In 2018, the Single-A TinCaps will once again enter Midwest League play with an extremely young roster. Three players—Justin Lopez, Gabriel Arias and Tirso Ornelas—were born in this millennium!
The roster is also a testament to the franchise’s commitment to build from within through the draft and more effective international scouting. The team only acquired one player via trade, and signed nearly half (11 of 25) as international free agents from Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico or the Dominican Republic.
Both players spent 2017 in the Arizona League. Campusano, the Padres’ 2nd round selection last year, posted a .697 OPS with 4 HR in 164 PA, while throwing out 7 of 49 base-stealers (14 CS%). Fernandez, signed out of Venezuela in 2016, hit 3 HR, slashed .295/.368/.491 and gunned down 18 of 48 base-stealers (38%).
Campusano and Fernandez are joined by 23 year old Jalen Washington (.556 OPS at Low-A), a 29th rounder in the 2017 draft.
Arias was part of the Padres’ 2016 international spending spree during which he signed for $1.9 Million out of Venezuela. Last season, the 6’1”, 185 lb shortstop had a .682 OPS in the Arizona League before making a dramatic leap to Fort Wayne after Fernando Tatis Jr. was promoted to Double-A. This winter, in the Australian Baseball League, he found some untapped power slashing .271/.310/.486 with 5 HR in 114 PA. The 18 year old is considered a plus defender at short, whose glove will carry him through the minors.
Ruiz came to San Diego with Matt Strahm and Travis Wood in exchange fro Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Trevor Cahill in 2017. The second baseman out of the Dominican Republic exploded in rookie ball swiping 26 bases (32 attempts), collecting 34 extra base hits (10 triples, 20 doubles) en route to a .997 OPS. Ruiz will be 19 years old for the entire season.
Two Venezuelans, 19 year old Reinaldo Ilarraza and 17 year old Justin Lopez, will also vie for time in the TinCaps’ crowded infield. Both players struggled offensively in extremely aggressive assignments in 2017: Ilarraza struck out 149 times in 126 games for Fort Wayne, but only had 2 PA against a younger pitcher; Lopez struck out 80 times in 66 games as the youngest player in the short season Northwest League. Both players could see time all over the diamond though Lopez, at 6’2”, might be the best fit at third base, with Arias and Ruiz at short and second, respectively. Ilarazza signed with the Padres for $350,000 in 2015, while Lopez signed for $1.2 million a year later.
Carlos Belen, a 22 year old Dominican, will be the team’s first baseman after spending 2017 in Lake Elsinore (.734 OPS, 11 HR, .354 PA).
Fort Wayne will feature a pair of 18 year olds in Tirson Ornelas (Padres #15 prospect) and Jeisson Rosario (#19). Both players were part of the Padres’ 2016 International signing class: Ornelas, from Mexico, received $1.5 Million; Rosario, a Dominican, signed for $1.85 Million. In the 2017 Arizona League, both showed off impressive plate discipline. Ornelas drew 40 walks in 238 PA on his way to a .276/.399/.408 line. Rosario walked nearly as much as he struck out (36 K, 33 BB) and slashed .299/.404/.369 in 224 PA. Both played center field in 2017, but Rosario, with his above average speed and defense, is most likely to stay there long term, while Ornelas, with his above average power and projectable 6’3”, 200 lb frame will move to a corner spot.
2016 draftees Tre Carter (11th round) and Jack Suwinksi (15th round) complete the outfield. Carter, age 21, was 16-for-18 on stolen base attempts with a .675 OPS for Tri-City in 2017. Suwinski, age 19, was one of the TinCaps’ youngest players in 2017, and looks to build off his 9 HR and .667 OPS performance.
MacKenzie Gore, the 2017 #3 overall pick, is going to be the ace of the staff. MLB.com has the 19 year old as the top Left Handed pitching prospect in baseball, and second in the Padres’ Top-30. However, right handers Mason Thompson (Padres’ #25 prospect) and Henry Henry should be formidable in their own right. Thompson, age 20, was the Padres’ 3rd round pick in 2016. In 2017, the right hander had a 3.83 FIP in 27.0 innings for the TinCaps before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. Henry, age 19, was one of the youngest pitchers on the short season Dust Devils last year (only Andres Munoz and Andrian Morejon were younger). In 51.2 innings he did not allow a single home run and posted a 3.26 FIP with a 3.1 K/BB ratio. The Padres signed the lanky (6’4”, 178lb) righthander out of the Dominican Republic for $400,000 in 2015.
Southpaws Nick Margevicius, 21, and Osvaldo Hernandez, 19, could slot in behind the aforementioned Gore, Thompson and Henry in the rotation, while Jordan Guerrero, 19, should be a force in the bullpen. Margevicius and Hernandez both joined the Padres’ system in 2017: Margevicius as 7th round pick; Hernandez as a $2.5 Million Cuban free agent. In 48 innings in the Arizona and Northwest Leagues, Margevicius had 62 strikeouts to only eight walks and allowed one home run. Hernandez had similarly outstanding peripherals: 47 strikeouts, 12 walks and only one home run in 40.2 innings at Tri City and Fort Wayne. Guerrero, a hulking, 6’5”, 260 lb righthander, also pitched for both the Dust Devils and TinCaps, collecting 34.1 IP with a 13.6 K/9 and allowing zero home runs. The Padres selected Jordan Guerrero in the 6th round of the 2015 draft.
The TinCaps are exciting both for how many current top-30 prospects are on the roster, and for how many currently unranked players could move into the top-30 by season’s end. Obviously, the development of MacKenzie Gore will be a topic throughout baseball’s scouting circles, but this teams has plenty of other talent to watch. Gabe Arias and Esteury Ruiz could move together through the minors as one of the most talented double play combos; Tirso Ornelas and Jeisson Rosario are going to be under the microscope to see if they can add some more pop to their patient approaches at the plate; Mason Thompson looks to prove himself worthy of a high draft pick after a season lost to injury...
What are you looking forward to?
Which currently unranked player will enter the Padres’ top-30 prospect list by the end of 2018?
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