MadFriars' 2012 Fort Wayne Notebook

It's not been Tate's year.

FORT WAYNE, IN: The oldest pitchers in the TinCaps rotation are Cody Hebner and Frank Garces, both of whom are 22 and Hebner's birthday was in November. Joe Ross and Matt Wisler were on the varsities of their high school teams last season and Adys Portillo, after three years in the organization, will turn twenty-one in December.

All five throw and sit in the 90s and Ross, Portillo and Hebner have all touched 97. Are they making mistakes right now, particularly Ross and Wisler? Sure, but the misses are on location and throwing the wrong pitch in a count.

As they continue to improve their mechanics there could be some special talent here. The big challenge is for TinCaps pitching coach Willie Blair to refine the talent the talent that he has.

This is not the Midwest League rotation Padres' fans would see a few years ago of college guys who "knew how to pitch" but whose mid-eighties fastballs and so-so breaking pitches made it tough to see them succeeding at AA, let alone the major leagues.

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How much do players change from their teenage years to when they start approaching their twenties? When the Padres signed Portillo in July of 2008 out of Venezuela he was 6'2" and 170 lbs.

He is now 6'4", 235 lbs. of muscle.

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Also keep an eye on the TinCaps bullpen, particularly John Barbato who seems much more comfortable coming in and throwing heat than he was as a starter.

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Shortstop Jace Peterson, 22, is getting a lot of attention with his hot bat. In April he hit .308/.406/.473 with ten stolen bases in twelve attempts. So the big question is, especially for his position, is how does he look defensively?

Not bad considering this his first season as a full-time baseball player after playing cornerback/safety for the McNeese football team and playing four sports in high school. Oh yeah, and he was also an All-Academic selection for the Southland Conference.

On Saturday night's game he flashed a major league arm when he gunned down a runner from the outfield grass. He has good quickness and range but its mainly just a question of refining his instincts to get that extra step going to his left that will lessen his dives.

On Saturday night I wrote that he may be the Padres' best shortstop prospect since Khalil Greene, and I'll stand by that. I'm a big fan of Beemer Weems' defensive ability but he needs to put together a whole season at the plate. Drew Cumberland always had great potential but he was never able to put together a full season.

Peterson is a solid 6'1" 200 lbs., can run, hit, throw play defense and has good gap power to go along with a smooth left-handed stroke. Its still very early and many players have looked great at the A ball level only to struggle at the upper levels of the minors, but you have to like what you see right now.

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Austin Hedges, 19, is the real thing behind the plate mainly because he is one of the more athletic catchers you will find at the position with his quickness and very strong arm. He also has a good idea of how to "receive" the ball compared to others not only at his level but in the upper reaches of the minors.

He has hit well and the coaches can see already see improvement in his swing from his brief time in Arizona when he was on the DL. He should be in Fort Wayne for the full year and as Randy Smith, the Padres Director of Minor League Development told MadFriars he's a much better hitter than given credit for.

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A lot of questions on Donavan Tate and my best answer is: I don't know. I got to see him play one game in left field, he was injured the next two. He was in left because according to Jose Valentine he had a bit of a sore arm and they didn't want him throwing too much from center.

At the plate in both the spring and the game I saw it didn't seem like he was swinging with much authority. So far this year in 86 plate appearances with the TinCaps he has one extra-base hit, a double, that he hit in the second game of the season.

He's in good shape and seems to be enjoying himself with his new platinum blonde hair but no matter how much or an optimist you are or how much anyone can try to spin it, its not a good start.

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Final question is who is Travis Whitmore? Whitmore is a thirty-fifth round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh by the Padres in 2011. Before that he was at Indian Hills Junior College, the same as Cory Spangenberg went too (he was there before Spangenberg) and then too PItt where in two years he posted a .911 OPS.

As we wrote in our interview with him at the end of spring training, he was one of the better hitters in Eugene and can play third, second and first; but second is probably his best position. If given the opportunity, he could probably do a credible job at shortstop too.

He has some good pop in his batting stroke and the natural left-handed hitter may even start experimenting with switch-hitting if his recent batting practice session is any future indicator.

He is "old" for the league at twenty-three and to me is the most likely candidate to be promoted up to Lake Elsinore particularly with both third baseman hitting under .200.

San Antonio will be the next stop on the MadFriars' 2012 road trip.

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