Here are some news and notes from my recent trip(s) to Peoria. There was much to see in the minor league camp, and though I was there to take care of business with the major league team, I still found plenty of time to check out the prospects and spend some moments in the back fields. These are just some notes, observations, and conversations I had during my trips to fields number three through six in Peoria.
Jonny Homza has added 20 lbs of muscle to his frame in his attempt to begin his professional career as a catcher. Homza was drafted as an infielder, but has made the transition smoothly with the help of Blake Hunt and Luis Campusano. Hunt tells me that Homza works hard and a has a great throwing arm.
Speaking of Blake Hunt, he reports that his shoulder is 100 percent after some discomfort late last season. The catcher was seen going through a full assortment of drills, including batting practice, with no issues.
Austin Allen has slimmed down and looks really good behind the plate early in camp. He clearly has taken the criticism of his defense to heart. Expect him to turn the corner defensively in 2018, as he has worked hard. He may indeed be the left-handed option to Austin Hedges the Padres are looking for long term.
Anderson Espinoza is in camp, but will be sidelined for most of the 2018 season. He is hopeful to begin a throwing program of some sort in the next few months.
Eric Yardley did indeed pick the brain of new Padres’ submarine pitcher Kazuhisa Makita. There was a language barrier, but Yardley and fellow side armer Adam Cimber did spend some time early in camp playing catch with the Japanese pitcher. Their relationship did not go too much further beyond that.
Austin Smith, A.J. Preller’s first ever draft selection was in camp and in good health. He reported in great shape and told me that he is very excited for the future. His spirits are not down, despite having two disappointing years in the low minors. Smith looks to catch on with a full squad team this spring and work his way back to the rotation. ‘That is the goal”, is what he told me.
Brad Wieck was disappointed at being sent to the minor league camp, but he is prepared to do what it takes to get back. He was a bit angry with the demotion, but realizes that his time will come. He tells me “I will be ready when my time comes.” Being in major league camp and performing so well only boosted the big left-handed pitcher’s confidence. You will see him in a Padres’ uniform at some point in 2018.
Trey Wingenter handled his demotion to minor league camp fine as he threw a minor league game against the Texas Rangers and was consistently clocked in the mid 90’s. He featured an improving slider and should be a name to consider if the Padres need bullpen help in 2018.
I witnessed chemistry being build in camp, as I constantly saw Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, and Ronald Bolanos together in and around the compound. The Cuban trio will definitely push each other as the 2018 season starts.
Tom Colletti made an impression on me as the young hurler sits in the low 90’s with a developing curve. We spoke briefly and he tells me that his health is 100 percent and he is anxious for the season to start. He is well aware of all the great pitchers around him and is ready to compete in 2018.
I witnessed a bullpen session from Miguel Diaz. Wow, his stuff is electric!
Outfielder Franmil Reyes was not happy with being sent to the minor league camp, but he certainly understood why. The Padres are loaded with outfielders currently, but the big slugger told me “I showed them what I can do.” He certainly did, as the big slugger displayed awesome raw power to all fields. He should build off his big 2017 season and put up even bigger numbers in the hitting-friendly PCL.
Mason House looks trim and was seen working hard. The outfielder is trying to soak up all the information he can and is business as usual. House told me that he is really enjoying his first professional spring training experience.
Cal Quantrill was in the backfields working on his breaking pitches. His velocity was down to the low 90’s, but there is not too much to be concerned about. He is spinning the ball much better now and appears to have turned the corner with his slider. Expect Cal to take the next step in his growth in 2018.
Chris Paddack continues to return to form. He is unlikely to start the season with a full squad team, but could begin his 2018 season in late April or early May, according to Sam Geaney.
Jordy Barley has struggled with high-velocity pitchers early this spring. The right-handed hitter has to quicken up his swing in order to make the necessary jump in the system.
Mason Thompson looked pretty solid in his return from a slow 2017. The big right-hander was clocked in the low 90’s with his fastball and showed decent spin on his breaking stuff. He also flashed a useful change in his appearance against the Rangers’ minor leaguers.
Mason Thompson on the mound this afternoon on Field 6 pic.twitter.com/LjnqbpO0I7
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) March 16, 2018
Robbie Podorsky is small in stature, but he really puts a great swing on the ball. He is a plus defender as well in the outfielder.
Buddy Reed looks way more comfortable with his swing in camp. He looks more fluid and told me he really enjoyed his time in Australia this winter. He also said he figured some things out when he was there. Expect Reed to take his offense to the next level in 2018.
Esteury Ruiz is the real deal. I saw a few at-bats from him in game action and he is very impressive with the bat. He has great speed on the bases too. The defense at second was a bit stiff in the limited action I saw him at the position.
— James E. Clark (@EVT_JClark) March 16, 2018
I watched a bullpen session from Starlin Cordero. The big right-handed pitcher throws fire, but you can see some difficulties with his motion. If he can figure out his mechanics, he could be a decent reliever option down the line for the team.
Gabriel Arias flashed some great leather in camp. Chris Kemp introduced me to Arias, who was very polite, and explained to me how excited he was for the season to start. Kemp expressed to me that Arias got a little bit too reliant on a high leg kick he used in the Australian Baseball League over the winter. The Padres have gotten him to calm down on that style of swing in an effort to get him to put the ball in play more.
Luis Campusano was seen taking balls at first base as well as behind the dish. The backstop has a plus bat, so perhaps the Padres are thinking about giving him a look as a first baseman when he needs a break from catching.
— James E. Clark (@EVT_JClark) March 17, 2018
Edward Olivares has a hitch in his swing, but he gets the bats through the zone with some excellent speed. He looks to be an exciting player to see in 2018. The outfielder will provide thrills on both sides of the ball.
Hudson Potts is quiet. He does not say much and does not require a lot of attention. His bat, however, speaks with a lot of thunder and cannot be ignored. Watching him taking BP is a thing of beauty. He barrels the ball up with ease.
Arguably one of my favorite prospects is Tirso Ornelas. Chris Kemp introduced me to this young outfielder and I was very pleased to meet him in person. He is a big kid and I witnessed several BP sessions from him. He sprays the ball all over the field and has plus power. In game action, he plays with a swagger and a feel that can only be categorized as the “it factor.”