For another perspective on the TinCaps, I exchanged questions and answers with John Conniff of MadFriars.com and Fox Sports San Diego. A longtime analyst of the Padres’ farm system, Conniff stopped by Parkview Field this weekend to get an up-close look at Jake Bauers and Co.
Q. After seeing the TinCaps in person, what were your impressions?
Conniff. The same as when I came in: They’re young, they’re very young. They do a lot of things good at one time and seem to struggle with some other things. Michael Collins is kind of playing a game of Whac-A-Mole. Once he has something under control, another thing pops back up. There is a lot of talent.
Q. Over the years, how has the way the organization uses its low-A affiliate changed, if at all?
Conniff. The biggest thing I think is when I first came out here in 2004 they used to just draft a lot of college players, especially fourth-year college players. It seemed like most of those guys were around my age who were out there playing and going for their AARP cards. Now, under Randy Smith, they’ve made a much bigger focus on having age-appropriate guys (in Fort Wayne). They have one of the youngest teams in the league. There are many more prospects that you see now as compared to in the past.
Q. Which players on this team do you feel most project well for a big league future?
Conniff. You have to like Bauers because he’s 18. He’s hitting around .337, which is a slump for him. He uses the whole field well. I still like Josh VanMeter quite a bit. Dustin Peterson, if he can stay at third, has a chance of working. We’ll have to see what happens. Franmil Reyes is one of the biggest human beings I’ve ever seen on a baseball field. He’s gigantic. Ryan Miller, I kind of like him. He’s really progressed from Eugene. That’s about it – mainly position players.
Q. How quickly do you think Tyron Guerrero, promoted midseason from Fort Wayne to high-A Lake Elsinore, can reach the majors?
Conniff. If he’s in the bullpen, he can go up really quick. My guess is he’ll probably be in (Double-A) San Antonio next year. From San Antonio, the Padres kind of look at pitchers from there and (Triple-A) El Paso and can grab from either one. At (6-foot-7), throwing the ball 100 mph with that kind of control, there is always going to be someone who wants to take you.
Q. Who are some other ex-TinCaps making waves around the system?
Conniff. One guy who stands out is James Needy, who’s in San Antonio. He kind of turned around his career here in 2012, had a good year in Lake Elsinore in ’13 and is about 6-6, 230. He’s a local guy from San Diego who throws a really good sinker-slider combination. Matt Wisler has been up and down in El Paso. I still like him quite a bit. In El Paso, the ball just flies. Those are the two guys who stand out the most.
Q. Is there any reason to give up on Walker Weickel after his demotion to the Arizona Rookie League?
Conniff. I hope not. He’s got a lot of talent. If in your second time around (in low-A) you get hit as hard as he did, you’re going to need someone who knows a lot more about pitching than I do to really straighten him out, I think. He was a first-round pick. A guy who had similar struggles in Fort Wayne was Michael Kelly, who’s actually doing pretty well in Eugene. He was a first-round pick in 2011. If you’re big and strong and throw the ball hard, there are always going to be a lot of opportunities and chances for you.