Name: Emmanuel Quiles
DOB: October 26, 1989
Signed on the international free agent market, Quiles was able to forego a stint in the Dominican and began his tutelage stateside with the Arizona Rookie League Padres.
He saw action in just 16 games, going 6-for-35 at the dish – a .171 average. He also threw out four of the 12 base runners attempting to steal.
Fast forward to 2008; Quiles was the primary catcher for the Eugene Emeralds.
The Puerto Rico native saw action in 42 games for the Ems – playing against competition that was four to six years older than him.
Defensively, he was superb. Offensively, Quiles is a work in progress.
"He needs to add strength," Eugene hitting coach Eric Peyton said. "He's quick. He's quicker than these couple catchers I saw. Very strong arm."
The Padres expected the offense to suffer. College pitchers have had the benefit of going through the nuances of the game and setting up hitters. Quiles would have been a freshman in college.
He wound up hitting .211 for the season, drawing 14 walks and striking out 34 times. He struggled mightily against right-handed pitchers, batting .190 compared to a .262 mark against southpaws.
Quiles is still learning to swing the bat consistently with solid mechanics. Another big point of emphasis is pitch selection. He chases outside of the zone and is not strong enough to muster anything but weak contact.
He also likes to swing early in the count and doesn't like to see a lot of pitches. The staff gave him a little bit of leeway in this area and encouraged him to swing when he felt comfortable. That will change in the future, as he will be asked to make a concerted effort to work on pitch recognition.
"With his culture, he's pretty studious, he's out there," Peyton said. "He wants to learn, and we're trying to even talk to him about, he wanted to go play winter ball then realized it would be more important for him to just go to Instructional League. He goes to Instructional League and keeps working and gets stronger. He's going to be a good one.
"We worked on his hitting, and he got inside the ball, then last month started hitting the ball to right-center, right field, hit a home run to left-center, finally just learning to stay inside and all I have to do is say, ‘Where do you want to be?' and he gets to pulling his hand in."
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 also has to also turn it upward – making balls pop out of the webbing before they can be secured.
Quick feet and a solid arm paved the way for Quiles to throw out 27-of-65 base runners attempting to steal – a 41.5 percent success rate. The number is more impressive considering the pitching staff was relatively new to keeping runners close and being quick to the plate.
"He has naturally quick feet and quick hands, and plenty of arm to be able to throw guys out," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "His downfall right now is playing against 23-year-old guys when you're 18. It'd be like when you're a senior in high school playing the seventh graders. What chance would they have? But, he competed – I don't know what he ended up, about .212, something like that offensively.
"We probably had five or six different other organization people say, ‘Gee, I've never seen a kid, a catcher with this quick of feet before.' Good arm, I think he led the league in runners thrown out percentage.
"The pitchers hold runners, too, but they blame it on the catcher if the pitch is too slow the plate – the catcher has no chance. But he has great potential to be a major leaguer behind the dish."
Quiles explodes out of his stance in a fluid motion, setting his balance and preparing for the throw. Because he is on sure footing, his throws are accurate and strong.
"We're all very excited about Q," roving catching coordinator Duffy Dyer said. "All excited about Q. For as young as he is and lack of experience, he does a great job. He's caught a lot, and we're all very excited about him.
"We think if he continues to improve the way he has in the past year that he is going to move up fairly quickly. We're excited about Q."
Calling games has steadily become a strength. He has a feel for the pitcher's he works with and has a firm understanding of pitch sequencing – surprising given his age.
"I think he does right now the best way because he's got a very good arm and very good location," pitcher Simon Castro said. "He knows the hitters. Every time he comes to talk to me, ‘what can we do with these hitters?' I think he's pretty great."
"With the younger people, it is trying to get him a good work ethic so he can start improving faster, which is one of the biggest things at this stage," Peyton said. "He sat next to us during the game when he wasn't playing and we were talking about pitch selection, so that means he's into the game more and he wanted to learn more. And when we asked him questions, he wasn't afraid to answer, even if it was right or wrong.
"Some of the players it's hard when they don't speak the English language that much. For him, who doesn't speak it that well, to still want to be there and speaking the best way he can, I was impressed with that part of it – that he wants to learn that stuff. Good ball player."
Conclusion: Quiles is a prime candidate to return to short-season Eugene for a second go-round. There is no questioning his defensive skill set. Scouts are universal in their agreement that he will develop into an All-Star caliber defender with a rifle arm that can shutdown the opposition's running game.
His bat needs work. He is jumpy in the box and has body parts going everywhere. Calming down and seeing more pitches will enhance his ability to strike the ball effectively. Quiles also needs to add strength to his frame. He does not have the power to be more than a scarce doubles hitter, but that will likely change, as he matures.
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