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A Diamond in the Rough: 2013 Lake Elsinore Storm 

storm_black_logo_1_Much has been said about the Padres recent drafts and how highly rated the farm system has been over the last couple of seasons. Many of those highly touted prospects are now within reach as Lake Elsinore plays host to many of the top rated players. A short trip up I-15 will give you the opportunity to watch some great baseball in a ballpark called The Diamond and it really is. If you are a lover of minor league baseball, don’t miss the opportunity to see the newly remodeled Diamond as she plays host to several young pros who you could be seeing in a Padres uniform in a couple of seasons.

The starting rotation is headed by Matt Wisler, a 20 yr old right-hander drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 draft, who won the minor league Pitcher of the Year last season. he finished 5-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 114 IP and allowing a .227 average. Wisler should have been a much higher draftee but was thought to be committed to Ohio St and unattainable.
He throws in the low 90’s, but can reach 95, with a good curve and slider and solid command. He has swing and miss stuff but can also induce ground outs when needed. He has had a strong start to the season with a 1-0 record and 0.6 ERA over 3 games. He has allowed just 1 run in 15 innings.
Lefty Frank Garces, who was signed as a minor league free agent in 2009 as a 19 yr old, is 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 18 SO in 14 innings. He finished last season at Fort Wayne with a 9-6 record and 2.81 ERA with 55 BB and 112 SO. He has an issue with command and needs to tighten up his control but his curveball is a plus pitch and he is one solid step away from being a devastating lefty.
James Needy, Brandon Alger and Colin Rea round out the Storm rotation with Needy having an 0-0 record and 3.27 ERA and the other two having gotten off to shaky starts.
The bullpen for Elsinore features a former top prospect in Matt Lollis, who was sent to the bullpen to try to work out his control issues and is now throwing more from a side arm slot and has 6 appearances and 9.2 IP with 5 hits and 1 run allowed.
The everyday lineup for Lake Elsinore features Catcher Austin Hedges, 2B Cory Spangenberg, SS Jace Peterson, LF Kyle Gaedele and CF Travis Jankowski, all of whom are closely watched by the organization as top draft picks. Gaedele has had a swift start to the season with 3 HR and 9 RBI already, despite the spring chill in the air. 3B Duanel Jones, RF Yeison Asencio and 1B Lee Orr get little attention but Orr and Asencio have legitimate home run power and this could be the season for them to shine. They have already had fast starts as well with Orr hitting 3 HR with 8 RBI and Asencio with 3 HR and 14 RBI.
Duanel Jones was signed as a Dominican free agent and has spent only two seasons in the full season minor league system but he has real talent though he hasn’t put it together for a full season.

The reserves for the Storm also have some pop. Catcher Robert Kral has already hit 3 HR with 7 RBI this season. He leads the team with a .458 average early in the year. Travis Whitmore and BJ Quinn provide backup in the infield, with Wynton Bernard and Luis Domoromo as the outfield backups. Domoromo bears watching as he was also considered highly talented when signed but has not lived up to his prospects so far in his career.
The Storm currently sits last in the Southern Cal league standings due to some poor early season hitting from the regulars and inadequate pitching performances from the pitching staff. They sit at 5-10 and are 4 games out of first in their division. As the weather warms and the ball starts to fly at the Diamond there might be some gaudy numbers put up by the offense. But the overall pitching must improve to get them where they should be. This is an offensive division and requires pitchers keeping the ball down and it helps to be a ground ball pitcher to be successful.

The 2013 season should be fun for the fans of the Lake Elsinore Storm but manager Shawn Wooten, hitting coach David Newhan and pitching coach Brian Lawrence (the former Padre) must right the ship and motivate their roster to play according to their potential.