Summary: The AZL Padres lost in the semi-finals of the AZL playoffs. The 2013 edition of the club was their best team in this league since Jaff Decker, Mat Latos and company powered the 2008 team. The team’s strength was talented young position players.
Overview: We used a simple formula for the awards. A player is eligible with whichever team he appeared for the most. For the top prospect, we took into account not just what the player did this year, but his age and potential impact in the major leagues.
Level: The Arizona League is the lowest level of the minor leagues in the states. Typically the players at this level are young Latin American players, high school draftees and second-tier college picks. If they play well, a few will get an opportunity to compete for a spot in Fort Wayne next spring. With the Eugene squad having a down year this season, we could see a record number in the Midwest League next spring.
Player of the Year: SS Franchy Cordero .333/.381/.511
Cordero, 19, may be the most exciting Padres’ Latin American prospect since Rymer Liriano came to the States. He led the AZL Padres in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and stolen bases with 11 in 11 attempts. The six-foot-three Dominican is considered to have the speed, quickness and hands to play shortstop. His stroke can get a little long, but he has more tools than the local Home Depot.
Runner-Up: RF Franmil Reyes .315/.387/.467
A corner outfielder, Reyes is another physical specimen from the Dominican Republic at six-foot-four and 225-pounds. Reyes, 18, got better as the season went on, hitting .333/.427/.498 in the second half and posted a strong 39:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the year.
Player of the Year: SS Franchy Cordero
There were many great choices for AZL Player of the Year, but the obvious one has to be Cordero. Cordero burst onto the scene this past season after having a solid but unspectacular DSL campaign in 2012. He led the AZL Padres in most offensive categories all while playing shortstop. It will be a question if he can stay there as he continues to grow, but as John pointed out he has the speed, hands, and quickness to stay there.
Runner-Up: OF Jose Urena .257/.341/.508
Reyes might be the clearer choice for runner up, but Urena made a name for himself this season as well. Urena led the AZL with nine home runs, triple the total of his next closest teammates, Reyes and Cordero. He was also second in both doubles (11) and triples (5). Urena has a long swing and strikes out more than he should, but the 18 year-old Mexican prospect has a bright future and should hit for massive power as he continues to develop.
Player of the Year: SS Franchy Cordero
Only one AZL player put up an OPS better than the Dominican shortstop’s .891 mark. Playing his entire stateside debut at 18 years old, Cordero established himself as one of the better all-around position prospects in the system. He covers ground with long, easy strides on the basepaths and shows impressive range in the field. Cordero’s left-handed swing has a bit of an exaggerated leg kick, but his hands and wrists are lightning-quick through the zone, helping him square up pitches with ease.
Runner-Up: RF Franmil Reyes
Reyes is as big as any player to suit up for the AZL Padres since Kyle Blanks. Like Blanks in his minor league days, Reyes’ massive raw power allows him to take a short swing and contact-first approach to the plate, while still trusting his ability to hit the ball a long way. While there’s some concern in the organization about his weight at such a young age, Reyes still shows some impressive athleticism. He’ll need to improve his throwing mechanics to play right field going forward, but his bat will determine his future.
Others of Note: The infield for the AZL Padres had quite a bit of talent in addition to Cordero this season. First Baseman Jake Bauers, a seventh round pick out of Huntington Beach High School, started off slowly before finishing strong in August where he hit .355/.395/.421 and he won’t turn 18 until October. 2013 second round pick Dustin Peterson, 19, hit .293 for the year and in normal year that might be good enough for player of the year at this level. Josh VanMeter rounds out the infield. The slight Hooisier can play both shortstop and second but will probably see more time at second if he is paired with Cordero. The left-handed hitting VanMeter, 18, had a .378 on-base percentage and could be a part of a TinCap’s infield next year with no starter older than twenty in 2014.
In addition to Reyes and Urena in the outfield, Rod Boykin,18, a 12th-round draft pick out of Alabama, was among the organization leaders in hitting until slumping in August. He’s a premium athlete who will need a lot of minor league at-bats to get used to translating his tools into consistent on-field production.
MadFriars’ 2013 AZL Player of the Year: Franchy Cordero
Top Prospect: Franchy Cordero
While Franmil Reyes may have the higher offensive ceiling, Cordero is the better complete package because of his defensive premium at shortstop and impressive speed. Some of that speed may disappear as he gets bigger, but he can add 15-20 pounds to his frame easily. With only Jace Peterson ahead of him in the system, Cordero has a chance to emerge in 2014.