Name: Emmanuel Quiles
DOB: October 26, 1989
Drafted in the sixth-round of the 2007 draft, Quiles 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.
The Padres expected the offense to suffer in 2008. 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.
A return engagement in 2009 would yield better results, according to the Padres. They were correct in that assessment. It does not, however, mean there isn't room for growth.
He hit .262 with the Emeralds this past season, collecting 11 extra-base hits, including four homers – six more extra-base hits than the prior year. He eneded the campaign with a .305 on-base percentage, scoring 19 runs and driving in 15.
Quiles put too much pressure on himself with runners in scoring position, hitting .224 in those situations while batting .278 with the bases empty. He was, however, much better at hitting right-handed pitching, batting .270 on the season.
"I was impressed with Q," former Eugene hitting coach Eric Peyton said. "If he keeps understanding his plan of attack, he is able to follow through with it. The more he sees, the more he is able to relax a little more and make adjustments, especially when he has one or two strikes on him."
The backstop improved his pitch selection in one area but moved backwards in another. After oferring at the first pitch in many at-bats during 2008, Quiles did not swing at many first pitches this year. If, however, the opposition went 0-1 on him, Quiles got anxious and would swing at every subsequent pitch.
Not one to go down without swinging, even when he was up in the count, Quiles would find something to swing at. It actually led to a decrease in walks from the previous season, despite netting just two fewer at-bats.
"Nice looking catching prospect and everybody goes, ‘He's unselective at the plate,'" Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "My view is, he still is, but he's way better than he was. So as long as that scale for me is tilted up, why would you say he doesn't have a chance. If Vladimir Guerrero can make it being an unselective hitter, and I'm not saying he's Vladdy, although I've nicknamed him that, who says he can't do it? What are you going to do when he's 23 years old in four more years? He's going to be 23, and we're going to draft kids 23? Wow! Where's that going to be?
"I wish I was smart enough to predict that, but all I know is his scales have been tilting up for the two years I've had him. Great kid. Good on a game. Catch and throw, stop the running game, and if the bat comes, which I don't know if he hit close to .300 or not but I think he did, maybe .270. I forget now. But way better than where he was. He just gets locked into sometimes, into the Vladdy mode where he's going up there and if he swings at the first pitch he's swinging at the next two; hopefully they throw them for a strike. That's going to have to change for him to move. He and Jason (Hagerty) should be the two catchers in Fort Wayne next year."
Seeing a lot of pitches isn't something he is well-attuned to doing. The staff gave him some leeway to swing when he felt comfortable but pitch recognition and awareness must become better for him to reach his potential.
Quiles did get stronger from 2008 to 2009 and that will have to continue as he matures. That was evident in his ability to make hard contact during times when he did not hit the sweet part of the bat. He was able to muscle more balls onto the outfield grass, helping his average.
Quiles doesn't have a big load and a lot of his actions happen at once. There is no pause in his mechanics that allows him to focus on pitch recognition and it is easier to throw his timing off with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches. He has good bat control and will hit balls outside of the zone but weakly.
The catcher also doesn't have a stride but places his foot down in pretty much the same spot. It keeps him from leaking forward but doesn't allow him to maximize his torque through the ball.
"The most important thing I saw was he got stronger, and he was driving the ball better," Peyton said. "I thought he was starting to understand the whole game. It kind of goes up and down a little too much for me, but he's still so young. I can't really put a finger on other than I know he improved. He will get better. It's going to take time, but he does have the tools. Last year, I couldn't tell, this year I've seen him be stronger, especially with his arm and all that behind the plate. He's a ballplayer, and the more he works hard and learns, he can go far."
A former pitcher, Quiles has a plus arm that is accurate and can effectively shutdown a running game. His quick feet and solid fundamentals put him into a good throwing position when bouncing out of his crouch. He sets his feet in alignment with the bag he is throwing to and delivers with a quick release. He threw out 18-of-45 runners attempting to steal in 2009, a 40 percent mark.
"I had Q in extended so he knows the organization and what we are working on," former Eugene and current Fort Wayne pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "He has been real good about that. I talk to Q and tell him if he sees the pitcher doing this, go out and talk to him to correct it before it is two or three pitches down the road. Let's get it done on the next pitch.
"We still have to incorporate throwing that changeup as well. That is something they need to learn and develop. It also depends on the tema we are playing. If you have a lot of guys with long swings, I don't want them to do them a favor and throw off-speed where they can get good wood on it."
"Defensively, he got better," Riddoch said. "He's much better this year than last year and he played the year at 19, probably still the youngest in the league, outside of Rincon who was 18."
He has improved in his ability to block balls and keep them out in front of him. Quiles still has an affinity for turning his glove hand down as the pitch is being delivered, making it tougher for him to catch sliders tailing away from his glove side arm. Instead of reacting to the ball, Quiles is turning his glove up to receive the ball before reacting. Good hip movement and feet allow him to cover more ground than most catchers, and he has improved in this arena but still has some work to do. It would be helpful if his glove were in a receiving position from the start – not only to offer a quality target for the staff but also to reach for balls on the opposite side of the mitt.
Quiles took on more of a leadership role this season after being a little hesitant the year before. Now, he will talk to a pitcher about their performance after an at-bat to get them on track or bring them back into focus. He does need to learn hitters better, picking up on their nuances to aid his pitcher. The little things have made progress.
Learning English was also a focal point for Quiles. Taking heed from the success of Simon Castro, Quiles dedicated himself to picking up the language. It has shown.
"I think it's great to see him put up some offensive numbers this year and also for a catcher to grasp the English language is going to make everything better," Padres director of player development and international scouting Randy Smith said. "It's going to help him with coaches on both sides of the ball. And it obviously helps his rapport with the pitchers. This kid to me is a very interesting young guy."
"Quiles is kind of a dream skill guy, great hands, quick feet, plus arm and at the plate when he squares it up he has some force," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He's been with us three years and is making progress but with him it's about controlling the zone."
Conclusion: Quiles is an above-average defender already with impressive catch-and-throw skills. His bat, however, lags behind. He needs to continue his physical maturity by getting stronger and take pitch selection seriously. Once that happens, Quiles can reach his high ceiling. Marginal improvements each year would likely make him a quality backup. Marked improvements could make him a potential starter.
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