The Peoria Javelinas played their first game of the Arizona Fall League yesterday. With playoff baseball still on TV and the Padres’ season in the rear view mirror, a developmental league played in spring training ballparks probably isn’t on your radar, but as a Padres fan, it should be. The Padres sent eight players to participate in this league. All of them have the potential to be impact for the Padres’ major league team, and some of them could be donning brown & gold very soon.
The Arizona Fall League is a developmental league consisting of a smattering of young prospects from all around baseball. Typically players from the same organization are kept on the same roster as they get the chance to play with kids from other teams and work with coaches and trainers from other teams as well. For the 2017 AFL season, the Peoria Javelinas roster is made up of players from the Padres, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and Mariners. The team is managed by former Padre and current Braves staffer Luis Salazar. Team workouts opened on October 8th and the first games were on October 10th. There’s the “Bowman Hitting Challenge” on October 21st.and an All-Star game on November 4th. The league will run through mid-November, with a championship game on the 18th. You can follow the games on MLB’s website, where Gamecast data will be updated in real-time.
As for the topics of particular interest to Padres fans, here are the eight players that the organization has sent to participate this season:
- David Bednar, RHP: Selected in the 35th round of the 2016 draft, Bednar has quickly made it up to high-A Lake Elsinore in his two seasons of pro ball with an overall ERA of 2.53 and a WHIP of 1.04. He’s pitched exclusively in relief since being drafted.
- Jerry Keel, LHP: The 6’6” lefty was drafted in the 9th round in 2015 and saw time in AA San Antonio each of the last two seasons. Keel doesn’t blow hitters away as his fastball barely touches 90, but he commands four pitches well, suggesting that he may have a future as a back-end starter.
- Walker Lockett, RHP: The 23-year-old Lockett spent the 2017 season on the Padres’ 40-man roster but failed to repeat the success that he had in 2016 due to some nagging shoulder issues, that limited him to 65 innings this year. He’s probably in Arizona to work on strength and stamina in preparation for what should be a fierce competition for spots in the Padres’ rotation next spring.
- Andres Munoz, RHP: An 18-year-old from Mexico, Munoz is the youngest player in the league and has a fastball that can tough triple digits. He’s developing his secondary pitches, but any kid the age of a high school senior who has that kind of heat is worth watching.
- T.J. Weir, RHP: Drafted in the 17th round of the 2014 draft, Weir turned a major corner in 2017, dominating the AA Texas League as one of the best relievers in the league. At age 26, he could be a dark horse bullpen candidate next year, not unlike the emergence of Phil Maton this summer.
- Javier Guerra, SS: Considered the gem of the Craig Kimbrel trade at the time, the athletic shortstop has fallen from his high prospect rankings due to underperformance and questionable mental approach. He showed signs of improvement this season but the numbers still aren’t where he needs to be to get him closer to the majors. The tools are still there and he’s healthy, so the Padres are trying to get his head straight so he can get back on track.
- Josh Naylor, 1B: A stellar first half earned the 20-year-old Naylor a promotion to AA San Antonio. His K% went up five points from 15% to 20%, but his walk rate also improved. Sadly, his ISO dipped, as did his AVG and OBP, and he needs to start turning his hit tool into a power hitting tool to find success as a 1B/DH prospect.
- Luis Urias, 2B: At age 20, Urias was one of the youngest players in the AA Texas League, and he still put up a respectable 296/.398/.380 triple-slash line. His strike zone discipline and contact skills are already good enough to make him a legitimate MLB prospect, but he should still develop power as he fills into his frame. Don’t expect Jose Altuve 2.0, but there should be enough pop in his bat to spray some doubles and triples. He’s been on the fast track the last two years, so they’re probably trying to get him as many AB’s as they can before challenging him again next year.
- Franmil Reyes, OF: This 6’5”, 240lb 22-year-old corner outfielder also spent his first season in AA this year. While his AVG and OBP dropped as he faced more advanced pitching, his ISO spiked as he posted his highest slugging percentage since rookie ball. A strong fall and winter could make him a roster consideration next spring.
The major league regular season is over, but Padres baseball is a year-long affair. Keep an eye on the proceedings from the Arizona Fall League and get a glimpse of some of the organization’s brightest stars!