted by a short right-field porch and a good hitting environment.

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Michael Gettys has been slowed recently by nagging groin and back injuries but he is all that is advertised.  Lance Burkhart, the manager for the Storm, was his hitting coach in Fort Wayne and raves at the steady progress that he has made in all facets of his game.

Along with Travis Jankowski and Manuel Margot, Gettys is also a plus defender and last year Baseball America named him the best defensive outfielder in the Midwest League. Defensively, he can run, has great instincts and has the best arm of the three.

Offensively he is still a work in progress, particularly in laying off of the high fastballs, but the tools are very loud for the talented twenty-year old from north Georgia.  Thirty-one extra-base hits and thirty-two stolen bases in 46 attempts.

“He’s controlling the strike zone better, but it is ongoing,” said Burkhart. “He’s a very good outfielder too.  He not only has great instincts, but he has the extra gear to go get the ball, whether it is against the wall or going through it.”

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Urias was on the DL during our visit with what was described as some leg related injuries, but still drew raves from everyone that has seen him this season. As of today he is leading the Cal League in hitting at .331 and is only 19.  He opened the year as the youngest player in the league, until Josh Naylor joined the team.

“He’s just a hitter,” said Burkhart on the young second baseman from Mexico.  “He has a good eye and lays off pitches that he doesn’t have to hit.  That is kind of something that is not really taught, just God-given.”

“Defensively he makes all the routine plays and has the arm strength to play shortstop.”

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Josh VanMeter, 21, has primarily become a third baseman after playing the majority of his games at second and shortstop in his first three years in the system.  This season he has hit 12 home runs - after previously only hitting three in three years - with the Storm along with leading the team in extra-base hits and walks before he was promoted to Double-A San Antonio.

“Just a very good player,” said Tyler Zick, one of the Storm’s announcers and a former college baseball player.  “He does so many things right on the field, especially with fundamentals and is also a great guy in the community.”

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RHP Chris Huffman has very quietly had one of the better years for starting pitchers’ in the system.  He’s fifth in the league in ERA at 3.35 in 96.2 innings with a 9-4 record.  Huffman, 23, was drafted out of James Madison University in the fourteenth round of the 2014 draft.

At six-foot-two he is not an imposing physical specimen or does he post gaudy strikeout-to-walks numbers but what he has done, as he did in Fort Wayne last year, is eat innings without giving up runs.

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RHP Phil Maton and RHP Colby Blueberg are two of the better bullpen arms in the system.  Blueberg led the organization in saves last year with the TinCaps and Maton was the best pitcher on last year’s Dust Devils’ squad.

Blueberg has tailed off a little since the All-Star game but Maton may be the first of the 2015 draft class to reach the majors now that the Padres have determined to keep him in the bullpen.

Maton has a nice three-pitch mix and evaluators will speak about his “spin” rate.

You can get a bigger definition here, in a nutshell it gives the fastball an appearance of rising and with sinker ball pitchers it is lower. Maton has one of the highest spin rates in the organization to go along with impressive command.  

He was a 20th round pick out of Louisiana State where he was a starter.  With his mix of pitches he has the ability to throw multiple innings and should be the first from the 2015 draft class to reach the majors.

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Finally keep an eye on Enyel De Los Santos,20, a big right-handed pitcher that came over in the Joaquin Benoit trade with Seattle in the off-season.  Benoit has since moved onto Toronto after a disappointing season but De Los Santos is still very much a viable prospect who made the Top 10 on Baseball America’s mid-season Top 10.

He’s very young and right now, and despite the velocity, fastball command is very much an issue with a 40:28 split right now and a 4.95 ERA in 40 innings after posting a 2.91 ERA 52.2 with Fort Wayne in the Midwest League.  If he can begin to harness his fastball and command his secondary pitches better, he could have a ticket to Double-A San Antonio next season just because of the sheer volume of talented young pitchers the organization will want to throw every fifth day at the A-ball level.

 

 


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