April Minor League Player and Pitchers of the Month
The El Paso Chihuahuas began their season without a home ballpark and played 23 straight games on the road before their home debut on April 28th. The roster boasts few prospects and is mostly made of former major leaguers and minor leaguers who have had occasional trips to the majors. The Pacific Coast League is noted for being very hard on pitchers but the Padres best prospect at the AAA level is RHP Keyvius Sampson. His early season numbers do not qualify him for any pitching awards (0-2, 4.79 ERA) but his work in spring training showed an increased ability to get major leaguers out.
It is ironic that the April pitcher of the month is former Padres outfielder Jason Lane. His attempt to restart his baseball career as a LHP is going well so far. His line of a 2-2 record with a 2.32 ERA in 5 games started and 31 IP is by far the best effort during the early season. He throws his fastball in the high 80’s to low 90’s with a adequate change and curve. He is also able to mix in a cutter and a slider. It seems his control is advanced and he has swing and miss ability. I would expect some of the younger pitchers (Sampson, Oramas and, now, Wisler) to improve as they adjust to the conditions of the PCL.
The situation is the same for the player of the month. Outside of Rico Noel, there was no prospect at the AAA level (Jace Peterson recently was promoted to El Paso). That leaves us with veteran, 30 year old catcher Adam Moore as the best hitter for April with a .362/.412/.500 line with minimal power (2 HR, 4 RBI). 1B/OF Kyle Blanks was on a power tear with 9 HR and 20 RBI but lots of strikeouts and a slash line of .265/.364/.651.
Except for challenging some of their pitchers in AAA, the Padres seem to be developing most of their prospects at the AA level that boasts a less extreme playing environment.
The San Antonio Missions are the Padres AA team and the roster is loaded with top prospects. For the month of April the Missions began with a slow start. Much like the major league level players, there was little to get excited about early on. The exceptions being RHP Matt Wisler and SS Jace Peterson.
RHP Matt Wisler had a 1-0 record and 2.10 ERA in 6 games started and 30 IP. He had 6 BB and 35 K’s for a .234 average against. He continues to impress with his command of his fastball but , as we saw during spring training, he needs further work on his off speed pitches to get major league hitters out.
SS Jace Peterson played in 18 games before his call up to the Padres to replace the injured Chase Headley. He had 74 at bats during that stretch with a .311/.386/.392 slash line with 3 2B, 1 HR and 7 RBI with 4 of 7 stolen bases successful.
Highly rated prospects Austin Hedges had a .220/.256/.305 line with a HR and 8 RBI with 1 BB and 14 SO over 21 games and 82 AB.
OF Rymer Liriano, making his comeback from Tommy John surgery, started with a .220/.297/.418 line with 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR and 12 RBI over 24 games and 91 AB. He walked 10 times and struck out 26 times with 5 of 6 SB successful.
Single A Lake Elsinore Storm boasts several high level top prospects as well, including pitchers Joe Ross and Zach Eflin, as well as some of the top Dominican/International players that few Padres fans have had exposure to up till now.
RHP Zach Elfin, the first round pick in 2012, posted a 4-1 record and 2.80 ERA in 6 games started and 35.1 IP with 8 BB and 29 K’s and a .238 average against. He has shown a low 90’s fastball that can reach 95 with a plus change and good curve.
RHP Joe Ross, younger brother of Tyson Ross and the first round pick in 2011, had a 2-2 record and a 1.95 ERA in 6 games started and 32.1 IP with 7 BB and 31 K’s and a .234 average against. He also throws in the low 90’s topping out at 95 with a plus slider and a changeup.
Those two deserve equal billing for pitcher of the month with a slight ERA edge to Ross.
CF/OF Alberth Martinez, 23, hit with a .306/.365/.468 slash line in 27 games and 111 AB with 9 2B, 3 HR and 17 RBI with 10 BB and 24 SO. Martinez signed as an international free agent (Venezuela) in 2009 and began his baseball career stateside in 2011 with Fort Wayne and has played between Fort Wayne and Eugene for the past two seasons. Very little has been said about Martinez from the prospect sites but his performance merits attention.
RF/OF Hunter Renfroe is playing with the Storm and has a .262/.339/.515 line to begin the first full season of his professional career. He hit 6 HR with 22 RBI for the first month of the season. He walked 11 times and struck out 40 times in his first 103 AB. Hopefully the strikeout rate will decrease as the season goes on.
Low A Fort Wayne TinCaps boasts some of the more exciting prospects to follow for the 2014 season. Success in the lower levels of professional baseball is not a good indicator of major league success but it does serve as an introduction to possible future players for Padres fans.
RHP Tayron Guerrero, 23, signed in 2009 out of Colombia. He is 6 ft 7 in tall and a thin 189 lbs but is carrying a 2-0 record with a 0.63 ERA in 14.1 IP with 7 BB and 18 SO with a .137 average against. According to Jim Callis, MLB.com writer, his arsenal includes a 100mph fastball with an improving slider and improving change. His lower level stats show control issues, as expected from such a tall athlete, but Randy Smith, director of player personnel for the Padres, as quoted in Callis’ blog article, feels this might be Guerrero’s year to put it all together.
3B Fernando Perez, 20 years old, is 6-2 and 210 with a local pedigree. Drafted by the Padres in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, this Otay Ranch HS graduate went on to community college in AZ briefly. He bats left and throws right and, according to BaseballInstinct.com., possesses all the tools to stick at third base.Perez was recently named as MiLB’s defensive player of the month. His offense doesn’t seem too shabby either as he hit .326/.351/.489 for April in 22 games and 92 AB with 9 2B, 2 HR and 18 RBI with 3 BB and 14 SO.
On a side note, shortstop Franchy Cordero and OF Jose Urena, both highly regarded and young prospects, started the season below .200 for the month and were sent back to extended spring training to regroup and work on their swings. Both are 19 years old so there is no panic regarding their struggles at this point.
As the weather heats up over the next couple of months we should expect these player performances to shift significantly and the low A through AA players will give us a lot to keep an eye on.