Photo: TinCaps

“I come from a long line of fighters.  My maternal grandfather was the toughest guy I ever knew.  World War II veteran.  He killed 20 men and then spent the rest of the war in an Allied prison camp.  My father battled blood pressure and obesity all his life.  Different kind of fight.” – Dwight Schrute

There are times when I want to write about something, but there’s not enough meat on the bone for a full-blown article.  Other times, there’s something that I think is worth mentioning, but don’t feel like getting too deep into it.  I’m going to try to save a few of those things for a Friday column.  This is that column.


Future Fort Wayne Shortstops

Looking ahead to next year (yes, I’m already doing that), I got to wondering who would be playing shortstop at the different levels.  It’s probably not too controversial to believe that José Rondon (Triple-A), Javier Guerra (Double-A), and Fernando Tatis Jr. (High-A) would be the Opening Day shortstops at their respective levels (though there could be those who think Tatis and Guerra should be switched).  The Fort Wayne shortstop situation is much more interesting, however, as there are a bunch of likely candidates.

Justin Lopez – The youngest player in the Northwest League this year, Lopez was signed by the Padres for $1.2 million last summer, and was ranked the no.28 international prospect by Baseball America.  His defense has been solid in Tri-City the past few months, and not many 17-year-olds could OPS .635 at any level of pro ball.  I think he’s the front runner.

Gabriel Arias – Arias might have the inside track, since he’s the current TinCap shortstop, bumped up from Rookie league after the promotion of Tatis.  He was Baseball America’s no.4 international prospect and was signed for $1.9 million, and may have the best glove of the bunch.  He’s three months older than Lopez, and had a .682 OPS for the AZL Padres.

Luis Almanzar – I haven’t been able to watch Almanzar at short, but I’ve listened to enough Dust Devil games to know that he’s not Ozzie Smith out there.  I don’t know if he can stick at short.  He was BA’s no.2 international prospect and got a $4 million bonus, and there’s reason to believe that his bat is good enough to support a move to another position.

I’d be surprised if current Tri-City infielder Kelvin Melean started the season in Fort Wayne, but he could be the next option.  I’d expect Olivier Basabe and Jordy Barley to get reps at Tri-City, with Barley getting a promotion if he can improve his plate discipline and continues to put up some big power numbers, though he might follow in Franchy Cordero‘s footsteps and move from short to the outfield.


Comparing the Fort Wayne and Tri-City Rotations

As I alluded to previously, I’ve become a big Tri-City Dust Devils fan, listening to their games on the First Pitch app when I’m running errands (and sitting in my car) late at night.  Their pitching staff leads the Northwest League in strikeouts, and they’re pushing for a playoff spot, despite an offense that usually struggles to provide much run support.  Most of what keeps them in games is their pitching.  Here’s a look at their rotation, which I compared to the Fort Wayne staff, just for fun.

Tri-City pitchers in blue, TinCap pitchers in green.

A few takeaways

  • Pedro Avila and Adrian Morejon are the only pitchers here under 6’2″.
  • Half of the TinCaps pitchers are international guys in their first year of pro ball in the United States.
  • Four out of the six Dust Devils pitchers were taken in this year’s draft.
  • Ten of these pitchers are striking out more than a batter an inning.  That’s pretty good.


Which Padre Would You Want To Have Your Back?

Much was made of the fight between New York Yankees catcher Austin Romine and Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera.  It got me wondering which current Padre I’d want to have my back in a fight.

I’d immediately disqualify Austin Hedges (concussion risk) and Wil Myers (wrist issues), who are also important players that you don’t want to sustain injury.  If that’s the criteria, I’d probably leave out Manuel Margot as well, though he wasn’t much of a candidate either, unless he was going to give me a piggy-back ride and run me away to safety.  Alex Dickerson seems like he’d be a good deterrent, or at least be a useful human shield, though he’s on the disabled list right now.

I guess I’d have to go with one of the veterans on the team.  Héctor Sánchez seems like a pretty loyal teammate, and a dude that can probably give and take a punch.  Even though Clayton Richard is a pitcher, he was a football player (quarterback) at Michigan, and he already proved that he doesn’t back down from confrontations after the Carlos Quentin/Zach Greinke situation resulted in him and Matt Kemp going nose to nose after the game.  If neither Sánchez or Richard can make it out in time, hopefully Jabari Blash can make more contact with his fists than he does with baseballs, or maybe Mark McGwire can show that the “Bash Brothers” moniker wasn’t just from hitting home runs.


Austin Hedges Has Hit Some Homers

I will probably always love Austin Hedges.  The defense is elite, and I love watching him behind the plate.  The bat is and always has been the question.  However, if you had told me at the beginning of the year that he’d have the sixth most homers in the majors for catchers, I would’ve taken that in a heartbeat.  As it stands now, he has 16, which is well behind the leaders (Gary Sanchez with 27, and Willson Contreras and Salvador Perez with 21), but only two back of Yasmani Grandal and Mike Zunino.

Still, there’s obviously more to offense than just hitting homers (he has a .666 OPS, just 29 points ahead of trainwreck Derek Norris, though 12 points ahead of Matt Wieters).  He has a 29.7% K rate coupled with a paltry 4.7% walk rate, which leads to a very underwhelming .253 OBP, one of the worst among catchers.

It makes me wonder what the cutoff point is.  On a competing team, how bad Hedges hit if he still provided the same elite defense?  A 70 wRC+ seems like he’d have to be getting pretty close to the border line, although theoretically, he’d be surrounded by better hitters and could just hide in the bottom of the order.

Anyways, Austin Hedges rules, and he will rule even harder if he can get on base more.  Until then, I’ll enjoy the as-expected defense and the surprising amount of dingers as they come.


Things that just missed the cut:

  • The Tri-City Dust Devils have a 23-year-old player coach named Felipe Blanco, and I didn’t even know that player-coaches were still a thing in professional baseball.  That is awesome.
  • José Pírela‘s Player’s Weekend uniform will have the name “Águila Negra” on the back, which means “Black Eagle”.  Though not as rad as Brad Hand’s “Brotato”, I think this is my second favorite nickname that a Padres player will be using.
  • There’s a lot of storm warnings in Texas, which is also home to lots of sports teams (and people).  Hope everybody in and around the affected areas is safe, including William of Padres Public, the San Antonio Missions and their fans, and the rest of the Texas League.

Posted by Marcus Pond