Synopsis: Enjoy this team now; if they are together for a full year then something is going wrong. The most balanced of all the Padres' farm clubs for offense and pitching with potential stars in catcher Austin Hedges, starting pitcher Matt Wisler and a few that could join them very quickly.
Three Strikes with Randy Smith Padres Director of Player Development and International Scouting:
What were the reasons for Corey Spangenberg coming back?
Randy Smith: The main thing is we wanted everyone to get off to a good start and some of it had to do with numbers that we had up above before we had all the injuries with the big club. If many of these guys get off to a good start then yeah we are going to push some guys forward.
Austin Hedges looks like he put on some good weight this winter. What parts of his game has he improved since last year?
Randy Smith: He didn't really have to improve a whole lot he was pretty good last year. Right now with Austin it's just about getting more at-bats and more reps behind the plate. He had another really good Instructional League and I think he's set up for another solid season.
We thought James Needy was very good at the end of last year. He had some tough injuries since he was drafted is he kind of a sleeper this year?
Randy Smith: Needy really threw the ball well this spring and at the end of last year. He's healthy and has been performing like we always thought he was capable off. Also keep an eye on Colin Rea who I think has a chance to be really good too.
2013 Projected Lineup:
RHPMatt Wisler 2BCory SpangenbergSPRHPJames NeedySSJace PetersonSPLHPFrank Garces3BDuanel JonesSPLHPBrandon AlgerCAustin HedgesSPRHPColin ReaOFTravis JankowskiSPRHPMatt JacksonOFKyle GaedeleRPRHPJohnny BarbatoOFYeison AscencioCloserRHPCody Hebner
MadFriars' Top 20 Prospects in Lake Elsinore: Austin Hedges (5), Matt Wisler (8) Corey Spangenberg (14) and Jace Peterson (15).
Catch a Rising Star: Austin Hedges when all is said and done may be the best position prospect the organization has developed in a long time. While much has been written, and accurately for that matter, about his defensive prowess he's been the best offensive player in the Instructional Leagues for two years running and looked very good at the plate this spring.
Starting Pitching: The Storm will go with a six man rotation to start the year but this could change as the season goes on. By the time the season is over Matt Wisler may be the top pitching prospect in the organization. After finishing off the year as the Padres' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012 he seemed to have picked up where he left off this spring. Wisler was setting between 93 and 98 MPH this spring and has four plus pitches. Santana High School's James Needy struggled to stay healthy his first three seasons before finally finding his groove in Fort Wayne with a 1.75 ERA in 87.1 innings pitched. Lefty Frank Garces was one of the better and more reliable pitchers for the TinCaps staff last year with 11255 KBB ratio in 121.2 innings. Late round 2012 pick Brandon Alger pitched well in Eugene with a 4-1 record and thirty-six strikeouts against six walks and got the bump up to Lake Elsinore. Colin Rea and Matt Jackson round out a very good staff both are the type of long limbed lanky pitchers that have projection written all over them.
Pen: One of the better surprises of last year was the emergence of RHP Johnny Barbato last year. Barbato was a highly though off prep out of the Miami area who went 6-1 with a 1.84 ERA and the ability to throw multiple innings out of the bullpen. The Padres plan to move Cody Hebner to the closer's role this year and are hoping for the same results as they had with Barbato.
Infield: The strength will be up the middle with Cory Spangenberg and Jace Peterson. Spangenberg, the Padres first round pick in 2011 played very well in his debut season but struggled last year after suffering a concussion in a pre-game workout. He seemed to bounce back in the Arizona Fall League hitting .345 and with a strong spring, where he looked noticeably bigger, he seems poised for the type of season we thought he would have last year. Last year Peterson finished second in the Midwest League in stolen bases with 51 in 64 attempts and did his best work with runners in scoring position with a batting average of .339. Duanel Jones struggled last year with the TinCaps but is one of the better athletes in the system. The organization believes when the performance begins to match the potential they could have something. Lee Orr, a college teammate of Peterson at McNeese State, hit four home runs in the post-season but only hit .211 in the regular season. He could be pushed by utility man Travis Whitmore who saw a lot of time at first last year hitting .303.391.436 as a first baseman.
Catching: The only slight ding on Hedges' season last year was his on-base percentage of .334. He needs to work on making a little more consistent contact as he moves forward but really there is not much to pick on.
Outfield: Travis Jankowski was a supplemental first round pick for the Padres in 2012 and put together a twenty-five game hitting streak at Fort Wayne before his season was cut short with a rib injury. A left-handed hitter, Jankowski is a burner with plus speed and is one of the better defensive outfielders in the system. After undergoing some visa problems Ascencio hit very well once he got in Indiana leading the Midwest League with a .323 batting average. If Ascensio gets off to a strong start he will be in San Antonio very quickly. Gaedele was much better in the second half in Fort Wayne hitting .314.407.483 than the first while Domoromo struggled last year with the Storm after a good run with the TinCaps in 2011.
On the Spot: Cory Spangenberg, after a very good debut, needs to re-establish himself after a lost season. Based on what we saw in the fall and the spring it should come pretty quickly.
Under the Radar: James Needy looked very good as a starter at the end of the year in Fort Wayne and the 6'6 San Diegan has the size and stuff that should get a lot of attention in the desert.
For more on the Padres' minor league teams, check out MadFriars.com