Down on the Farm: 2017 Recap- Arizona Rookie League Padres

Credit: MiLB

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Credit: Shaun P. Kernahan

Pitcher of the Year

Luis Patino- RHP, AZL Padres
40 IP, 32 H, 14 R (11 ER), 16 BB, 43 K, 2.48 ERA

Perhaps one of the least notable players the Padres signed during the 2016-2017 international signing period, 17-year-old Luis Patino began the 2017 season as a member of the Dominican Summer League Padres. Following four solid outings in the DSL during which Patino struck out 15 batters in 16 innings, Patino found himself stateside with the Arizona League Padres. Since making his American professional baseball debut, Patino has not disappointed. Over his eight games started, Patino gave up more than one earned run just twice, and more than three earned runs just once. Despite some inconsistency in his control, as his walk rate slowly increased over his last several starts of the season, Patino more than made up for it with his solid strikeout rate. The biggest knock against Patino is probably his size, and he’s just a hair above six feet tall and listed at just 150 pounds, but he does have some great stuff that he can use to effectively get hitters out.

Vijay Miller- RHP, AZL Padres 2
24 IP, 19 H, 11 R (10 ER), 10 BB, 30 K, 3.75 ERA

Drafted in the 14th round by the Padres in this year’s MLB Draft, right-hander Vijay Miller had a solid professional debut for the AZL Padres 2. Miller appeared in 15 games for the team, throwing 24 total innings. His statline doesn’t really jump out, but he only got better as the year went on. After running into some trouble over his first five outings, Miller really excelled over his last 10 appearances. From July 27 to the end of the Arizona Rookie League season, Miller pitched to a 1.42 ERA with 18 strikeouts and just two earned runs. He’s probably nothing more than a reliever long-term, but he was really impressive over the last month or so of the season in 2017.

Biggest Surprise

Jeisson Rosario- OF, AZL Padres
56-187, .299/.404/.369, 10 2B, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 33 BB, 36 K, 8 SB, 69 TB, 121 wRC+

It’s hard to say Jeisson Rosario’s performance was particularly surprising, especially given his $1.85 million contract and status as one of the best international prospects in the 2016-2017 international class, but Rosario exceeded my expectations in 2017. Long term, it was expected that Rosario could develop into a viable big league player, however, at 17 years old, Rosario was and is very raw with a lot of work to do. Despite those caveats, Rosario had a phenomenal season in the AZL, sporting one of the best on base percentages of any player in the league. The most impressive thing about Rosario was his plate discipline, as the teenager worked 33 walks to just 36 strikeouts. Given how baseball has taken a turn towards more strikeouts for hitters, this is a very important development for Rosario. The in-game power didn’t quite show in 2017, but if he can bring some of that to the table with his plate discipline, Rosario could very quickly vault up prospect rankings.

Tirso Ornelas- OF, AZL Padres 2
54-196, .276/.399/.408, 11 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 40 BB, 61 K, 80 TB, 127 wRC+

Interestingly enough, Tirso Ornelas has a very similar statline to Rosario mentioned above. Also signed during this past year’s international signing period, Ornelas also surprised a bit with a really strong first showing in professional baseball. A full five months younger than Rosario, Ornelas was born in March of 2000 (!), Ornelas had a similar season to Rosario. However, Ornelas not only struck out a little more than Rosario, but also showed more extra base power, as he collected 17 extra base hits in total. Ornelas isn’t ranked quite as high as Rosario, and may lack the long-term ceiling, but he had a really strong showing at the plate in his first season.

Biggest Disappointment

Jordy Barley- IF, AZL Padres

44-182, .242/.292/.434, 11 2B, 6 3B, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 11 BB, 65 K, 7 SB, 30 E, 79 TB, 94 wRC+
It may be a little harsh to say a 17-year-old playing professional baseball in America for the first time is a disappointment, but Barley did not have a season anywhere near as good as Rosario or Ornelas or many other teenaged prospects. He showed a great deal of in-game power, as evidenced by his 21 extra base hits, but he lacked the plate discipline showed by other international signees. With 65 strikeouts to just 11 walks, it is pretty clear that Barley was frequently selling out for power and swinging at bad pitches. Beyond that, Barley also ended up being sort of a disaster in the field, as he made 30 errors in the infield. Barley has all sorts of speed and lots of raw power, but raw is the best way to describe his game right now. Long term, Barley could have lots of potential, but there is quite a bit of progress that needs to come to get to that point.

