Usually during mid-to-late November, all eyes are on the Major League Baseball playoffs. However, there is another interesting baseball spectacle that goes on during that same time. That is the Arizona Fall League, whose one month schedule allows for each team to give their best prospects more playing time after the conclusion of the minor league schedule. There are only six teams in the AZL, with each team being filled with players from five different clubs, but the action is some of the best of the entire minor league schedule.
Just last week the rosters for the 2016 Arizona Fall League were announced. While star prospects such as Francis Martes, Ian Happ, Brent Honeywell, Ozzie Albies, Gleyber Torres, and Austin Meadows are set to represent their organizations in the AZL come the second week of October, the San Diego Padres will be sending seven players of their own to represent the organization as members of the Peoria Javelinas.
Jason Jester, RHP, 25 years old, Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas
Double-A San Antonio Missions- 39 IP, 2.54 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, 7 BB, 53 K
Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas- 16.1 IP, 4.96 ERA, 1.615 WHIP, 6 BB, 13 K
A somewhat unknown coming into 2016, Jason Jester has earned quite a bit of attention for a dominant showing in Double-A. After a decent enough 2015 season, in which he finished the season with a 3.57 ERA in 45.1 innings with the Lake Elsinore Storm, Jester begin this season with the Missions. In his time with the Missions, Jester was dominant, striking out nearly a third of the batters he faced while only walking four percent of the batters he faced. He has struggled somewhat upon his promotion to Triple-A, but the Arizona Fall League should be yet another chance for the right hander to face strong competition and prove himself.
Kyle McGrath, LHP, 24 years old, Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas
High-A Lake Elsinore Storm- 17.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.526 WHIP, 1 BB, 26 K
Double-A San Antonio Missions- 48.2 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.830 WHIP, 8 BB, 50 K
Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas- 1.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.667 WHIP, 1 BB, 2 K
No player has burst onto the scene in 2016 in the San Diego Padres farm system quite like left hander Kyle McGrath. After being drafted in the 36th round of the 2014 draft, there wasn’t too much fanfare surrounding McGrath going into this season. Despite striking out 79 batters in 68.2 innings pitched in 2015 with the Padres Low-A team in Fort Wayne, there wasn’t much attention on McGrath going into the year. Building off his strong 2015 season, McGrath has had an even better 2016 season, striking out just shy of 80 batters in just over 66 innings between three different levels. Alongside Jason Jester, McGrath is another player who could very quickly find himself in the Padres bullpen if the 2016 Arizona Fall League goes well for the left hander.
Phil Maton, RHP, 23 years old, Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas
Low-A Fort Wayne Tincaps- 12.2 IP, 1.42 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 1 BB, 19 K
High-A Lake Elsinore Storm- 33 IP, 1.91 ERA, 0.758 WHIP, 8 BB, 47 K
Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas- 3.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.323 WHIP, 1 BB, 6 K
A 20th round pick in the 2015 draft, right hander Phil Maton has come out of nowhere and taken the Padres minor league system by storm (no pun intended). Maton looked strong in short season ball in 2015, finishing the year with 58 strikeouts and a 1.38 ERA in 32.2 innings. Maton began this season in low-A ball and dominated in his 12.2 IP, striking out 19 batters and only walking one during that time. After such a strong showing, Maton earned an early season promotion to High-A. In High-A he was perhaps even better, striking out 47 batters and giving up only seven earned runs in his 33 innings in Lake Elsinore. With the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas making a playoff run, Maton got a late season call up to El Paso. Given his success at all levels, Maton, along with both Jester and McGrath, could be pitching in a big league bullpen sooner rather than later. However, before that Maton hopes he can cap off a fantastic season with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.
Brad Wieck, LHP, 24 years old, High-A Lake Elsinore Storm
High-A Lake Elsinore Storm- 41 IP, 1.54 ERA, 1.220 WHIP, 16 BB, 62 K
Double-A San Antonio Missions- 19.1 IP, 0.47 ERA, 0.942 WHIP, 8 BB, 29 K
Joining three other fantastic relievers in the Peoria bullpen for the Arizona Fall League will be left hander Brad Wieck, who may be the most dominant Padres minor league reliever of all. The return in the Padres trade of left hander Alex Torres to the Mets last year, Wieck was the Mets seventh round draft pick in the 2014 MLB draft. After a dominant showing in High-A to start the year, including a 36% strikeout rate over his 41 innings pitched, Wieck looked even better upon his promotion to San Antonio. To finish the year with the Missions, Wieck gave up only one earned run over his final 19.1 IP, finishing the season with a 39.2% strikeout rate and a 26.7% K-BB%. Wieck joins the trio of other Padre farmhands in what could be a dominant bullpen for the Peoria Javelinas this Fall in Arizona.
