EL PASO, TX - "I got this, I don't know what you are doing out here" said reliever Hector Ambriz,…
I have to admit as someone that has driven east on the I-10 from San Diego to the east coast a few times that I didn't have the best impression of El Paso, but after spending a few days there I was wrong.
The ballpark is absolutely stunning. They hired the same people that designed PETCO and the park is right in the middle of a downtown that is starting to turn around. The people and the food, especially the Mexican food, are great and the sell out Southwestern Park nearly every night (the park holds just under 10,000).
Jace Peterson has been seeing equal time at second and short, along with an occasional appearance at third base. Right now he looks more comfortable defensively at shortstop more than anywhere else but as gets more repetitions that should change.
Offensively he's starting to find his stride and if Chase Headley does leave at the end of the season he should be the everyday second baseman with Jedd Gyorko moving to third. Peterson does seem like the type of position player that the Padres have been trying to develop for years; athletic, defensively solid with gap-to-gap power.
In his first 12 games in AAA he is hitting .314/.457/.571.
LHP/PH/OF Jason Lane is one of the more fascinating players that I have ran into since I started writing for MadFriars. First, he was a left-handed outfielder who hit from the right side for parts of six seasons in the major leagues. Now, a few years removed from his position player days, he's trying to return to the major leagues as a pitcher.
Lane is serving as a starter right now with all of the injuries to pitching throughout the organization but probably profiles best as a long man out of the pen. After a few rough outings, he had his best outing of the season going seven innings and only allowing only one earned run. But what makes Lane truly unique is that he can also still hit. Overall he is hitting .391/.440/.609 and as a pinch hitter he is hitting .571 in eight plate appearances.
In addition to videotaping all of his bullpen sessions to look for ways in which he can improve he still takes daily batting practice with the team, grounders at first base and works on his reads in left and right field before every game.
"I love him," said Chihuahuas manager Pat Murphy. "He can do just about anything you ask him and is one of the hardest working guys that I have ever been around."
"I think he helps a major league club because he is so many players that occupies just one roster spot. And most importantly, he can pitch."
While the park is not quite as extreme a hitter's park as Tucson was last year, it also isn't that far off either. On a Sunday day game seven home runs left the park and none of them were cheap. While the pitching environment in Southwest University Park is also vastly different from Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio, the hitters are also much better at this level too.
"It's a pretty good jump," said Matt Wisler, MadFriars' top prospect in 2014. "Many of these guys just missed being on major league rosters or could be on one with other teams. They all have plan at the plate and are going to wait you out until you get your pitch."
"I've got to learn not to miss as much."
RHP Burch Smith was sidelined with some forearm flexor tightness but an MRI proved negative. He should start rehabbing in Extended Spring soon.
Tommy Medica still seems a little loss at the plate with a .184/.271/.355 line. While everyone wants to be in the major leagues you have to wonder if starting the season in AAA may have helped his development more than being a bench player in the big leagues. Right now he is in a 1-37 slump with a bloop double on Sunday his only hit in the past nine games.
Jonathan Galvez still looks a little rough defensively, particularly in his lateral movement at third, but he has come a long way from last year. Galvez could always hit with a smooth easy right-handed stroke that has added some pop in recent years. He's played a few games in left field too but it seems that right now his everyday position is at the hot corner.
In his first 13 games this season he is off to a quick start at .355/.432/.645.
I've always liked Cody Decker and while that negate any journalistic bona fides that I may or may not have, he can also play. Decker has .882 OPS in 545 career minor league games and can play five positions, one of which is catcher.
This season he's seen the majority of his time at first base (18 games) along with time at third (5 games) and behind the dish (5 games). After a slow start he is hitting .318/.415/.523 in May and much like Lane, it's hard to see how he would not be an asset on a major league bench if the Padres elect to move one of their three catchers on the major league roster.
One thing that does play in PETCO is right-handed power and Decker with 110 career home runs has that.
It's amazing how a player can be a candidate for being "under the radar" when they have hovered around .350 for most of the season but catcher Adam Moore is occupying that realm. Moore, who was squeezed out of the Kansas City Royals organization and came over to the Padres for cash considerations, has been nothing short of brilliant at the plate with a .349/.404/.516 slash line and has been solid defensively behind the plate.
As reported by Dennis Lin for UT San Diego Moore elected to stay with the Padres and not opt out of his deal. However, according to Moore, if a major league club does choose to pick up his contract he is free to leave at any time. "If there is an opportunity with another major league club, yeah, I would go," said Moore. "But I also really hope something pops up with the Padres, they have just been great with me."
Moore has played for Padres' hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell in the past so he is another strong option at catcher, which is easily the organization's deepest position, especially with Austin Hedges heating it up in San Antonio.
Finally, we got some questions on why the Padres would move Kyle Blanks, who had nine home runs in 27 games with the Chihuahuas for OF Jake Goebbert. Their are people who write on the major leagues more often and better than I do on the internal machinations of the big club, but suffice it to say the Padres did not see Blanks as being able to crack an outfield lineup of Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, Cameron Maybin, Seth Smith and Carlos Quentin. Furthermore, they liked Yonder Alonso more at first, which may or may not be the best decision, and Tommy Medica has seemed to have surpassed him as a minor league option that plays both first and left field.
So with the team only having one more year of non-arbitration control of Blanks the organization will again attempt to address a depth problem that they thought they had answered in the off-season trade of OF Jaff Decker and RHP Miles Mikolas for OF Alex Dickerson with Pittsburgh; a left-handed hitting corner bat with power.
Dickerson, a Poway High graduate, is going to be out most of the year, so Goebbert, 26, who does not have any major league service time, fits better into what the team is attempting to do this year and going forward. Have some possible left-handed hitting option at the AA and AAA level.
He has some pop with 18 home runs in Midland, an A's affiliate, last year and has seven this year between AAA Sacramento and El Paso and has played both outfield corners and first.