Clubs slump, prospects rise for Padres

Top prospects Liriano, Gyorko highlight young talent in 2012

By Zack Cox / Special to | November 27, 2012 7:24 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

After totaling four playoff appearances and two league titles last season, the Padres farm system spiraled downward in 2012. Six of the club's seven affiliates finished with a losing record, with four placing last in their respective divisions.

Even Rookie-level Eugene, San Diego's lone above-.500 affiliate, was struck by bad luck. The Emeralds (47-29) owned the best overall record in the Northwest League but failed to qualify for the postseason after finishing second in their division in the first and second halves.

Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Class A Fort Wayne qualified for the playoffs, earning Wild Card bids with identical 69-71 records. The Storm, who boasted the California League's top pitching staff during the regular season, bowed out in the opening round to eventual champion Lancaster, while the TinCaps rallied all the way to the Midwest League Finals before falling to Wisconsin in four games.

Padres Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Austin Hedges, Fort Wayne (96 games): Hedges was regarded as the top defensive catching prospect in the 2011 Draft class -- and one of the best in all of the Minors behind the plate -- but the 20-year-old proved in his first pro season that he can swing the bat as well.

After playing in just nine games in 2011, Hedges debuted this season at Class A and went on to rank second on the TinCaps in home runs (10) and RBIs (56), earning him mid- and postseason All-Star honors in the Midwest League. The Padres' No. 5 prospect continued his prowess behind the plate as well, leading the organization's full-season Minor Leaguers by throwing out runners at a 31.5-percent clip.

First base -- Nate Freiman, San Antonio (137 games): Freiman has put up consistent numbers since entering the Minors in 2009, and continued to do so this season. An imposing presence at first (6-foot-7, 225 pounds), the Duke alum led the Texas League with 105 RBIs and ranked fourth in homers with 24 in his first season at Double-A.

After the season, the 25-year-old competed for Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round before joining Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .266 with a homer and 14 RBIs in 21 games.

Second base -- Jonathan Galvez, San Antonio (82 games): One of three repeat All-Stars on this list, Galvez was hampered with injuries early in the season but rebounded to put together another solid season at the plate. Missed time caused his power numbers to dip from his breakout 2011 campaign, but the 21-year-old did not lose his stroke, ranking first among Texas League second basemen in average (.292) and second in OPS (.790).

Honorable mention: Maxx Tissenbaum

Third base -- Jedd Gyorko, San Antonio (34 games), Tucson (92 games): The Padres' No. 2 prospect has proven he can crush the ball with the best of them, his 30 homers this season leading the organization and tying for fourth among all Minor Leaguers. Though the rest of his numbers dipped from his breakout 2011 season, Gyorko still put up stellar totals across the board, leading all Padres Minor Leaguers with 155 hits and ranking second in RBIs (100) and third in average (.311).

A second-round pick in 2010, Gyorko, who also spent significant time at second base, was promoted to Triple-A in mid May and proceeded to hit at a .328 clip for the remainder of the season. One highlight came in late June, when the West Virginia product went 15-for-24 with 11 RBIs over a six-game stretch, including a 4-for-5 effort on June 26 in which Gyorko drove in a season-high five runs. The 24-year-old caught fire again in August, homering in four straight games.

After his second consecutive Organization All-Star nod, Gyorko seems primed to make his PETCO Park debut sometime next season.

Shortstop -- Jace Peterson, Fort Wayne (117 games): Peterson took a big step forward in his second pro season, improving in every offensive category. The speedy 22-year-old led the Fort Wayne roster in hits (127), runs (78), triples (nine) and total bases (174).

Peterson, who played football and baseball at McNeese State, was rated the best athlete in the Padres system by Baseball America. His athleticism was evident on the basepaths this season as his 51 stolen bases ranked second in the organization and the Midwest League.


Yeison Asencio, Fort Wayne (92 games): Asencio had no trouble to adjusting to the grind in his first full season as the TinCaps right fielder led the Padres organization and the Midwest League with a .323 average. While he walked just 18 times in 350 at-bats, the Dominican native showed an excellent knack for putting the bat on the ball. Asencio struck out just 38 times this season -- the lowest strikeout total of any of the Midwest League's top 50 hitters based on batting average.

