It’s that time of the year again: time for the short season Low-A ball teams to start!
Does this sound like feigned enthusiasm? I assure you it is not, at least not in AJ Preller’s world, where the farm system is loaded at the lowest levels. While the Fort Wayne TinCaps have struggled as a team record-wise, many following the team can set their watches to solid Logan Allen starts, Fernando Tatis Jr.’s defensive gems, or Jorge Oña’s multi-hit games. With every rough outing by Mason Thompson or Reggie Lawson, we see flashes of greatness that might one day rise to the top of the organization. It’s a weird kind of exciting, but it’s exciting nonetheless.
And now, it’s time for an even younger but still talent laden team to play some games that… uh, kind of count. The Tri-City Dust Devils (based in Pasco, Washington) begin their season this afternoon at 6:35 PST. While it’s a long ways from Petco Park, both figuratively and literally, there are some really intriguing players that will be featured in the Northwest League this year.
With the roster being released on Monday, the name that jumps out first is Adrian Morejon’s, who is ranked in the Top 100 by many a baseball publication and someone the Padres invested heavily ($11 million, with a dollar for dollar fee attached) in last season from the international market. The 18-year-old left handed pitcher has a fastball that sits 94-95 MPH and a changeup that is 80-82 MPH. This will be his professional debut, since he has only been pitching in instructional leagues since signing with the Padres. Baseball America has some video of the young Cuban here.
Other pitchers of note include Osvaldo Hernandez and Henry Henry; both are 18 years old and are recent international free agents. Hernandez is said to have a fastball that sits in the low 90s, as well as a high 70s curveball that could be a plus pitch. He was signed by Preller last year for $2.5 million, plus the tax. Henry, possessing one of the most incredible names in baseball, was actually signed back in 2015 for $400,000 and struck out more than a batter an inning in the Dominican Summer League and the Padres Rookie League team last year.
The infield is covered with the results of Preller’s international spending as well. Luis Almanzar, who MLB.com has as the Padres 18th best prospect, figures to get a good chunk of playing time at short, although – get this – as of this morning, four of the six infielders on their roster are listed as short stops. As with most international signings, seeing how much a team invested in them is as good indicator of their potential value as any, and Almanzar signed for $4 million. Among the surplus of shortstops is 17-year-old Justin Lopez, who was born in May of 2000. Yes, it shouldn’t be surprising to see teenagers on the Dust Devils roster, but just seeing a birth-year starting with a “2” is a little surprising. Lopez has also seen time at third base and signed with the Padres organization for $1.2 million last year.
It’s not all international prospects, however as outfielder Tre Carter (11th round) leads a group of exciting young players taken in last year’s MLB Draft.2016). Carter is fast and extremely athletic, and was recruited out of high school for football and basketball. He just turned 20, and will need to see if he can hit well enough to be a useful centerfielder. Third baseman Boomer White (10th round/2016) and outfielders Josh Magee (5th round/2015) and Aldemar Burgos (8th round/2015) will figure to get lots of playing time as well.
Unfortunately, none of the Tri-City home games will be televised, and it seems to hold true that the lower the level, the lower the probability that the games will show up on MiLB.tv. Still, it’s encouraging to see the potential “waves of talent” that the Padres brass has preached start to form even if they’re just ripples at first.