Jeff Nycz

MadFriars 2017 Lake Elsinore Storm Season Preview

The Storm will be one of minor league baseball's most interesting teams in 2017.

Synopsis: The Storm should be the best team in the system and one of the most interesting in minor league baseball, especially in the rotation which will feature four of the Padres’ Top 10 prospects. In the field, keep an eye on centerfielder Michael Gettys and first baseman Josh Naylor.

Three Strikes with Sam Geaney, the Padres Director of Player Development:

1) You’ve done this for a while - and been around the Cal League for a long time - has there ever been a more prospect heavy rotation in your memory?

Sam Geaney: [laughs] Not that I can recall. Hopefully we can look back in a few years with good memories of these guys.

2) You had to be pleased with what Michael Gettys did last year. What did you see him this spring?

Sam Geaney: Michael had a good spring, mainly in the way that a lot of the mechanical aspects of his swing he was working so hard to incorporate just seem much more natural now. He had a lot of success last year and is buying into a more selective approach at the plate which will allow his physical tools to play more.

3) How has Javier Guerra looked, and do you think we will see a rebound from last year?

Sam Geaney: I think so. Like Michael, he had a nice spring. Defensively he can do so many things without equal - and I’m talking about at all levels, not only the minor leagues - that will impress you. We are optimistic about where he is at offensively, but also know there will be some bumps along the way.

2017 Projected Lineup:

1B Josh Naylor* (#11) SP Anderson Espinoza – RHP- (#2)
2B Chris Baker (JM) SP Cal Quantrill - RHP (#4)
3B Ruddy Giron SP Eric Lauer – LHP (#8)
SS Javier Guerra* SP Jacob Nix - RHP (#9)
C Austin Allen* SP Joey Lucchesi – LHP (JM)
RF Taylor Kohlwey* RP J.C. Cosme - RHP
CF Michael Gettys (#7) RP Pedro Avila - RHP
LF Edwin Moreno/Alan Garcia* RP Jose Castillo - LHP
DH/Util Ty France RP Jose Ruiz - RHP

* indicates left-handed or switch-hitter

MadFriars’ Top 20 Prospects in Lake Elsinore: Espinoza, Quantrill, Gettys, Lauer, Naylor, Lucchesi and Baker. Jacob Nix will start the year on the DL, but should be available by mid-April.

Catch a Rising Star: Once Nix joins the crew, literally pick anyone in the rotation. On the position side, if Gettys can continue to build on the progress he made last year, he will force his way into the Padres’ outfield.

Starting Pitching: The quick answer is to read the MadFriars’ Top 20 since four out of the five starters are included. The other one is Lucchesi, who led the NCAA in strikeouts and was the Padres’ best pitcher in Tri-City. The long-man and spot starter, J.C. Cosme, was the MadFriars’ pitcher of the year in Fort Wayne as a starter. Pedro Avila, acquired from Washington for Josh Norris this winter, could be a front-of-the-rotation starter for most High-A clubs. If last year’s draftees - especially Lauer and Lucchesi - perform well, they will be on Southwest flights to Double-A San Antonio by the end of the first half. The good news is top prospect, lefty Logan Allen (#17) will be on his way west from Fort Wayne.

Pen: Cosme and Avila will be long men once Nix arrives, getting plenty of innings. Castillo looked very good in the World Baseball Classic for team Venezuela. He and hard-throwing slingshot righty Gerardo Reyes came over from Tampa as part of the Wil Myers trade and the organization seems content to keep him in the pen after trying him as a starter. Both will draw a lot of late-inning appearances for the Storm this year. Ruiz was catching last year and the team has moved him to pitching full-time - this is not a Bethencourt experiment.

Catching: Allen was our organizational player of the month last April when he hit .460. Although his bat was ready for the next level the Padres wanted to continue to see the refinement in his defensive ability behind the plate. The club re-signed Miguel del Castillo as the back-up to provide a steadying defensive presence for Allen and the high-octane pitching staff.

Infield: The infield is going to be interesting. Naylor, Giron and Guerra have all been top prospects at one point in their brief careers, but each has also endured prolonged slumps. Guerra still has all the tools that made him MadFriars’ top prospect going into 2016, the crucial question is whether he can convert the talent into performance this year. Giron struggled mightily early last year, but found his swing in the second half in Fort Wayne and in limited plate appearances with the Storm. This will be the first year he moves off shortstop. Naylor is an all-or-nothing hitter, and pundits are equally hot or cold on him. Baker was the Padres’ best performer at Tri-City last year and can play all three infield positions. After struggling at Fort Wayne, former San Diego State Aztec Ty France put up solid numbers with the Storm hitting .304/.378/.496. He should see time at third, first base and DH.

Outfield: Gettys is, by far, the best outfield prospect of the bunch. Defensively he’s a speedy centerfielder with an absolute cannon. He takes good routes and has usually been considered the best defensive player in any league he’s played in. Offensively we saw a big bump in his plate discipline last season and will need to continue to improve. He was a little overmatched in the Arizona Fall League in the offseason, but if he’s healthy and gets his at-bats we should see improvement. Garcia should have been at Tri-City for the full year last season, but the former Phoenix prep star is a better player than his numbers indicated in Fort Wayne and looked like it in spring. Taylor Kohlwey, a late-round pick last summer, has a mix of solid tools, with some decent speed and an arm that will play well in right. When he’s ready to come off the disabled list, Edwin Moreno will return for his second year in Elsinore.

On the Spot: Javier Guerra struggled mightily last year with the Storm after a lot of hype as the main return in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to Boston. We chatted with him in Spring Training and he’s going to get another shot this year in the Cal League. He’s only 21, but he has some pieces behind him at Fort Wayne now, and both Baker and Giron can play shortstop.

Under the Radar: Chris Baker was underutilized at the University of Washington, where he was playing third base. The Padres’ scouts liked what they saw and got a steal in the 17th round of last year’s draft. He can play all over the infield and showed some pop, particularly after getting out of cavernous Gesa Stadium with the Dust Devils. He had nine extra-base hits in 70 plate appearances with the TinCaps.

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