PEORIA, AZ — In the second day of minor league games on the back fields the Padres upper level squads Double-A and Triple-A teams took on the Cleveland Indians minor leaguers.
It’s important to remember this early into the Spring with so many players that will play all or most of 2017 in the minor leagues, assignments are far from finalized.
Fernando Tatis, Jr., who should be the starting shortstop on the Fort Wayne TinCaps this summer, saw action with the Double-A squad and somewhat similar to LHP Adrian Morejon, drew some eyes. Tatis started off the game at DH before moving into the field at shortstop to replace Jose Rondon, who was the shortstop on the Missions for most of the summer.
Tatis is a very rangy six-foot-three, who has had a recent growth spurt. Defensively, he moved well laterally and certainly has the arm to play the position. But as many baseball pundits have noted, he has only recently turned 18 so no one is quite sure how much his body will fill out.
Offensively he has a loose swing that creates quite a bit of whip. Tatis said before the game his biggest goal was to become more selective at the plate which he believes will make him not only a better hitter, but give him more power.
CF Buddy Reed showed some flashes of his talent as he lined a double off of the right field wall but also struggled with his timing in his other at-bats. The second round pick out of the University of Florida was a “toolsy” pick but there are still some questions about the switch-hitter’s ability to make consistent contact. However, he will get an opportunity to improve as he should be the everyday centerfielder for the TinCaps.
Since returning from the Mexican National team 2B Luis Urias has continued to impress. Today he demonstrated his ability to make consistent hard contact and is a better defender than many give him credit for. He showed his range at second today and the Padres will give him opportunities at shortstop this season in Double-A San Antonio.
Today he also saw some action at third base.
RHP Justin Hancock took the mound after missing nearly all of last year with a shoulder injury. The organization has moved Hancock to the bullpen and his velocity is certainly all the way back as he was clocked between 96 and 99 MPH. Hancock was a ninth round pick in 2011, had a big year in San Antonio in 2015 as a starter may have found his niche in relief.
He gave up some seeing-eye ground ball hits today, but what was important was the motion was easy, the velocity and ability to throw strikes were there as well. The command can improve, but then again it was also his first time on the mound in nearly a year. If things continue to plan, he should be in Triple-A El Paso to begin the year.
OF Jorge Ona took a fastball off his hand today and had to leave the game. No word yet on the severity of the injury.
LHP Joey Lucchesi also pitched today and struggled somewhat with his command as well as hitters took advantage of a few balls that were left up in the zone. Lucchesi threw threw innings and was able to escape without any major damage to the Indians’ Double-A squad.
An important point to remember about Spring Training is that most pitchers right now are working on commanding their fastballs with their secondary pitches - breaking balls and changeups come later. Combine this with the fact that batters are playing in Arizona and quite a few offensive numbers are going to be put up.
One of the better stories last year was OF Nick Schulz, who was our co-player of the year with the Missions despite never being drafted. The former San Jose State Spartan hit .282/.365/.422 in Double-A and has earned the right to get one of the outfield slots in El Paso where there is a good chance he will the be the only non-international player that wasn’t drafted.
“I just spent this off-season like I have every off-season, trying to get better,” said Schulz after today’s game. “I’m really happy with what I did last year, but I also have to improve.”
“I worked on some physical stuff - trying to get stronger, working on my arm strength - but the biggest thing I want to work on is what I did last year; trying to get better mentally.”
‘Through 140 games, you are going to have some great games and some bad ones. I know this has been said before, but you have to learn what you can from the bad games and move on. Next at-bat, next game an so on. You dwell on the negatives for too long, you are getting yourself out.”
“If I can improve upon that, I’ll have a good year.”