Blake Hunt- C, AZL Padres 2
28-116, .241/.315/.405, 9 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 8 BB, 42 K, 47 TB,

Speaking of players who had disappointing professional debuts, catcher Blake Hunt did not impress in his first taste of professional baseball. Drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, there were serious concerns about Hunt’s offensive skills. Pretty much from the get-go, it was clear that Hunt was going to be more a glove-first catcher whose offensive skills needed a good deal of refinement. With his first full season now firmly in the rearview, it’s evident that Hunt did not make the strides the Padres wanted him to make at the plate. Not only did Hunt not hit much, he also did not get on base frequently, with only eight walks on the season. His extra base power was a definite positive sign, but Hunt looked a little too lost offensively at times. It’s well-known that catchers can make it to the big leagues as defense-first players, looking at you, Austin Hedges, but Hunt won’t make it unless he shows a little more offensive potential long-term.

Other Performances of Note

Luis Campusano- C, AZL Padres
36-134, .269/.344/.388, 4 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 15 BB, 25 K, 52 TB, 104 wRC+

Compared to second round draft pick Blake Hunt, supplemental round pick Luis Campusano is in some ways the polar opposite of Hunt. While Hunt is a glove-first player with some offensive shortcomings, Campusano is a bat-first player with some defensive shortcomings. However, Campusano did not enough at the plate of note to earn him a mention here. After a stellar offensive start to the season, Campusano cooled off considerably in the final weeks of the season. It was really a tale of two seasons, as Campusano impressed with the AZL Padres 2 before being assigned to the AZL Padres in mid-July and struggling for much of the rest of the season. Even with those struggles, Campusano showed solid plate discipline and a good amount of in game power throughout the season.

MacKenzie Gore- LHP, AZL Padres
21.1 IP, 14 H, 5 R (3 ER), 7 BB, 34 K, 1.27 ERA

If not for the strong showing of Luis Patino over most of the season for the AZL Padres, left-hander MacKenzie Gore would probably have been the team’s pitcher of the year. As mentioned above, Gore has more than lived up to the hype that comes with being a top three pick in the MLB Draft. Gore has not only shown his strong fastball, but he has also made hitters look silly with his several off-speed pitches. He’s still just 18 and fresh out of high school, but the sky appears to be the limit for Gore’s long-term ceiling. With his dominance of the AZL, Gore has shown he has number one starter potential. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Padres are with Gore next year, but he could start next year in Fort Wayne or even Lake Elsinore if the team wants to be really aggressive with the 18-year-old.

Eguy Rosario- IF, AZL Padres 2
58-206, .282/.363/.422, 12 2B, 7 3B, 1 HR, 33 RBI, 24 BB, 43 K, 87 TB, 116 wRC+

It wasn’t the easiest year for infielder Eguy Rosario, but he deserves some credit for how much he improved before year’s end. After an aggressive assignment to Fort Wayne for the then 17-year-old, during which he struggled to a .206/.296/.278 slash line over 50 games, Rosario was moved back down to the Arizona Rookie League in late June. Rosario responded in a big way, slashing .282/.363/.422 over the remainder of the season with a 116 wRC+. It wasn’t an eye-popping final stat line, but for a guy who had more or less fallen flat on his face in Low-A, it was certainly a positive development. Given his success back in the AZL, Rosario should get another chance to play in Fort Wayne to start next season.

Cole Bellinger- RHP, AZL Padres 2
13.1 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 0.68 ERA

Overshadowed by his older brother Cody Bellinger, Cole Bellinger joined the professional baseball fray when he was drafted by the Padres in the 15th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Operating in a relief role, Bellinger has been dominant in his small taste of professional baseball, striking out 15 batters to just five walks in 13 and a third professional innings to this point. At just 17 years old, it remains to be seen how the Padres will use the young right-hander going forward, but you can’t argue with his results so far out of the bullpen.

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