One such player – Emmanuel Quiles.
"He is new to calling games," pitching coach Dave Rajsich began. "He is learning how to use pitch sequences and has come a long way. He is struggling at the plate but has a gun of an arm."
The backstop ended the year throwing out 41.5 percent of all runners attempting to steal off him. He nabbed 27 of the 65 base runners that have attempted to steal on him this season.
Perhaps more impressive is he accomplished it at a Padres affiliate that does not stress pickoff moves or a pitcher's time to the plate. "He will be a big leaguer someday," manager Greg Riddoch said. "He is among the league leaders in runners thrown out."
What everyone likes about Quiles is his hard work and dedication to the catching position. He has struggled defensively at times, leading the league in passed balls for much of the season before finishing with 19 gaffes – second-most in the circuit. By the end of the year, he had improved on his ability to block the ball.
Early on, the feeling was he was dropping down too quick, trying to glove the ball, and not watching the trajectory of the ball. Now, he is keeping his pads higher for balls in the dirt – to allow his chest protector to block the ball.
He also has a tendency to drop his glove hand towards the dirt while the ball is flight, meaning his glove has further to go to get to a ball that is thrown too high. Not only does he have to raise the glove to meet the ball, but he has to also turn it upwards – making balls pop out of the webbing before they can be secured.
At the dish, Quiles likes to swing early in the count and the staff has given the freedom to swing at the first pitch while becoming more selective as the at-bat goes on.
He ended the year hitting .211 while drawing 14 walks compared to 34 strikeouts. Five of his hits went for extra bases.
"I am working hard everyday," Quiles said through an interpreter. "I am trying to get better pitches to hit."
The offensive part of his game will take some time to evolve, especially against players who are three and four years his elder.
The Padres, however, feel that he will make the adjustments. With a rifle behind the dish and growing confidence at calling games, he profiles as a steady defender.
Advancements with the bat will ultimately tell his future. But, at 19 in the Northwest League, he is getting his trial under fire. It will only serve to enhance his game.
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