Josh VanMeter, 3B, 21 years old, Double-A San Antonio Missions
High-A Lake Elsinore Storm- .348 AB, 264/.353/.440, 12 HR, 51 RBI
Double-A San Antonio Missions- 103 AB, .204/.248/.282, 2 HR, 5 RBI
If you’re discussing players who have moved quickly through the Padres farm system, infielder Josh VanMeter is not one of those guys. Originally drafted in the fifth round by the Padres in the 2013 draft, VanMeter has so far had a slow ascent through the farm system because of injury. Now healthy, VanMeter has been able to move all the way up to Double-A after spending the first three years of his career between Rookie Ball and Low-A. Now VanMeter finds himself in a pretty good position, as a player who put on a strong performance with the Storm. VanMeter has had his share of struggles since his promotion to Double-A, but he still is only 21 years of age. This year’s Arizona Fall League should be an important step in the third baseman’s development path.
Franchy Cordero, CF, 22 years old, Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas
High-A Lake Elsinore Storm- 297 AB, .290/.342/.448, 5 HR, 35 RBI
Double-A San Antonio Missions- 241 AB, .307/.358/.473, 6 HR, 17 RBI
Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas- 11 AB, .091/.167/.091, 0 HR, 0 RBI
The Padres are somewhat loaded at the outfield position, with not only Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson finding their way into the big league lineup, but the likes of Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot knocking down the door as well. Beyond them, a guy like Franchy Cordero is itching to make his own impact on the big league club one day. After a rather slow ascent through the Padres minor league system, due in part to a positional switch, now center fielder Franchy Cordero is making some noise. After a very successful start to the year in Lake Elsinore, Cordero was even better upon being promoted to Double-A San Antonio. Similarly to the likes of Jester, Maton, and McGrath, Cordero also found himself promoted to Triple-A to help out with the Chihuahuas playoff push. He has struggled to this point, but he should find himself a starting position in the El Paso outfield once one or both of Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot get promoted next season. But first, the Arizona Fall League awaits.
Michael Gettys, CF, 20 years old, High-A Lake Elsinore Storm
Low-A Fort Wayne Tincaps- 257 AB, .300/.366/.412, 3 HR, 27 RBI
High-A Lake Elsinore Storm- 243 AB, .300/.351/.440, 7 HR, 30 RBI
After an abysmal 2015 season in which center fielder Michael Gettys lacked any sort of consistency at the plate, Gettys came into the 2016 season with a lot to prove. Coming out of high school, Gettys was one of the toolsiest players in the entire 2014 draft (in which he was selected in the second round with the 51st overall pick). However, despite his fantastic speed, glove, and throwing arm, not to mention power at the plate, plate discipline was always an issue for the young outfielder. In his first pass at Low-A Fort Wayne in 2015, Gettys struck out in over 30% of his plate appearances while hitting only .231 on the season. Even more worrisome than that, Gettys was not getting on base at all, finishing the year with only a .271 on base percentage.
Going into 2016, it was clear how much talent the 19-year-old had, if only he could fully harness his hitting tools. This year has been almost a completely different story for the now 20-year-old outfielder. Not only has Gettys slashed .300 in both Low-A and High-A, in 257 and 243 at bats respectively, but he has also diminished his strikeout percentage to around 25% between both minor league levels. Obviously that’s still a substantial number, but the increase in batting average, power, and on base percentage demonstrates just the kind of player Gettys can be if he can fully harness his offensive potential. With 70 speed and 65 glove and arm by the 20-80 scouting scale, all elite measures, Gettys clearly doesn’t need to do much at the plate to be a useful everyday big leaguer. This fall he will get a chance to prove himself further in the Arizona Fall League against an even higher level of competition.