Xavier Nady. Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the first edition of Minors Interruption. That’s the catchy name I’m giving to my daily (well, at least during the regular season) update of the Padres’ Minor League system. In case I need to re-introduce myself, here goes. I am Jason Green. I am a retired Army OIF and OEF Veteran. I live in El Paso, Texas, home of the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas. I will be covering most Chihuahuas games and will help you keep track of all of the future Padres down to the lowest level of organized baseball.
This first article will serve as a brief introduction to the players who will most likely be playing in El Paso this summer and what we have to look forward to. This time of year it can be very hard to figure out who will be playing for your local Minor League team. Major League teams don’t really like to “show their hand” too early if there are still some position battles going on in camp. Recently the Padres did send a few guys down to AAA officially, however.
After a pretty impressive Major League debut season, Burch Smith went to camp with a chance of possibly hanging on in the bullpen. But, as of Sunday, he is heading to El Paso. Hopefully his last few weeks spent in Minor League camp will help him to fix whatever has been going on to lead to a 22.03 ERA in his two Spring Training games. Along with Smith, Cody Decker was also moved to Minor League camp on Sunday. This really wasn’t a big surprise. Decker went to camp with Pitchers and Catchers as an extra Catcher but appears to be heading to El Paso as primarily a First Baseman. That’s not to say that he won’t catch occasionally, especially when the Padres back-up First Baseman battle comes to a close and the loser (or losers) becomes a Chihuahua.
As I mentioned earlier, in Peoria right now, there is a battle raging for the backup First Baseman/Extra Outfielder role. Kyle Blanks is the incumbent and is most likely to win the job. But, Tommy Medica, who hit great in his call-up at the end of last season, has continued to swing an extremely hot bat. Medica is currently slashing .410/.439/.649 and putting up a good fight to stay in camp. The reason that Blanks has the upper-hand here is that Medica is currently learning how to play the outfield, as opposed to Blanks who has 106 games in the outfield in the Majors. That being said, Medica currently has the most AB’s of any Padre in the Spring and is batting .404. I don’t see how you could send him down if he keeps hitting like this. The wild card is Xavier Nady. Yes, that Xavier Nady. Nady is 35-years-old and has a .865 OPS this Spring. If I had to guess, I would say that Blanks and Medica stay up and Nady is given the option to come to El Paso or be released. With Cameron Maybin being hurt, the Padres will be able to keep one more outfield type. Otherwise, it would have been a very tough decision between Blanks and Medica.
Speaking of First Base/Outfielders, recently acquired Alex Dickerson will probably be heading to El Paso as well. The Padres are not really interested in him being a First Baseman, though. He is batting .280 with 2 Home Runs this Spring. He may have battled for the 1B/OF slot as well except that he sprained his ankle during stretching yesterday and is being placed on the DL. This all but guarantees that he will be hitting bombs (when healthy) out of Southwest University Field. He will join a left-handed heavy roster of outfielders in El Paso which will include Travis Buck and Reymond Fuentes.
Lastly, the Pitching roster in El Paso was expected to be great heading into Spring Training and it doesn’t look like that is going to change. Recently Keyvius Sampson and Juan Oramas were sent to the AAA camp. Both Sampson and Oramas ranked in my top 15 Padres’ prospects. Both have sub-3.50 ERA’s and average more than a strikeout per inning in their career. Speaking of strikeouts, it looks like Kevin Quackenbush will be the Chihuahuas’ Closer. Quackenbush has 225 K’s in 164 Minor League innings pitched. If he doesn’t break camp with the Padres, he will probably only be a Chihuahua for a little while. Especially with the Padres’ tendency to have Pitchers go down with injury. It will be a few more weeks before the Padres announce that top prospect Matt Wisler will start the season in AAA. But, it will happen. Add in guys who are recovering from injury and could see time in the minors, such as Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland, and the Chihuahuas’ stable of Pitchers could have opponents very intimidated of the ankle-biters.
It will be another few weeks until the roster is all cleared up but, as it stands, the Chihuahuas’ first season in El Paso could be a memorable one. If they add one more speed guy besides likely Second Baseman Jonathan Galvez, the lineup could be extremely balanced. This is the key, because the pitching will be just fine. Guaranteed.
Stay tuned for another Minor Interruption where we will discuss the AA roster for the 2014 season.