PEORIA, AZ — Today marked the first day of the minor league games with the Texas Rangers being San Diego’s first opponent, but all the eyes on the back fields was on the “sim” or intersquad game that featured some of the Padres’ brightest young pitching prospects, Mason Thompson, Reggie Lawson, Michael Baez, Enyel De Los Santos, Dan Dallas and most notably Adrian Morejon.
Morejon, the six-foot left-handed 18-year old Cuban, is the man that San Diego gave a record $11 million dollars too - $22 million when the over-slot penalties are included - the highest in the organization’s history, and today in a very limited showing, he did not disappoint.
Padres’ General Manager A.J. Preller, Director of Development Sam Geaney and assorted Padres brass, several scouts and Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs and Keith Law of ESPN were among the spectators that the two inning stint.
Morejon sat between 92-95 MPH and flashed a plus curve and changeup. According to the organization’s pitching coaches he posses unusual strength but his big selling point along, in addition to his plus stuff, is his unique poise along with clean repeatable mechanics.
“I think the organization has to send him out in April to Low-A (Fort Wayne), “ said Law after watching his performance. “I am aware that he hasn’t really pitched in the past year and that the organization wants to be careful with his innings, but he is just too advanced for extended hitters right now.”
“If you just have to throw him three innings an outing or give him a break sometime - that’s fine; but as with many young talented prospects he needs to be challenged so he can learn what he needs to improve upon.”
“He’s not going to find it on the back fields.”
RHP Mason Thompson was nearly as impressive in his pair of innings, and also was clocked in the 93-95 MPH range. His fastball command rivaled Morejon’s - particularly when considering that coming into the draft he only threw one inning in both his junior and senior years of high school. This past summer in the Arizona League he threw 12.
The six-foot-six Thompson has a powerful overhand delivery which gives the ball a natural sink and flashed a few decent changeups to go along with developing breaking stuff.
As opposed to Morejon, the club will probably elect to keep him out of the start of the Midwest League season to continue building up his arm and keep him out of the cold; but he also was impressive.
“I may have been a little low on him, and I liked him then too,” said Law after watching him pitch.
RHP Michael Baez, a big - and by big six-foot-eight 230 lbs. "big" - threw with velocity, sitting in the low 90s and touching 95, but also had trouble with his command. Baez, who was signed by the Padres out of Cuba for $3 million should be in the TinCaps’ rotation to start the year.
De Los Santos, who began the “sim” game, also struggled with command issues, but as always quite a few eyes were on his big fastball with the easy delivery. if the secondary pitches come, he will be someone to watch. De Los Santos, in a perfect world, would begin the season in High-A Lake Elsinore but could be pushed to Double-A San Antonio just by the sheer volume of arms the Padres will have at the A-ball level.
RHP Reggie Lawson, along with Thompson and LHP Dan Dallas, were of three prep pitchers that the organization selected in the first ten rounds of last year’s draft. Lawson, while probably the rawest, was also considered to have the biggest ceiling of the three.
“I’ve always liked the athleticism that Reggie shows and the fastball works,” said Eric Longenhagen. “I’ve seen him pitch in the Area Code Games and in the AZL last year and have always liked what I have seen.”
While Lawson did leave some pitches up in the zone, he is the type of athlete that one wants in their minor league system; he has a big fastball and a feel for a good curve and changeup.
Today he threw in the low-90s, but there seems to be much more there as he continues to iron out his mechanics.
After the hoopla of Morejon, Dan Dallas took the mound and except for one mistake up in the zone, also turned in an impressive outing. He picked a pair of runners off of first base and consistently kept the ball down in the zone with a hard sinking four-seam fastball.
Dallas looked noticeably bigger from last year and showed considerable poise on the mound, even bordering on arrogance.
‘You have to be that way on the mound,” laughed Dallas after the game. “You have to believe when you have the ball that you can get anyone out at any time. To do that you have to have a certain swagger - and yes, maybe even some might thinks its arrogance or you aren’t going to last out there.”
“This is different from high school, its not just about throwing the ball hard past someone. Guys aren’t going to swing at bad pitches, you have to learn how to pitch and to be confident in what you are doing.”
“If you aren’t, it’s time to go home.”