It has been a great start to the offseason. As long as A.J. Preller, John Hart and Dave Stewart have a job, it seems like we will be in for at least one trade a week that leaves us saying, ‘huh?’
Speaking of Preller, it appears that the San Diego Padres have finally given up on that experiment they called Yonder Alonso. Remember Alonso? He was drafted seventh overall by the Cincinnati Reds in 2008 from The U. Everyone remembers that this guy was a Top 50 prospect not once, not twice, but three times, right? Despite actually showing an improved strikeout rate this past season (11.9%) and a much improved OBP (.361), he has yet come close to living up to those lofty expectations. Now at the age of 28, he will get a fresh start with the Oakland As.
The Padres and the As swapped Alonso and Mark Rzepczynski (imagine how many Scrabble points his name would be if proper names were allowed?) for Drew Pomeranz, Jose Torres and the good ol’ PTBNL who eventually became Jabari Blash. I’m not sure that there is enough here yet to declare a winner and loser, but if I had to make a call at first glance, I think I like what the Padres got compared to the As.
We know what Rzepczynski is at this point. He is a 30-year old situational lefty with high WHIPs (1.38 career) and not all that impressive of a career strikeout rate (327 in 345.1 innings). Alonso is an enigma. Pomeranz proved to be a valuable swingman once he got out of Colorado. He went 10-10 with a 3.08 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in two years in Oakland.
So that leaves the variables as the prospects that the Padres received.
JOSE TORRES, left handed pitcher
Torres took a little while to develop. He was signed out of Venezuela at the age of 16 in 2010 and made his debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2011. He floated around winter ball and short season leagues, as both a starter and occasional reliever.
Last season, at the age of 22, Torres finally appeared at full season ball. He looked good coming out of the bullpen. He made 44 appearances for the Beloit Snappers (Class A) posting a 2.69 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 73.2 innings pitched, converting eight of 13 saves. His strikeout numbers were impressive (9.77), but his walk numbers are noteworthy. Coming into 2015, Torres walked nearly four batters per nine, but finished this season with a 2.81 per nine. Clearly, Torres in gaining control and getting comfortable in the strike zone.
He then saw a promotion to High-A where he made three appearances for the Stockton Ports. Torres hurled three shutout innings striking out four and walking one.
Torres stands at 6 foot 2 and weighs 175 pounds. The lefty was really able to make the jump when he saw his velocity increase. Early scouting reports had Torres with a fastball in the high-80s, but it seemingly came to life last year in the Venezuelan Winter League. The velocity remained throughout this season so it was no fluke.
His fastball now hits the mid-90s and he possesses a slider and a changeup, although he seems to have shied away from his changeup since becoming a full time reliever. Where Torres once looked like a question mark, he know looks like he could in fact fit into a Major League bullpen soon with another strong season in the Minor Leagues.
JABARI BLASH, outfielder
Simply put, Blash is a masher. Last season, split between the Southern League in Double-A and the home run happy Pacific Coast League in Triple-A, Blash slammed 32 home runs. Blash also had serious strikeout issues, whiffing 123 times in 476 plate appearances (26-percent of the time).
Blash barely had time to pick a uniform number with the Oakland As. He was selected in the Rule 5 Draft when the Seattle Mariners left him off the 40-man roster, and was almost immediately traded to the Padres as the player to be named later. That would mean that the Padres take on the Rule 5 stipulation of the As and that Blash needs to remain on the Padres 40-man roster or be offered back to the Mariners.
Blash is now 26-years old. He was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft by the Mariners. He stands at 6 foot 5 and weighs 225 pounds so we know where the mighty righty’s power comes from.
Blash looks the part of a Major League outfielder and should eventually be able to hold down a reserve, fourth outfielder spot at the least. He has a very strong throwing arm and runs well both in the field and on the base paths. He did post a .370 OBP as well, which was his highest in two seasons. His power seems to be mainly pull power, but — despite the increase in strikeouts — he appears to be making more meaningful contact at the plate.
Seemingly all that has been holding him back is consistency at the plate. Getting stronger at making contact and laying off pitchers' off speed and "chase" pitches will only continue his improvement. Coming off of that 32 home run season, it seems he has turned the corner and has turned that raw power in his skill set. With the improvement in contact and a bump in his OBP last season, Blash will have every opportunity this spring to make the big league club.