For 14 years, the San Diego Padres' Northwest League affiliate was the Eugene Emeralds. This offseason, that affiliation ended and the Padres picked up a new one: The Tri-City Dust Devils. Tri-City refers to 3 cities in southeastern Washington: Pasco, Kennewick and Richland. The team's stadium resides in Pasco. The principal owner of the team is Hall-of-Famer George Brett. The team begins its first season as a Padres affiliate tomorrow.
The Northwest League is a short season league. As far as I can tell the purpose of the league is to serve as the primary playing spot for the most advanced draft picks from the most recent draft. That is why the league starts up in mid-June. There are other players besides recent draftees though. The Padres enter each season with a number of players on the farm that aren't quite ready for one of their top 4 affiliates (Fort Wayne, Lake Elsinore, San Antonio and El Paso) and head to extended spring training in Peoria to hone their craft for a couple months. Come June, some of those players are deemed advanced enough to join their Northwest League affiliate.
With the season about to start, the inaugural roster for the Padres-affiliated Dust Devils is out:
|Alex Costanza||L/L||RP||7/27/1994||6'3"||190||2011 Dominican int'l signee: $200k|
|Jose Castillo||L/L||SP||1/10/1996||6'4"||200||Acquired from TB in Wil Myers trade|
|Christian Cecilio||S/L||SP||2/2/1993||6'2"||185||22nd rd pick in 2015|
|Taylor Cox||L/L||RP||7/2/1993||6'3"||210||16th rd pick in 2014|
|Aaron Cressley||L/R||RP||9/2/1992||6'1"||175||26th rd pick in 2014|
|Lou Distasio||R/R||SP||2/5/1994||6'4"||195||32nd rd pick in 2015|
|Jerry Keel||L/L||SP||9/26/1993||6'6"||240||9th rd pick in 2015|
|Brett Kennedy||R/R||SP||8/4/1994||6'0"||200||11th rd pick in 2015|
|Corey Kimber||R/R||RP||6/28/1994||6'1"||175||25th rd pick in 2012|
|Walker Lockett||R/R||SP||5/3/1994||6'5"||225||4th rd pick in 2012|
|Phil Maton||R/R||SP||3/25/1993||6'3"||205||20th rd pick in 2015|
|Travis Radke||L/L||SP||3/6/1993||6'4"||200||25th rd pick in 2014|
|Griffin Russell||L/L||RP||3/5/1994||6'0"||190||28th rd pick in 2012|
|Cecil Tanner||R/R||RP||4/23/1990||6'6"||240||23rd rd pick by A's in 2011|
|Trey Wingenter||R/R||RP||4/15/1994||6'7"||190||17th rd pick in 2015|
|Austin Allen||L/R||C||1/16/1994||6'4"||225||4th rd pick in 2015|
|Michael Miller||R/R||C||5/27/1992||6'2"||200||20th rd pick in 2013|
|Carlos Belen||R/R||3B||2/28/1996||6'1"||213||2012 Dominican int'l signee: $1M|
|Ty France||R/R||3B||7/13/1994||6'0"||205||34th rd pick in 2015; SDSU Aztec|
|Peter Van Gansen||L/R||SS||3/4/1994||5'9"||175||12th rd pick in 2015|
|Nick Vilter||R/R||SS||10/6/1993||6'4"||220||9th rd pick in 2014|
|Rod Boykin||R/R||CF||4/17/1995||6'1"||175||12th rd pick in 2013|
|Justin Pacchiolo||R/R||CF||9/28/1992||6'2"||190||10th rd pick in 2015|
|Mason Smith||RR||RF||3/16/1995||6'2"||195||4th rd pick in 2013|
|Jose Carlos Urena||R/R||RF||1/14/1995||6'3"||180||2011 Mexican int'l signee: $550k|
The best prospect here is easily C Austin Allen. When he was drafted you immediately started hearing rave review about his bat. I don't think it matters if he ends up a catcher or not, but in the meantime he'll play there for Tri-City. In a post I found authored by the Dust Devils media relations department, they singled out 6 other players in addition to Allen: Peter Van Gansen, Mason Smith, Ty France, Jerry Keel, Brett Kennedy and Justin Pacchiolo. Five of those players are 2015 draftees and Smith is a high draft pick from 2014. The "bonus babies" on the roster (Carlos Belen, Jose Carlos Urena and Jose Castillo) also interest me. Belen and Urena have gotten some chances before, but are still young and can make good. Jose Castillo is somebody Preller and his staff picked out to come over in the Wil Myers trade and one would hope they made a nice choice.
The team is managed by Anthony Contreras, who will be making his Northwest League debut as manager. He played in the Padres organization for 6 years from 2008-2013, but never made the major leagues. Last year, he managed the Padres' rookie level club in Peoria and worked in player development. The coaches are both former major leaguers. Nelson Cruz, who pitched in the majors over 6 seasons with various clubs, is the pitching coach and former Giant Marvin Benard is the hitting coach.
The Dust Devils start their season on the road with a 5 games series in Boise (Rockies) beginning tomorrow at 6:15 pm. Walker Lockett has been named the team's opening day starter. You can follow the Dust Devils at milb.com, their website: dustdevilsbaseball.com and you can download MiLB's app First Pitch.