In this sixth piece detailing the Padres’ minor league system, we take a look at the San Antonio Missions.
The Missions were a team that dominated the Texas League from start to finish in the regular season. They headed into the playoffs as favorites, but were unable to get past the Mission Rock Hounds, despite being up 2-1 in the series and up late in game four. It was a disappointing end to their season.
The bullpen on this team was a definite strong point, even though they failed the team in the end. The bullpen recorded a team ERA one full point lower than any other team in the Texas League. The majority of the pen stayed intact the whole season and, as a group, they should be very close to knocking on the major league door.
Fernando Tatis was promoted to this team late in the year, and that was a common theme throughout the season. Many prospects were promoted to Texas during the season as Cal Quantrill, Josh Naylor, Eric Lauer, Ty France, Joey Lucchesi, and others all got their first taste of Double-A pitching. It is truly an exciting time to be a Padre fan.
There were many positives to this team, and we will explore some of them.
1- The Pitching is Coming
Lauer, Quantrill, and Lucchessi are just the beginning, as each young hurler took the next step in their cultivation. The bullpen also flourished as Wieck, Wingenter, Weir, Castillo, Yardley, and others are certainly making waves. The Padres presently have a great nucleus of young position players like Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges, but few young hurlers. That will change soon as this Padres team changes gears into relevancy.
2- Youth Movement on Offense
The development in the system is not only with the pitching, as Josh Naylor and Fernando Tatis joined Luis Urias in San Antonio. The three were the youngest players in the league and handled their time there with great poise. Naylor’s offensive punch was lacking, but he held his own against further developed pitchers. It remains to be seen if Tatis will begin next year in Texas, but he certainly made a favorable impression with the Missions’ fans. Luis Urias played the whole year in Double-A and further solidified himself as one of the best prospects on the Padres’ team. The youth on offense is also coming.
3- What a Bullpen
With Trey Wingenter, Brad Wieck, T.J. Weir, Eric Yardley, and Jose Castillo in the mix, the Missions had dominant pitchers at the end of the pitching staff. The team’s pitching strength helped guide them to first place finishes in both halves of the season. As mentioned, these young men should all be taking the next step, and that puts them very close to Petco Park. You will see some of these men in 2018, that is for sure. The bullpen is coming.
Player of the Year
Luis Urias 118 games/442 at bats (.296/.398/.380) .778 OPS (68 BB/65 K)
At 20, Urias is still very young. He has made huge progress since being signed by the Padres as a 16-year-old out of Mexico. He just finished batting under .300 for the season, but did continue his amazing streak of walking more than he struck out. In his career, Urias now has 153 walks compared to 135 strikeouts in over 1,300 minor league at bats. In this day and age of the game, it is unreal to see a player continue to display that type of plate discipline.
Pitcher of the Year
Joey Lucchesi (11-7) 2.20 ERA/0.97 WHIP 139 IP/33 BB/148 K
The left-handed pitcher out of Southeast Missouri State actually had better number in the Texas League than he did pitching for the Lake Elsinore Storm. Lucchesi was 6-4 with a 2.52 ERA in the California League, and then went 5-3 with a 1.79 ERA in San Antonio. His strikeout numbers went down while pitching for the Missions, but that was to be expected as he was battling more refined hitters. He looks to be the real deal and could be a decent mid-rotation starter when it is all said and done. He clearly has the durability and repertoire to remain a starter moving forward.
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