The Lake Elsinore “Pitching” Storm

Credit: MiLB

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Credit: (Cal Quantrill)

Earlier in the week, the San Diego Padres announced the Opening Day roster for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, which we looked at here at East Village Times on Sunday.

With the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm set to open up their season with a four game series against the Modesto Nuts that begins on Thursday night, we will take a top-down look at the roster of what is easily the Padres’ most talented minor league team. While the Fort Wayne TinCaps are set to have five of the Padres top-30 prospects on their roster, the Lake Elsinore Storm have a total of eight players on their roster. That list includes recent draftees Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer, trade acquisitions Anderson Espinoza and Josh Naylor, returning Storm players Javier Guerra and Michael Gettys, as well as the newly promoted duo of Austin Allen and Ruddy Giron, two players who had success with the TinCaps in 2016.

The Padres number one catching prospect, now that Austin Hedges has reached the major leagues seemingly for good, Austin Allen makes the jump from Fort Wayne after slashing .319/.361/.424 in 2016. There are still some questions about Allen’s glove, but his bat has done more than enough to show he has a solid place in the Padres organization. Backing him up will be Miguel Del Castillo, a player who saw some playing time at every Padres minor league level from short season ball to Triple-A. With less than 100 at bats last season for Del Castillo, it’s clear Allen will see almost all the playing time.

In the infield, the Storm will see plenty of fresh faces, as shortstop Chris Baker, second baseman Peter Van Gansen, and shorstop Ruddy Giron get their first real tastes of High-A ball. Giron excelled in a small sample of 38 at bats at the end of 2016, but this season will be a big test for the young infielder. The returning trio of third baseman Ty France, first baseman Josh Naylor, and shortstop Javier Guerra round out the infield for the Storm. Although France and Naylor will have quite a bit to prove in their first significant taste of High-A pitching, no player in the entire Padres organization has more to prove than young shortstop, Javier Guerra. After hitting barely above .200 with the Storm in 2016, while taking a step backward in his defense and on field demeanor, Guerra hopes to have a more successful second go around in Lake Elsinore.

In the outfield, the Storm will bring up both Aledmar Burgos and Alan Garcia from short season ball, and bring back Taylor Kohlwey, Edwin Moreno, and Michael Gettys, all of whom saw playing time in Lake Elsinore in 2016. Of that group, Gettys is still the one to watch as he tries to shed the “toolsy” label and become a bonafide prospect with a chance at being a major league regular some time in the future. For Gettys, there are still improvements to be made, but further improvements in his strikeout rate and walk rate could see him move through the system more quickly in 2017.

Finally to the most exciting part of the Lake Elsinore Storm, the pitching staff. To start the season, the Lake Elsinore Storm might have the most watchable pitching staff in all of minor league baseball.

So to start off the season, the Storm will go with a six-man rotation of Joey Lucchesi, Cal Quantrill, Pedro Avila, Jean Cosme, Eric Lauer, and Anderson Espinoza. That’s three top-30 prospects, and three other guys who have all impressed since being drafted/acquired in trades. With those six leading the rotation, and Jacob Nix slated to join the team at some point in May, there’s a good case to be made that the Storm house at least the best rotation in all of High-A, if not the best rotation in all of minor league baseball.

Joining those six to start the year will be Colby Blueberg, Jose Castillo, Trevor Frank, Chris Huffman, Gerardo Reyes, T.J. Weir, and Jose Ruiz. Of this remaining group, Blueberg and Castillo are the most interesting, as both excelled in 2016, but there is something to like about each member of the group. In sum, the Storm will certainly have plenty of arms to watch in 2017.

With eight of the Padres top-30 prospects, the Lake Elsinore Storm house one of the best rosters in all of the California League. While the pitching staff is the highlight, there are also plenty of interesting prospects to watch in the infield. The 2017 season may be a tough one in San Diego, but just two hours up the road, the Lake Elsinore Storm could be something truly special.

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