Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Although the TinCaps' Jeisson Rosario is just 18 years old, his discipline at the plate has impressed Padres officials. He has 28 walks.
Monday, May 14, 2018 1:00 am
Teens put their stamp on success of TinCaps
Young players impressing manager, Padres brass
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
vs. West Michigan
When: 7:05 p.m. today
Where: Parkview Field
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM or 100.9 FM
The TinCaps' youth has been one of the themes of the season. After the San Diego Padres promoted 18-year-old infielder Luis Almanzar to Fort Wayne on Thursday, the TinCaps can plausibly field a lineup with the five youngest players in the Midwest League on the field at the same time.
Being young is common in the Padres' deep farm system; high-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio both have the youngest teams in their leagues, as well. What's less common is having a large contingent of talented young players, which the TinCaps do.
Of the eight Fort Wayne players among the Padres' Top 30 prospects, seven are 19 or younger.
That brigade of gifted youngsters has been instrumental to the team's success this season, especially in recent weeks.
The teenage influence starts at the top of the lineup. Center fielder Jeisson Rosario and infielder Esteury Ruiz have frequently hit 1-2 in the batting order in the last two weeks and have been a potent combination thanks to their on-base skills and athleticism on the bases.
“They do a lot of good things to get on base,” manager Anthony Contreras said before the team's just completed road trip. “Obviously they have good speed, so when they do get on base they add that weapon for us”.
Rosario, 18, has been an impact player essentially from Opening Day, having an on-base percentage of .445 and ranking sixth in the league in walks with 28. Plate discipline has been a hallmark of Rosario's approach since he signed with the Padres and he's been able to maintain that patience with Fort Wayne jumping directly from rookie ball to the Midwest League.
“Jeisson's always a guy who even when he was 15, 16 years old before we signed him, even amongst his peers had very, very good (at-bats) and always saw the baseball well,” said Sam Geaney, the Padres director of player development.
Ruiz, by contrast, struggled out of the gate this season but has been excellent recently. He's cut his strikeouts by almost 5 percent in May, while raising his slugging percentage from .436 to .548. The 19-year-old has three home runs since April 27 and leads the team with five.
Arguably the most improved member of the TinCaps' youth movement in recent weeks has been, fittingly, the team's youngest player. Infielder Justin Lopez did not turn 18 until Wednesday and is the youngest player in the league.
Although he's not one of the players among the Top 30 Padres prospects, the Venezuela native has been one of the team's hottest hitters recently, slugging .472 in May and totaling five extra-base hits, three more than he had in all of April. He's also been solid at shortstop, where he's split time with fellow 18-year-old Gabriel Arias.
“To be that age, I have to constantly tell myself where I was when I was that age,” said Contreras, who also played shortstop in the minor leagues. “There was no way I thought probably in my mind I'd be able to compete at this level when I was 17 years old. But for him to be the youngest guy in the league and come here and compete and do some damage and put up some numbers, it's pretty impressive.”
Ruiz, Rosario and Lopez have been particularly impressive, but the roster includes plenty of other teenagers who have the talent to make an impact as the season continues.
Players such as 18-year-old Tirso Ornelas, who San Diego Pares manager Andy Green called “one of our top outfield prospects” and 19-year-old MacKenzie Gore, the top left-handed pitching prospect in the minor leagues, haven't hit their stride yet but have the ability to help the TinCaps climb in the standings this summer.