Eugene, OR: A few notes and observations from our visit to the San Diego Padres short-season affiliate, the Eugene Emeralds.
Right-hander Matt Lollis has to be one of the more exciting prospects that the Padres have had in their system in awhile. I know its the rookie leagues, and he is going to have to use his two-seamer a little more, tighten up his breaking pitches and of course improve his changeup; but the man is 6-foot-9 and a somewhere between 280 to 290 lbs. and threw consistently in the low to mid-90s through six innings in his first outing of the season.
He could lose a few pounds, but you just don't see that many 19 year olds that throw that hard, that accurately, with that type of control. Throw in the fact that he is a good athlete and everyone in the organization raves about his work ethic and focus, and he could be something special.
The reports that Jedd Gyorko can hit, as most people who follow the organization can see, are true. A few things I noticed that seem to make Gyorko a superior hitter is that he will tell you that he has been blessed with superior eyesight. Two, he is one of the more intelligent and advanced hitters that one will see at this level.
The two nights I saw him provided an indication of his approach. On the first, he hit a pair of doubles, one to right and the other to left. Both times he hit the ball there was less than two strikes, so he was looking for a pitch to drive. The next night he was 4-for-4, all singles - but all were with two strikes and the hits were spread out all over the field.
He varied where he was looking to drive the ball so the pitcher couldn't try to throw something mediocre to one side of the plate and he has an excellent ability to put the bat on the ball with two strikes.
Defensively, he has a good arm and his feet move well for an infielder. I have trouble envisioning him playing second, but that bat could be really special.
Big time Venezuelan bonus baby Adys Portillo flashed a big time fastball but also struggled with some control problems and a breaking ball. His changeup looked pretty good, but he also needs to become a more efficient with his pitches. Still, for someone that is only 18, he did look good.
The story of the year in Eugene is going to be the starting staff. The team is going to roll out four very good three very good pitchers in Keyvius Sampson, Matt Lollis and Adys Portillo; all of whom are under 20.
Big left-hander Pedro Martiniez, 6-foot-3, 251-pounds is also only 19 and was one of the better pitchers in the DSL last year. Finally when right-hander James Needy, 19, pitched well in the AZL last year, and when he recovers from a tweaked knee, he could join the Ems rotation.
Even though fourth-round pick Chris Bisson couldn't play because he needs to get his visa situation settled – he is a Canadian citizen – it's hard to imagine a more intense player the team could have selected.
Every game, Bisson was on the top step keeping score, making notes and encouraging every player. The man goes all out during stretching exercises. In our interview with him, it's hard to imagine a more enthusiastic player who genuinely seems to love the game.
Big first baseman Connor Powers is old for the league but the big draft pick out of Mississippi State has a nice approach at the plate and should serve as some protection for Gyorko this year.
Also keep an eye on Wes Cunningham, who had a big year at Murray State, and kind of an unusual set-up, but also appears to be a pretty good hitter.
Finally the new facility is a great place to watch a game, right next to the University of Oregon football stadium. Great seats in the house, a fan base that really loves their baseball and some pretty good food choices; go with the pasties - kind of like a pot pie - or the BBQ sandwiches.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards
Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars