MadFriars' San Antonio Notebook: April

Wisler should be in San Diego soon.

Thoughts and observations from our recent trip to the Alamo City.

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RHP Justin Hancock, who looked very good in Fort Wayne last year and the opposite in Lake Elsinore, was off to a decent start with San Antonio this year before going down with a forearm strain. According to Hancock the MRI was negative and he is going to slowly start strengthening his arm with side work. At this point he does not have a firm timetable.

At six-foot-four and 185 lbs. Hancock is somewhat similar to fellow Ohioan Matt Wisler but with a little less velocity. When Hancock's two-seamer is moving and on the proper downward plane he has some potential.

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One thing about the layoff with OF Rymer Liriano is that he is certainly in shape at six-feet and a very solid 230 lbs and he still generates the best bat speed of anyone in the organization. At .213/.295/.404 he is off to a slow start after sitting out a year recovering from Tommy John surgery but as Mike Saeger, the Missions' play-by-play announcer noted on his broadcasts, Liriano is a notorious slow starter posting sub .200 batting averages in April of 2012 in Lake Elsinore (.198) and April of 2011 in Fort Wayne (.150) before putting up big numbers.

Defensively he took some bad routes in center field, but his speed enabled him to make the plays. His arm also looks fully back from surgery in the outfield.

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We always get quite a few questions on catcher Austin Hedges, mainly along the lines "is he really that good?" The quick answer is yes but with the caveat he's not quite there yet offensively. A few scouts noticed that at the plate he has a tendency to hook the ball or try to pull it too much.

The Missions' hitting coach Francisco Morales confirmed that it does happen and what they have been working on is keeping his better balanced at the plate which will enable him to use the whole field more effectively.

Hedges will hit. He generates quality bat speed and has an idea of what he can, and more importantly what he can't do at the plate, it just needs a little more refinement.

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No one is really sure when 2B Cory Spangenberg is going to be back after he suffered a recurrence from concussion syndromes when sliding headfirst into second in mid-April. Spangenberg, who missed nearly a month and a half in 2012 after being hit in the head from an errant throw warming up in Lake Elsinore, has been experiencing problems dealing with noise and light.

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CF Travis Jankowski is expected to be out until at least mid-July after smashing his wrist running into an outfield wall in Frisco in late April.

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When Chase Headley comes back off of the disabled list in San Diego Jace Peterson will return to the minors but it is unsure where he will return too. The Padres have usually sent AA players that they have called up back to AAA, but it might be different this time because their best infield instructor is Missions' manger Rich Dauer, who was a member of some famous Baltimore Orioles' infields of the late 1970s.

On the other hand if Peterson is in-line for an everyday job in San Diego in 2015 the padres usually prefer for their position players to have at least a half-season of experience at the AAA level where they will be exposed to more breaking pitches and off-speed offerings than they will be in AA.

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A big reason why the offense is struggling is three of the organization's top position prospects (Jankowski, Spangenberg and Peterson) have only been in the line-up together for 11 games. Throw in the fact that neither Hedges or Liriano has really been hitting and its not a recipe for a lot of offense.

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The bullpen in San Antonio, which is usually the case in most of the Padres' affiliates, is good with RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Jerry Sullivan and LHP Frank Garces as three that stood out the most.

Barbato, who based on his bonus is the de facto top selection of the 2010 draft, has been particularly impressive with the exception of two bad outing out of 12 appearances. A bull-strong six-foot-two and 225 lbs. he is capable of throwing multiple innings with a big fastball.

Also keep an eye on Jerry Sullivan, who is returning from shoulder problems which cost him his 2013 season, looks like the same pitcher that he was in the second half of the 2012 in Lake Elsinore when he was moved to the bullpen.

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Finally, another question that pops up quite a bit, is "how close is Matt Wisler?" Not to far. On Wednesday night's game Wisler sat between 91 to 93, throwing mostly two-seam fastballs and is still capable of dialing it up to the mid-90s with his four-seamer when he needs too. His slider is a truly plus pitch and he has shown quite a bit of progress with his curve and change-up.

It is hard to find anyone who believes he will be in the minor leagues anytime past mid-June.

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