I was pleasantly surprised to find the Padres slipped into my DMs with an invitation to a Social Summit hosted during the Padres Futures Games at Petco Park. The Futures Games is a week-long exercise for many of the top talents in the Padres system to display their potential in front of fans and scouts alike in the big-league setting of Petco Park. My girlfriend agreed to accompany me once again on the two hour trek from my home in the Imperial Valley.
We met Maddie Gritsch at the front gate before any of the other social media invitees arrived. She greeted us with a warm smile and a roster of the Padres players attending the Futures games. Unless you’re an absolute encyclopedia of the Padres system (I am not), this list became required reading for the day’s slate of games.
I met up with fellow SD Cap Addict Tony Losoya at the front gate and delivered to him a slate of fine headwear before we made our way inside. Nicky Patriarca led the group through the Home Plate Club entrance and into an elevator. Awaiting at the top was a suite opened up to a fantastic view of the first game already in action.
Fellow Gaslamp Ball writer Joe Lanek joined Tony, my girlfriend and I waiting for the festivities to start. As soon as more social media invitees made their way to the suite, Nicky announced that several prospects would be joining us for a Q&A session. I talked with noted Bills fan Seth Foster about the football season (no, I did not pick the Bills to win in New England).
I’ll touch on what I can recall from each prospect as they appeared:
Buddy Reed was the first to appear for our Q&A session. He noted that he’s working out in Tampa during the offseason in order to build on his speed. He also mentioned that he’s working on his approach at the plate from both sides, as he’s a switch hitter. Even though he’s a center fielder, Buddy said he would be willing to play wherever he could find a position. He wants to most emulate Dexter Fowler, among others.
Reggie Lawson was the next prospect who spent some time with us. Reggie mentioned that he’s been working on his changeup and finds the most confidence with his fastball. Reggie notably pointed out that the training in the developmental league has done some good for his fastball; he’s added 2 mph and has been sitting at 92-94 with the heater. I had the opportunity to ask Reggie what the biggest adjustment he had to make coming up to the next level was. Reggie said that controlling the running game was his biggest adjustment; moving quicker to the plate in order to keep baserunners from stealing easier. Reggie also noted that Anderson Espinosa taught him his curveball grip.
Ruddy Giron was next man up for questions. Ruddy did mention that he started examining his at-bats more when he came up to Lake Elsinore. The mental adjustments he made while in Lake Elsinore (taking more pitches, more swings) seemed to really pay off for him and he looks forward to bringing a hard-working, 100% effort to the Padres sometime in the future. Ruddy also brings a mentoring touch to his game; he does what he can to mentor younger players and is doing what he can to help this week. Ruddy likes to model his game after Miguel Tejada and Jose Reyes.
Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Fernando Tatis, Jr. stopped by to answer a few of our queries. I asked Fernando if there’s any added pressure being the son of a former major league ballplayer. Fernando did say that while he shares the same name as his father and it is on the back of his jersey, he wants to make a name for himself as a baseball player. The group did praise Fernando for participating in the Futures Game despite his age (he’s 17). Fernando went on to say the Dominican game is a departure from the baseball played in the States due to the uptick in talent at all positions found stateside. Fernando is also helping other players adjust to the major league ballpark experience, he of course having been to more than a few in his time.
As an aside, Joe asked Fernando if he thought a hot dog was a sandwich. Fernando declined to comment.
Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill
Canadians Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill joined the group and fielded questions next. Cal is happy to have a repaired elbow and hopes it lasts him as long as possible. I think Cal Quantrill will become a fan favorite in time; he answered questions with an ease and affability not common among most players. He noted that while he works wearing a funny uniform, he’s ready to get to work and do his best on the field, a game at a time. Josh Naylor stated that he wanted to improve his quality of at-bats and is doing his homework in becoming a more complete player; after 20 ABs or so, he goes back to examine what went well and what needs improvement.
I asked both players what goals look like to a minor league player: is it promotion to the next level, personal bests in a season, or something else? Both had very measured and mature responses: Cal noted that while it’s definitely nice to be promoted, it also means that someone else has to be sent down or released. Cal continued to say that such things as promotion are lofty, and while achievable, more realistic goals such as a good outing or developing other pitches (Cal is working his way back up to changeups) are what drives him. Josh responded similarly; he wants to become better at his position and in other aspects of his game rather than just hitting. Josh also takes it a game at a time and wants to be a better ballplayer overall.
Joe asked the hardest hitting question of the two Canucks:
Mike Dee, Andy Green and Chris Kemp
The triumvirate of Padres CEO Mike Dee, Padres Manager Andy Green and International Scouting Director Chris Kemp took the floor next to address the assembled. Mike Dee spoke first, touching on the end result of the season that did not end as expected but did yield the 3rd overall pick of next year’s draft. He went on to say that the development portion of the Padres plan is now in place and the organization is excited to watch the fruits of A.J. Preller’s work on the field. Mike also stated that the Padres have one of the strongest farm systems in MLB now.
