Summary: For the second time in three years, San Antonio won the Texas League Championship despite losing their best hitter first baseman Tommy Medica before the finals. Hitting is never easy in San Antonio, but in addition to Medica the team boasted a talented outfield in Reymond Fuentes, Rico Noel and mid-season addition Yeison Ascencio.
Approach: We use a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible with whichever team he appeared for the most. For the top prospect, we take into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: Double-A baseball is where the rubber meets the road and you find out who can really play. Anyone who succeeds at this level has the talent to play in the major leagues. Those who can replicate their top performances frequently and make adjustments effectively keep advancing from here.
As will be noted often in any discussion of the San Antonio club, Nelson Wolff Stadium’s swirling winds make it one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in professional baseball.
Player of the Year: 1B Tommy Medica .296/.372/.582
Medica, 25, missed all of June and July with a tweaked oblique, but in 76 games he still led the team in home runs with 18 and had a slugging percentage that was nearly 150 points higher than the next regular. Outside of Nelson Wolff Stadium, he was even more effective at .319/.359/.652. Simply put, the Missions were just a much better team with Medica in the middle of the lineup.
In the field he made only a pair of errors and showed some agility around the bag for someone who only moved to first as a professional. An interesting fact about the Santa Clara University graduate was that going into the 2010 draft his defensive ability as a catcher was his main calling card.
Runner-up: OF Reymond Fuentes .316/.396/.441
Fuentes, 22, rebounded from a horrible 2012 to put himself back on the prospect map for next season. He had the fourth best batting average in the league and finished third in stolen bases, 29 for 39, despite his last game in Double-A coming on August 9. The added weight from hard off-season workouts with his cousin Carlos Beltran paid off as he saw his slugging percentage increase over a hundred points.
Defensively he can play all three outfield positions and has a plus arm.
Player of the Year: Tommy Medica
The Missions were built around pitching and defense. So much so that only two players ended up with an OPS above .706. Medica, 25, was one of them. As John pointed out, he led the team in home runs and had a commanding advantage in slugging percentage. Medica really was the only consistent power threat in the Missions’ lineup. While most of us had a chance to see Medica’s raw power in September, one of the most surprising things about Medica was his three triples. This tied much faster fellow Missions, Cory Spangenberg and Asencio.
As a power hitting first baseman, Medica’s prospect status resides almost completely in his bat. The Padres could have him move to left field or back to catcher. However, Medica’s shoulder injury has kept him from moving away from first so far. Would the Padres’ risk him reinjuring his shoulder to have him change positions?
Runner-up: Reymond Fuentes
As someone who watches every Padre game, I feel like fans did not get to see the real Reymond Fuentes in the Majors. Fuentes, who had started nearly every game all year, instead started twice a week in San Diego. The other times he was used as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement. He showed off his speed but not much else.
What Fuentes is, and was for the Mission’s, is someone who can hit for a high average (fourth in the Texas League), steal 20+ bases (third in Texas League), play great defense, and has “developing power.” This means that he is not going to be someone who hits 20 home runs, but also will hit for enough power to keep the outfielders honest. He showed those abilities in both the Texas League and PCL.
Player of the Year: Tommy Medica
Medica did not qualify for the Texas League batting title because of the time he missed with a bad oblique. If he had, he would have led the circuit with his .582 slugging percentage. Medica’s low-maintenance swing maximizes how long his bat is in the hitting zone, allowing him to hit with power even if his timing is a bit off. He’ll turn 26 in the first week of the 2014 season and has never topped 100 games in a season, but when Medica is on the field, he’s a force at the plate and his teams win more games.
Runner-up: Reymond Fuentes
After Fuentes missed three weeks in June with a balky hamstring, he was ineffective for his first dozen games back. That was the only stretch of the season when the 22-year-old wasn’t a massive contributor on the field. At the plate, the strength he added last winter allowed him to hit the ball with authority without having to sell out on his swing. This let him to make more consistent contact and hit the ball to all fields more effectively. In the field, his speed, routes and arm make him a plus defender. That’s a recipe for an impact player.
Others of note: OF Rico Noel led the Texas League in stolen bases with 59 in 78 attempts and had an on-base percentage of .348. Noel is possibly the best defensive outfielder in the system but his lack of power makes it difficult to project him on a big league level. It will be interesting to see if those in the organization who think he should give up on switch-hitting win out in 2014. Second baseman Cory Spangenberg was promoted in early June and, as is his wont, struggled at the beginning before putting together a very good August at .330/.351/.459. Spangenberg will have to pick up is his walk rate and his ability to pull the ball. The talent is there, it’s just a question of refining it. For the first time in his career, 23-year-old outfielder Yeison Asencio struggled to hit the ball hard consistently. Though he still rarely struck out, his willingness to swing at anything hampered his ability to convert his lightning-fast bat into a productive one.
2013 MadFriars’ San Antonio Missions Player of the Year: Tommy Medica
Top Prospect: Tommy Medica (John)
A favorite Randy Smith quote about Tommy Medica is that he can “flat out hit” and the last two years have affirmed it. In all likelihood, Medica will be the starting first baseman for El Paso in Triple-A next year and not in San Diego. However, he did impress people in his brief call-up to San Diego and one has to wonder whether, if Yonder Alonso puts up another sub-.400 slugging percentage, Medica may be a better option going forward.
Top Prospect: Reymond Fuentes (Ben and David)
When the Padres got Fuentes from Boston as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal, the reports were that he had a very high ceiling, but was still very raw. In 2012, we endured just how raw he was. In 2013, we reaped the benefits. Fuentes was drafted out of Puerto Rico and, despite having five professional seasons under his belt, he is still just 22 years old. His combination of success at the plate in the Texas League and Gold Glove-caliber defense make him a prospect to watch. Fuentes deserves a full year in Triple-A to be ready to reach his potential in the majors. However, it would not be surprising to see many Padre faithful penciling his name in to start in center on opening day of 2015.