The Padres are set to take on their AAA affiliate tonight as both teams rev up for their respective seasons. The game will be televised on Fox Sports San Diego, with first pitch slated for at 5:05 p.m. PT.
The El Paso Chihuahuas have won three straight division titles and have reached the Pacific Coast League finals in each of the last two years. In 2016, they won the title. Last season, they lost in five games to the Memphis Redbirds.
Led by Rod Barajas, El Paso is looking for another successful season. Here are a few prospects to watch that could appear there during the 2018 season.
Luis Urias is expected to make his debut in AAA to open the season, and he might not be too far away from the big leagues. The Mexico native got an extended look in spring training this year and impressed many in Padres camp, hitting .286 (8-28) with five walks and five doubles. A natural second baseman, Urias has shown continuous improvement at shortstop in the last few years and is more than capable to play there in a pinch.
Playing for AA-San Antonio in 2017, the middle infielder reached base at a .398 clip and walked more times than he struck out.
Cordero was on track to make the big league roster out of camp, but a groin injury will force him to begin the season in El Paso. Prior to the injury, Cordero hit .343 (13-35) with two home runs in spring play. The D.R. native hit .326 with a .972 OPS in El Paso last year.
Lucchesi is expected to open with El Paso to begin the season, at least for right now. He is perhaps the most MLB-ready prospect in the Padres organization, and he showcased that this spring, striking out nine in 11 2/3 innings while giving up only two runs. There is a definite possibility that Lucchesi replaces recently-injured Dinelson Lamet in the rotation, but that is unknown for now.
Splitting time between the Storm and the Missions in 2017, the southpaw had a 2.20 ERA with 148 strikeouts in 139 innings pitched. He will turn 25 in June.
It is unknown as to whether Lauer will begin his season with the Chihuahuas, but if all goes well, he should pitch for them this season. In 2017, his first pro season, the Ohio native split time between Class-A Advanced Lake Elsinore and AA-San Antonio. Lauer showcased pinpoint control, striking out 132 hitters in 122 2/3 innings while walking only 36. He posted a 3.30 ERA.
Like Lucchesi, Lauer impressed in big league camp, striking out 10 batters in 10 2/3 innings while giving up three earned runs. He walked two.
Showcasing a fastball that can reach the triple digits, Wingenter recorded a 2.45 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings last season for AA-San Antonio. The reliever made a couple of appearances for El Paso in the PCL playoffs last year and did not allow a run.
Stock’s story is a good one. He was recognized by the Reds in 2017 via a YouTube video. The right-hander put up a 2.98 ERA in 2017 with their AA affiliate and was invited to Padres camp in 2018. He took advantage of the opportunity and impressed the organization with a fastball that reaches the high-90s on the radar gun.
Stock was a darkhorse to break camp with a bullpen spot until he was reassigned to minor league camp on March 23. If he can pitch like he did during the spring, he certainly has a chance to reach the big leagues at some point in 2018.
I would guess Quantrill begins the season in AA San Antonio, where he was 1-5 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts last season. However, if he progresses as the Padres would like him to, the 2016 first-round pick should make his way to El Paso sooner rather than later.
2017 was the first full-season of pitching for Quantrill since his 2014 season at Stanford, and the fact that he was able to get through it without any health issues was a good sign. Now that he has a full season in the books, he should take another step forward in 2018.
Nix has battled a groin injury in camp, which has took him out of action. The 22-year-old made his Chihuahuas debut in the 2017 PCL playoffs, giving up only one run over 6 2/3 innings.
- SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (#8)
The Padres have not been shy about their wanting to test Tatis Jr., and a mid-season promotion to AAA is definitely not out of the question. With the TinCaps last season, Tatis Jr. hit a team record 21 home runs, swiped 29 bags, and hit .281/.390/.520 with a .910 OPS. He was then promoted to AA-San Antonio for their playoff run, and that is where he will likely open the 2018 season at.
Tatis Jr. was ranked as the 8th best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline and will not turn 20 until next January.