To some, the Lake Elsinore Storm might be the most interesting of the Padres farm teams. That's because they are a not-too-far drive north from San Diego, which allows you to take in a game or two when the Padres are out of town (or perhaps just unwatchable). They also currently boast some higher caliber prospects than the Padres' AA affiliate and thus offer a bit more promise. They will begin their season tonight at 7:05 PM in Rancho Cucamonga.
To see the entire roster, you can go here: 2016 Lake Elsinore Storm roster.
RHP Martires Arias, LHP Thomas Dorminy, RHP Chris Huffman, RHP Michael Kelly, RHP Dinelson Lamet, RHP Zech Lemond, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Brad Wieck
Analysis: The Storm are just chalk full of staring pitching candidates, but obviously only some of these guys will get their chances there to start the season. The elephant in the room is Brandon Morrow, who is just making a pit stop in Lake Elsinore as he rehabs his way back to pitching in the majors. Lamet, Dorminy, Arias and Kelly have been tasked with starting the first 4 games for the Storm while it looks like Huffman, Lemond and Wiech might have to wait for Morrow to move on to see who gets the 5th spot. Huffman and Lemond already started working in relief last year. Lemond was a 3rd round pick in 2014 and many thought he was better suited for the 'pen anyway. Getting back to the actual SPs, Arias was up with the Padres as a non-roster invite so the must see something special in the lanky, 6'10" Dominican. Dorminy was an anchor and All Star for the Fort Wayne club last year. I'll talk about Lamet in a second. Kelly is a former top pick by the Padres in 2011 who is still trying to break out.
Best Prospect: Dinelson Lamet hangs out just outside the Padres top 10 prospects, but still carries some decent upside. Here's what John Sickels said about him:
Age 23, posted 2.99 ERA with 120/44 K/BB in 105 innings, 82 hits in Low-A; signed in 2014 as an older free agent from Dominican Republic but looks legit with 92-95 MPH fastball and plus slider; command needs some work as does his change-up but given rapid progress I would not underestimate him.
RHP Colby Blueberg, RHP Jimmy Brasoban, RHP Ryan Butler (restricted list), LHP Kyle McGrath, LHP Trevor Seidenberger, LHP Jose Torres, RHP T.J. Weir
Analysis: I like this bullpen a lot and a strong bullpen in the Cal League is pretty important. Both Blueberg and Brasoban closed games for Fort Wayne last year and looked good doing it. Ryan Butler is currently suspended for marijuana use and when he returns will bring his near-100 MPH to the 'pen. McGrath was used heavily by the Tin Caps last year and looked no worse for wear with his 1.70 ERA. Seidneberger came over in the Rymer Liriano trade and after a hiccup in his AA promotion last year will look to set things right again back in High A where he has done well before. Torres came over in the Alonso/Rzepczynski/Pomeranz trade after standing out for the Athletics' Midwest league affiliate (same level as Fort Wayne). T.J. Weir is the one guy looking to bounce back a little after a so-so 2015, but his stuff looks like it should play at this level.
Best Prospect: Let's call it a draw between Torres and Brasoban. I'll defer to Sickels again here (first comment is Torres, second is Brasoban):
Age 22, acquired from Athletics in Yonder Alonso trade; posted 2.56 ERA with 84/24 K/BB in 77 innings in Low-A/High-A; plus fastball with movement at 92-95; above-average slider; seems ideally-suited for bullpen role and could be more than just a LOOGY.
Age 21, posted 2.26 ERA with 80/25 K/BB in 72 innings in Low-A, 10 saves; signed out of Dominican in 2011; poor record as a starter but much better after converting to bullpen; can hit 98; plus slider; change-up held him back as a starter but in relief that is less of an issue; closer potential if command holds.
C Miguel Del Castillo, C Jose Ruiz
Analysis: Batch backstops are international signings by the Padres (Dominican Republic and Venezuela respectively) and both haven't showed much in the way of offensive potential. It would seem their primary job will be to handle a solid pitching staff for the Storm and maybe try to develop some offense to their games.
Best Prospect: Ruiz is a younger and has progressed more quickly through the ranks than Del Castillo, so perhaps that says something about which catcher the Padres view with the most promise.
SS Javier Guerra, 3B Chase Jensen, 2B Fernando Perez, 1B Trae Santos, 2B Luis Urias, SS Josh VanMeter
Analysis: Santos looks to be the starting 1B and seems to have a lot of pop in his bat. I saw him in Peoria getting some work with the major league club at times and he got into a few spring training games and showed off his power. Javier Guerra arrived in the Craig Kimbrel trade as one of the main guys in the deal. He will hold down SS until a possible midseason promotion should things break right. 2B and 3B should be a battle between a few guys. Perez is a former 3rd round pick who played his HS ball in Chula Vista. He is repeating High A after a tough year at the plate in 2015, but his 2014 with Fort Wayne shows that maybe that was just a hiccup. VanMeter missed a lot of time after suffering a pretty significant injury at the start of 2015, but he should be back to full strength, flashing the leather and developing his bat. Urias is the youngest (18) and shortest (5'9") guy on the team, but his bat is full of promise after some great contact-hitting performances with Tri-Cities and Fort Wayne last year. Jensen is a Lake Elsinore veteran at this point who will fill in where needed.
Best Prospect: This is easy, it is Guerra who in some circles is the Padres' best prospect. Sickels had him as his second best prospect and had this to say:
Age 20, acquired from Red Sox in Craig Kimbrel deal, hit .279/.329/.449 with 15 homers, 30 walks, 112 strikeouts in 434 at-bats in Low-A; entered 2015 with good field/weak bat reputation but came up with a big power surge; glove sharp at shortstop, some say spectacular; I think the power burst is real but aggressive approach and questionable strike zone judgment are issues. You can make a case for the number one spot.
Guerra played with his national team, Panama, during Spring Training and launched a couple HRs for them. I'm high on his power, but we'll see this year.
OF Franchy Cordero, CF Edwin Moreno, RF Franmil Reyes, LF Nick Schulz
Analysis: This is a solid, but unspectacular OF crew. Cordero was once a well-hyped prospect with scouts drooling over the sound his bat made on contact. That shine has worn off over the last couple years as he hasn't quite stood out at lower levels. He also used to be an infielder, but too many errors forced a move to the OF. Moreno is a year older than Cordero and also muddled his way around lower levels, but finally stood out in 2015 with Fort Wayne and will now look to build on that success. Schulz is repeating at High A after being one of the power sources (12 HR) for the club last year.
Best Prospect: Reyes seems to still carry the most promise of the group. He didn't hit as well with Fort Wayne last year as Moreno or have the scouts drooling like Cordero once did and he doesn't have the experience of Schulz. But, he's younger than all of them and his 6'4" 240 lb frame seems to project dingers and the Cal League should be a great opportunity for that projection to turn to reality.