John Conniff of MadFriars.com and Fox Sports San Diego visited Parkview Field with the TinCaps in the midst of a nine-game homestand. Conniff, a longtime analyst of the Padres’ farm system, was kind enough to provide us with an assessment of how some of the former Fort Wayne players are doing elsewhere in the organization.
Q. Ryan Butler, who closed games for the TinCaps last season, has reached Double-A San Antonio. Does Butler's conversion to a starting pitcher slow his track to the major leagues?
Conniff. Butler would be on a faster track to the majors but then it comes down to the whole thing of what's more valuable, a relief pitcher or a starting pitcher, and then how many innings can he pitch? Butler has said to me in San Antonio that he's always seen himself as a starter. He really wants to be one. The whole key with him is how fast his secondary stuff is going to come along. He's already at Double-A, which is a lot further than most of us thought he would be. When I saw him in San Antonio last Tuesday, he threw six innings, and his velocity was consistently in the mid-90s. If he can get a little better change-up and slider, he could really be something. He's looked pretty good there (in San Antonio). I think that's a level that will really challenge him and force him to throw more of his breaking stuff because in the California League he could blow people away with his fastball.
Q. Also at Double-A is Tyron Guerrero, who was an All-Star for the TinCaps last year. How is he doing?
Conniff. He had one bad outing where he allowed five earned runs, and he's allowed six for the season in 15 appearances. So he's been pretty good. I still like the name Ryan Miller gave him: Angry Stork. He's about 6-foot-7, 6-8, maybe 190 pounds soaking wet. As Ryan said, he's scary to catch, let alone hit against. He's a very nice guy. I wouldn't want to face him either.
Q. What is the trajectory of Fernando Perez, who broke Fort Wayne's single-season RBI record in 2014?
Conniff. Perez is a guy that in spring the Padres were really crazy about. He hit about .180 in April. In May he's around .320 for the month. He has a great left-handed swing. He's in even better shape than he was last year. The whole key is if he can play second base. It gets anyone's eyes pretty big: a power-hitting second baseman in the middle of the order. I don't think he's going to move up as quickly as I may have thought earlier this year. I think he'll be in (high-A) Lake Elsinore for the full season. But he could put up some pretty good numbers. He's playing better defensively.
Q. Who else impresses you in Lake Elsinore who spent time in Fort Wayne?
Conniff. I've always liked Ryan Miller a lot. I think he has some power. I think he's athletic. I think he needs to put together a couple things, and Ryan would be the first to tell you about that. He works really well with pitchers. He's a pretty intelligent guy. I think he's a couple steps away from really doing something.
Q. Kyle Lloyd has worked as both a reliever and a starter for the Storm. He was an ace in the Fort Wayne rotation. Which is ultimately his best path?
Conniff. He started out in the bullpen where they thought his stuff would play better. He did well, then they had an opening in the rotation. He's been up and down. I think Lloyd is a real nice pitcher in some capacity. I mean, he's just too big and too strong. His forkball is too much. The real question is how dangerous the forkball is to his throwing arm. Will he hold up? Everybody outside the Padres is kind of weary about that. I think he's more of a relief pitcher because he's a two-pitch guy. I could see him coming out as a big bull in the middle innings just blowing people away.
Q. It's been three years since James Needy pitched for the TinCaps. But with Needy at Triple-A, is he a candidate for a call to the majors?
Conniff. Needy is a guy I've always been a big fan of. He's 6-7. When he throws, he gets a really added tilt on his sinker. He's really kind of learning to pitch in some of the Pacific Coast League parks. In some of the PCL parks, you or I could take him deep. It's really tough to pitch there. His game is really made for Petco and that heavy air and pounding innings and all of that. His ERA is in the 6.00 range. I think it's going to eventually come down.
Q. Outfielder Rymer Liriano, a TinCap in 2010 and 2011, played 38 games for the Padres last season. But they acquired a number of outfielders in the offseason, and Liriano has been stuck back in Triple-A. Where does he stand now?
Conniff. It was kind of a little bit of a shock that he went up because he had been injured. He had Tommy John surgery as a position player. They did acquire a lot of outfielders. But Justin Upton's free agency is this year. He's going to walk if he wants to make over $200 million. I don't see the Padres having the resources to resign him. He (Liriano) is in right field. He's been leading off. I think they're trying to get him to be a bit more of a disciplined hitter.
Q. Of the 2014 TinCaps who were dealt away in trades by new Padres general manager A.J. Preller, which is most likely to come back to haunt the Padres? Trea Turner, Jake Bauers, Dustin Peterson or Mallex Smith?
Conniff. I don't know if I'd use the term haunting, because I think in order to get a really quality major league player you have to give up quality minor leaguers. There are so many smart people in front offices that it's hard to fool anybody. Mallex Smith could be a good leadoff hitter. Jake Bauers could be a quality young player, though he's at first base, a tough position to break in. Dustin Peterson has it even tougher. I'd say the guy who could come back to haunt them the most is Jace Peterson, who played for the TinCaps back in 2012. I thought he got screwed over a bit by the Padres. I'd much rather see Peterson as an everyday shortstop out there right now. I think a lot of the guys they traded could be average major league players.
Q. In your time in Fort Wayne this week, who on the current roster impressed you?
Conniff. That's an easy one: Ruddy Giron. Hitting over .400, I don't care how much you discount batting average, he's been very impressive not only offensively but looking good defensively. I still think Michael Gettys will be pretty good. And I like Franchy Cordero's bat if he can find a position that he can settle on and relax a little bit more. I think the main thing is they want to get his bat going, and the outfield is a nice place for him to do that.