Coming To America: Latin Players Impressive

Peoria, AZ – Eleven Latin American players joined the Padres this week for extended spring training in a performance that was muy impresionado.

Though it may be difficult for some to communicate with them, the Padres' new arrivals left no doubts about their abilities. Flashing both solid hitting and proficient defense, the Latin transplants quickly caught the attention of manager Greg Riddoch, who referred to the pack as "one of the best groups I've seen come over here." Nobody could argue.

Right-handed outfielder Yoeli Florentino, though not an obvious home run threat, demonstrated opposite-way power in drills with Riddoch, lining several pitches to the gap in right-center. He appeared more patient than his 55 strikeouts last year in the DSL would suggest. At 6-foot and 170-pounds, Florentino might benefit from some added bulk.

First-baseman Jose Mayi appeared well-versed in all areas, particularly in the field. Mayi showed good instincts and good range to his right, and he knew to check runners without needing to be reminded. At the plate, Mayi showed a strong preference for pitches up and away, but he struggled when faced with pitches low in the zone or in on his hands. More than most players, Mayi rests his entire body weight on his back (left) leg, inherently forcing him to be on top of pitches from his thigh downward. His pitch selection was largely untested, though his 45 walks last year in the DSL are evidence of patient hitting.

Infielder Keisy Marte hammered a few line drives between the gaps and achieved good extension on pitches toward the outer third of the plate. His swing is noteworthy because it seems particularly effortless – almost as if it were in slow motion. At shortstop, Marte seemed a bit gaudy, turning easy plays into difficult, "fancy" ones. His vertical leverage and horizontal range were both questionable.

Jeudy Valdez and Edgar Garzon, both right-handed infielders, were impressive from all angles. Like Mayi, they both stood tall in the batters' box and showed gap power on high pitches. Defensively, the second baseman Valdez communicated well with Jose Mayi on pop-ups between first and second and sported an accurate, though lethargic, delivery to first. Garzon's arm was equally accurate but his release is more fluid. Valdez may have difficulty turning more difficult double plays.

The extended roster also features more than two-dozen Padres left over from last month's spring training. Catchers Kody Valverde, Clint Naylor, and Todd Greene took practice swings after their Latin American counterparts, though the former two were underwhelming. Valverde hit several pitches hard up the middle but barely lifted a pitch into the air. Naylor, despite having added muscle mass, exhibited mostly weak swings that resulted in shallow pop-ups. Greene, the former San Francisco Giants catcher who dislocated his shoulder in February, looked solid in a rehab assignment. He pulled the ball well toward left-field, and several of his line drives deep into the corner would likely have earned him extra bases.

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