We break down the upper levels of the San Diego Padres minor league system, beginning with the San Antonio Missions.
The Padres AA minor league franchise, the San Antonio Missions, lead their league by 3 games with a 30-23 record. The prospect to watch among several talented players is 2B/SS Luis Urias. Although the organization views him primarily as a 2B, he continues to get almost twice as many starts at shortstop and is tearing up the Texas League on both sides of the game. His fielding percentage is 42 percentage points higher at 2B than at SS but he is serviceable at the position and it could be the organization is using the shortstop position to further develop his skills until he is ready to be promoted to the Padres.
Urias, who just turned 20, has played in 51 games with a .342/.435/.475 line. He has belted 13 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR and `9 RBI. At 5-9 and 160 lbs, Urias should fill out more and could gain more height before he is done. He is an on base machine with 28 walks and only 25 strikeouts. His speed is considered below average but SA has consistently batted him leadoff with the Missions. The Padres have plenty of speed at the top of the order and his value should be better toward the bottom of the lineup.
If he continues the way he has been progressing, we should see him with El Paso in the second half and a possible September cameo with the major league team.
Third baseman Ty France has continued to play well after his promotion from the Storm. He has played in 20 games with 73 AB with a .342/.380/.434 line and already has 19 RBI. He also seems to have value has a mop up man as a pitcher as well, with 2 IP in 2 games, 1 strikeout and a 0.00 ERA and has won 1 game. If this former Aztec continues to play to these levels he may become a real third base prospect for this organization.
Right fielders Nick Schulz and Franmil Reyes are both strikeout machines but have combined for 16 HR and 59 RBI, by far the most productive position on the field and the two best power hitters on the team. Neither are ranked prospects in the system but are having great early seasons.
San Diego Padres
Right handed starter Michael Kelly, their first round pick in the 2011 draft, has bounced around the minors the last 3 seasons and, at 24, is old for his league considering he was drafted as a high school pitcher. He is blossoming so far this season with a 4-1 record and 2.97 ERA in 11 games started and 60.2 IP. He has 23 walks and 61 strikeouts and could earn himself a promotion to AAA. He could earn another shot at El Paso after his 6-3 record with the Chihuahas last year though his ERA was 4.89 (AAA frequently has inflated ERA’s with the hitters parks in the league).
Enyel De Los Santos, the 16th ranked Padres prospect per BA, has been pitching well for the Missions of late and is lowering his ERA from the rough start he had to the season. He is 2-3 with a 4.88 ERA in 11 games started and 59 IP with 49 SO and 18 BB. He has allowed 8 HR and has struggled with his command at times.
Note: Former Padre starter Cesar Vargas, after struggling with elbow issues last season, is pitching mostly in relief for the Missions. He has been mostly effective with 3.03 ERA and 36 strikeouts. He is 25 years old and could be a useful piece in the future.
El Paso Chihuahuas
The El Paso Chihuahuas of the Pacific Coast League play in a very hitter friendly league. It is not a good place to judge either the pitchers or the hitters in the organization as all numbers are inflated. It is useful for getting players some seasoning and rehabbing players coming back from injury.
Right handed reliever Phil Maton pulled the short straw trying to prove his worth in this hitter friendly confine. His 1-1 record and 3.09 ERA in 23.1 IP with 29 K’s and 11 saves. He is tied for most saves by a closer in the PCL. We could easily be seeing him in a major league uniform as the season wears on.
Two highly regarded pitching prospects spent most of the start of the season injured. Cuban righty Anderson Espinoza reported to Lake Elsinore in April and reported elbow soreness and was shutdown for 6-8 weeks. His MRI showed no structural damage and he has recently begun some rehab work.
Right hander Jacob Nix, originally another Lake Elsinore starter, was sidelined by a groin injury and rehabbed in extended spring training. He has rejoined Lake Elsinore and has started two games. He is the #7 ranked prospect in the Padres system per Baseball America.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the season on the Padres prospects as they continue their maturation in the minor leagues.