Tucson Padres: Trade could bring top talent

2011-12-24T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:42:18Z Tucson Padres: Trade could bring top talentPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 24, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The biggest trade of baseball's offseason thus far sent the San Diego Padres' best pitcher away to the Cincinnati Reds one week ago, delivering in return prospects and a reclamation project of a starter.

The trade brings the Tucson Padres an everyday catcher and might signal the trade of their most popular player.

Here's a hot stove look at how the deal shapes the Triple-A club:

A new backstop. The trade of San Diego ace Mat Latos netted 2008 All-Star starting pitcher Edinson Volquez and three prospects: first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal and reliever Brad Boxberger.

Volquez and Alonso will certainly start the season in San Diego, while Boxberger could pitch out of the big club's bullpen.

That leaves the 23-year-old Grandal, who many believe will have the largest long-term impact, behind the plate in Tucson.

Luis Martinez, Tucson's everyday catcher last year, was traded to Texas to make room.

"I think Grandal's going to be there," said Randy Smith, the San Diego Padres' international scouting and player development director. "He's a switch hitter that's performed early. We like his bat; he's got arm strength."

Smith said Tucson Padres manager Terry Kennedy should help hone Grandal's catching mechanics.

The Miami alum was drafted in the first round in 2010, and was ranked the Reds' No. 4 prospect by Baseball America before the trade.

Whither Rizzo? San Diego has anointed Alonso its top first baseman, leaving Anthony Rizzo's future with the organization in question.

"I'm sure he's confused, to say the least," Smith said.

The Padres could trade the 22-year-old Rizzo, who struggled in two big-league stints last year, before the spring.

Smith said there was a "possibility he'll be in Tucson," where he could work on shortening and flattening his uppercut swing.

Last year, Rizzo had one of the great seasons in Tucson baseball history, hitting .331 with 26 homers and 101 RBIs in 356 at-bats.

"Numbers-wise, you can't improve on what he did," Smith said. "It's hard to go back, if he has to go back."

The Padres have told Rizzo that, if he has not been traded, they'd like to see him try to play some in left field "late in spring training" and in Tucson.

"He's a good first baseman, but it wouldn't hurt if he can play left field," Smith said. "We're not changing positions, but if we have both guys in the system, it makes sense to see."

Smith was with the Padres a generation ago when Benito Santiago and Sandy Alomar Jr. competed for the same position. He learned then, he said, that "these things have a way of working their way out."

This week, Tucson Padres general manager Mike Feder said that, while he supports any move the parent club would make, the return of their most popular player would be exciting.

The wave. The Tucson Padres will add members of the Double-A San Antonio Missions, who posted a minor-league-best 94-46 record last year.

The Missions featured prospect pitchers who could start the season in Tucson. Casey Kelly was the centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland came over for Mike Adams.

Smith said there's always some concern in sending young arms to the Pacific Coast League, where ballpark conditions skew wildly toward offense.

"It's not the greatest league to pitch in," he said. "But there are some ballparks in the National League that aren't the greatest to pitch in, either, and a couple of them are in the West.

"That's where you have to evaluate a guy's stuff and not necessarily the numbers."

The Tucson Padres' prospects, then, are linked to their prospects.

"We have a ton of depth, we have a lot of guys that are roughly the same age group, and they're on similar timetables," Smith said. "You have some guys that come back from San Diego, you have some guys that come up from San Antonio.

"On paper, it looks like a pretty good club."

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