Instructional league gives Padres jump on '16
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' recently-completed instructional league in Arizona for 59 players wasn't viewed by general manager A.J. Preller as a postscript for the regular season.
Instead, the team's nearly month long program, which finished on Oct. 10, was viewed as a way to get a jump on 2016.
"We looked at it as the start of the 2016 season instead of the end of the 2015 year," Preller said.
The instructional league, presided over by director of player development, Sam Geaney, played 13 games -- with two coming against the Rangers' instructional league team at Petco Park -- though the emphasis was on instruction.
"I think we set out to use it as a chance for a majority of our top prospects and many members of 2015 Draft class to feel solid going into their offseason," said Geaney.
The organization had all of its Minor League coordinators in Arizona, including Luis Ortiz (hitting/field), Mark Prior (pitching), Ryley Westman (coordinator of instruction), Gorman Heimueller (roving pitching), Eric Junge (Minor League pitching instructor), Eddie Rodriguez (infield), Tarrik Brock (base running and outfield) and several Minor League coaches.
"As a group, we were very happy. I think we've all taken a year to evaluate where we are," said Geaney. "We had a good discussion with people who have seen the organization, scouts, and people like [special assistants] Moises Alou, Trevor Hoffman and Mark Loretta.
"Over the last year, I think we've focused in on some things that we're going to be about as a staff, how players are going to work. This was the first opportunity for our staff to put it into action."
Geaney said several players stood out during practice and games, including third baseman Carlos Belen. Belen, 19, hit .218 with short-season Tri-City last summer but showed growth and development in Arizona.
"Carlos had a very strong program. He had an up-and-down [regular] season but made a lot of contact [in Arizona], and the quality of his at-bats improved. He's one who stood out," Geaney said.
Geaney cited outfielder Nick Torres as someone who stood out as well. Torres, 22, just completed his first full professional season, hitting .305/.352/.439 between Class A Fort Wayne and Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. He's currently playing in the Arizona Fall League.
Two other players Geaney said that made big leaps in Arizona were infielder Tyler Moore, a 29th-round pick in June, and fifth-round pick, outfielder Josh Magee, a two-sport athlete in high school who Geaney said "has really benefited from professional instruction."
Other top prospects who were in Arizona included shortstop Ruddy Giron, pitcher Ryan Butler, outfielder Michael Gettys and the team's top pick from the June Draft, pitcher Austin Smith, who was selected in the second round.
Several players from the program in Arizona have headed to the team's complex in the Dominican Republic for the organization's winter program, including a handful of American players, many of whom hadn't traveled beyond the United States before.
"I think it will be a really cool life experience for them," Geaney said.