Daniel Robertson, Tucson (129 games): The oldest player on this list, Robertson has steadily climbed the Minor League ranks during his five-year pro career, making his debut at Triple-A in 2012. The Oregon State product was a crucial part of the Tucson lineup, leading the Padres in hits (148) and doubles (28) and trailing only Gyorko in average (.302).

But what sets Robertson -- who saw time at all three outfield positions -- apart is his play in the field. The 27-year-old led the Minors with 23 outfield assists this season, with Asencio coming in a close second with 21.

Rymer Liriano, Lake Elsinore (74 games), San Antonio (53 games): The Padres' top prospect began 2012 where he had finished each of his past two seasons -- in the Class A Advanced California League -- and performed like a seasoned veteran, batting .298 with five homers, 41 RBIs and 22 steals before being promoted to Double-A for the first time in late June.

The 21-year-old has been busy this offseason as well. Competing with other top Minor Leaguers in this year's Arizona Fall League, Liriano hit .319 with four homers and 15 RBIs for the league-champion Peoria Javelinas, earning him a spot on the AFL Top Prospects Team. He has since returned to his native Dominican Republic, playing with the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League.

Utility/designated hitter -- Tommy Medica, Lake Elsinore (93 games): Medica put together arguably the best season at the plate of any Padres Minor Leaguer, leading the organization with a .330 average and ranking in the top five in home runs (19) and RBIs (87). It was a career year for the 24-year-old, who put up personal bests in every offensive category and led the notoriously high-scoring California League in doubles (37) and slugging percentage (.623), earning him postseason All-Star honors.

Medica has struggled to cement himself in a particular position however. Drafted as a catcher out of Santa Clara University in 2010, he split time between first base and designated hitter this season while playing one game behind the plate. It seems that DH is the best fit for the right-handed slugger, but Medica would need to establish himself in the field if he hopes to reach the Majors in the National League.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Matt Andriese, Lake Elsinore (27 games): Andriese played his college ball less than 30 miles from the Storm's Lake Elsinore Diamond, and the UC Riverside product certainly made himself at home this season. After an impressive debut campaign with short-season Eugene in 2011, Andriese made the jump to the hitter-friendly Cal League and became the ace of the circuit's top pitching staff, finishing with a league-best 3.58 ERA while tying for the organization lead in wins (10) and ranking second with 131 strikeouts.

Also deserving mention is Donn Roach, who carried a stellar 1.88 ERA through 16 starts between Class A Advanced and Double-A before he was shut down in mid-July after reaching his innings limit.

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Frank Garces, Fort Wayne (25 games): In a system lean on left-handed pitching talent, the 22-year-old southpaw was head and shoulders above the rest. Making the jump from the Dominican Summer League to the Midwest League in his third pro season, Garces turned heads in his first start for Fort Wayne, striking out nine over six two-hit innings.

Garces finished the season with a 9-6 record and a 2.81 ERA in 25 starts, ranking second in ERA among starters in the organization and fifth in the Midwest League in ERA and opponent batting average (.233).

Relief pitcher -- Kevin Quackenbush, Lake Elsinore (52 games): The saves leader in the Padres system and the California League, Quackenbush was a force to be reckoned with at the back of the Lake Elsinore bullpen. The Storm closer converted 27 of 30 save opportunities in the hitter-friendly Cal League, finishing with a 0.94 ERA through 57 2/3 innings. Opponents hit a league-low .205 against the 6-foot-3 right-hander, who won the Fans' Choice MiLBY Award for Best Reliever this season. Since being drafted in the eighth round of the 2011 Draft, the 24-year-old has allowed just nine earned runs in 87 career appearances for an 0.73 ERA.

A mid- and postseason All-Star in the Cal League, Quackenbush continued his success in the Arizona Fall League, where he joined Liriano on the AFL Top Prospects Team after leading the league with six saves and holding a 2.45 ERA over 11 appearances.

Honorable mention: Matt Stites

Zack Cox is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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