The San Diego Padres and their fans are in a little bit of a rut. That’s what happens when you finish 76-86 in consecutive seasons. After finishing a solid 16-11 to end the 2013 season, the Padres are hoping to avoid another miserable April which has doomed them the past two years. Perhaps the play of their prospects in the Arizona Fall League will give the organization some hope moving forward to 2014. Here are the seven players that will be headed to the AFL with all rankings courtesy of mlb.com.
Austin Hedges-San Diego’s catcher of the future, Hedges was picked in the second round of the 2011 draft as the Padres gave him $3 million dollars to forgo UCLA. He has all of the physical tools you want in a catcher including tremendous accuracy. He showed some nice power at Single A Fort Wayne with 10 home runs in 2012 and the organization believes he will be more than adequate swinging the bat. Don’t be surprised if Hedges is called up in September and becomes the number one guy in Spring Training 2015.
Adys Portillo-He was signed as a 17-year old out of Venezuela and now at age 21, may have the best arm in the Padres’ system. Portillo’s fastball can hit 100 and he has the ability to throw above average curves and changeups. The righty was a force at Fort Wayne in 2012 with a 1.87 ERA in 91 2/3 innings pitched, allowing only 54 hits. Command has been an issue for him so if he can control the number of walks, Sn Diego believes he has all of the tools to be an excellent starter. The #8 prospect, Portillo is on track to be on the big club in 2015.
Burch Smith-One slot behind Portillo in the Padres’ ranking is Smith, who has rocketed through the system, landing him in San Diego in 2013. In 44 career minor league starts, he is 15-9 with a 3.35 ERA allowing 203 hits mover 223 innings pitched. In that span, he has struck out 243 batters while walking only 51, a solid WHIP of 1.139. With the Padres, he appeared in ten games, three of them starts and finished 1-3 with a 6.44 ERA. He has a 97 MPH fastball but needs his other pitches to catch up in order to be a consistent starter. A good AFL showing could put him in line for a permanent spot in the rotation.
Cory Spangenberg-At # 14 sits Spangenberg, who was chosen #1o overall in the 2011 draft. Originally a third baseman coming out of college, the Padres moved him to second. He split 2013 between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio and hit very well with a line of .292/.346/.407. Although he doesn’t have overwhelming power, Spangenberg did have 38 extra-base hits in 513 at-bats. With Jedd Gyorko entrenched at second and Chase Headley‘s free agency looming after the 2014 season, it will be interesting to see where Spangenberg fits into the team’s plans. He is just about Major-League ready.
Keyvius Sampson-The right-handed pitcher was drafted in the fourth round out of high school in 2009. Sampson, the #15 prospect has blossomed quite nicely since an injury-filled 2010 and is on track to be in San Diego as early as September. At San Antonio last season, he was 10-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 19 games, 18 of them starts. In 103 1/3 innings pitched, he allowed only 74 hits and 33 walks with 110 strikeouts, holding opposing hitters to a .199 average. Sampson then moved up to Triple A Tucson where he started nine games and finished with a 7.11 ERA. His fastball can reach 95 on the gun and he has developed, but not perfected yet, three other pitches. It is expected that Sampson will start the season at Tucson.
Johnny Barbato-This 2010 6th round pick has been primarily a reliever in his minor league career. Barbato had a great 2102 season at Fort Wayne going 6-1 with a 1.84 ERA with 3 saves in 48 games covering 73 1/3 innings. The righty had an uneven 2013 at Lake Elsinore, registering 14 saves but with a 5.01 ERA. Barbato also started seven games at the end of the season with mixed results at best. In three of those starts, he pitched a total of 17 1/3 innings allowing three runs. In the other four appearances, Barbato was knocked out early, never making it past the sixth inning.
Tommy Medica-Here is another guy who spent some time in San Diego during the 2013 season. The first baseman has hit everywhere on the Minor League level. In four seasons, Medica has a line of .295/.388/.538 with 49 HR’s and 205 RBI’s. Even though he has not spent a day at Triple A, there doesn’t seem to be anything left in the minors for Medica to do. With a good AFL and Spring Training, he will be on the Padres’ Opening Day roster, perhaps as the starter at first.
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