Andy Green spoke next. I’ll be quick to note that the Padres skipper has an intense presence; his gaze is laser focused and his words are strong and measured. Andy Green talked on how he was excited to see the new Padres take the field towards the end of the season. He went on to compare the Padres to Kentucky basketball before and when they hired Rick Pitino; once losers, the development of the program went on to yield championships, and that’s what Andy Green wants to do.
Chris Kemp spoke next, and the room felt Chris’s passion for his job after a question regarding the markets: Chris stated that he’s leaving it all out on the floor and is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding talent. His ventures are taking him to Venezuela, which he noted is not the safest place at the moment. The passion for his work was palpable as he talked about his time in the Dominican Republic and in other areas.
One of the social media (I believe from the RFM contingent) stated that Padres fans are starved for playoff baseball and want the Padres to return to the playoffs soon. He asked for some guarantee on the Padres returning to relevance. Both Mike Dee and Andy Green answered the question: Mike recalled that he remembers the 1998 season and how many in baseball stated that the Murph was one of the loudest venues in baseball during the playoff run. Andy Green went on by saying that while he couldn’t promise things that weren’t in his control, he would do everything within his control to lead the Padres back to a competitive, aggressive brand of baseball.
Mike Dee also answered a question regarding the Padres direction, especially when it came to 2015 and last season. Mike noted that both the concept of bringing in veterans for a run and developing prospects for the future were concurrent plans; the 2015 plan did not come to fruition, so the team went on to developing home-grown talent. Mike Dee stated that this was the long-term Padres plan and not to expect anything outside of that realm.
Anderson Espinoza was the last prospect to spend time answering questions with the group. Nicky helped translate for Anderson as he speaks Spanish primarily.
Anderson stated that it’s crazy that he’s garnered comparisons to Pedro. He is happy to be in the Padres organization. Anderson did note that while the Boston system is different mainly because of the championships, he’s happy to be wearing an SD cap. He’s confident with his fastball, would like to work on his changeup and is most comfortable with his curveball.
I posed a question to Anderson in Spanish (which is servicable at best): who was his favorite MLB player of the past and present? Anderson smiled and tabbed a fellow countrymen in Omar Vizquel as his favorite player of the past. His current favorite? Felix Hernandez.
I took an opportunity to speak for the room and told Anderson that we wished him a good season and that we looked forward to seeing him at Petco Park. He smiled and said he appreciated the opportunity to play baseball (he’s played since he was 3).
By the time we had worked our way down to the general seating for the remainder of the truncated (played to 7 innings) second game of the day, the Rangers had a 1 run lead on the Padres. I did a bit of amateur scouting myself:
Luis Asuncion just lifted one into the left field bleachers, ties the game up! #SDSocialSummit— Tim Arzaga (@SDHatGuy) October 6, 2016
I'm seeing good things from Austin Allen. Has a definite eye for controlling the run game. 1 for 2 on CS chances that I've seen. pic.twitter.com/eXsMxQg0D6— Tim Arzaga (@SDHatGuy) October 6, 2016
One of Austin’s CS was a perfectly placed shot from one knee to the second baseman for an easy out. The other I saw was an aggressive shot to third base, slightly low and a throw that hit the third baseman and bounced upward. Otherwise, Allen’s instinct towards keeping runners at bay was apparent.
Also caught a Luis Urias AB. Line drive to center field. Had chants of MVP coming from the players in the stands. #SDSocialSummit— Tim Arzaga (@SDHatGuy) October 6, 2016
From what I understand, a lot of eyes were on the young Mexican from Sonora. He didn’t disappoint, shooting a line drive into shallow center field for an easy base hit.
A talk with Andy Green
I felt bold enough to introduce myself to the Padres skipper sitting a section below me in order to pose another question to him. Even with the intense gaze and presence, Andy was very kind with his words and time. I plopped down, excited to have a quick audience with the manager.
I first congratulated Andy on his first season as manager and commented on his focus and presence, saying that despite Padres managers of the past, I appreciated his intensity and fire. Andy responded with appreciation, thanking me for my compliments.
I then asked Andy which player came through his clubhouse that impressed him the most. Andy’s response was incredibly measured and thoughtful: he immediately said Manny Margot impressed him the most. He went on to say that while Manny possesses great speed out in the field, it’s the fact that he did not gain a hit for his first 8-9 ABs or so and kept going out to do his best that spoke volumes to Andy. Green went on to say that Luis Perdomo also impressed him in the fact that he was a guy that normally wouldn’t have been on a Major League field and still made great strides despite his relative inexperience.
Andy Green was even kind enough to sign a cap for me:
I joked to Andy that this cap wouldn’t end up on eBay. Green responded with a chuckle, “My signature isn’t worth anything, anyway.” I responded that it was worth something to me. He thanked me, and I thanked him for his time spent entertaining my question. In such a short amount of time and interaction, Andy Green has found a new fan and supporter in this cap collector.
The game ended with a 8-3 Rangers win, though their Major League team would be pummeled by the Blue Jays.
The Social Summit experience overall was very enjoyable. Being able to pepper Padres prospects with questions made for a fun afternoon and reminded many of us that while many of these young players appear as stat lines and names in an article, they’re young men pursuing a dream of playing on a big stage, just as they did throughout the week at Petco Park playing on the same field as the Padres.