AP NEWS

TinCaps have some questions to answer in second half

June 27, 2016

The TinCaps began the second half of the season with some of their best baseball during a four-game set at Bowling Green. That said, Fort Wayne still has questions to answer.

Here’s a look at the five top story­lines as the TinCaps try to make a push during the last 66 games.

Who’s in center field?

Michael Gettys’ midseason promotion to high-A Lake Elsinore, while expected, left many unknowns in its wake.

Not only was he having one of the best offensive seasons in the Midwest League, with a .369 on-base percentage fueled by a .304 batting average, but Gettys’ defense was also critical.

So are Jhonatan Pena and Tyler Moore really going to play regularly in center field?

They each started in center twice in the four games after the All-Star break. Moore was a right fielder in college, was primarily a shortstop in high school and has seen most of his professional time as a second baseman, while 93 of Pena’s 133 starts in the San Diego Padres’ farm system were in the corner outfield spots. The rest were in center, but neither is advanced at chasing flies there.

Unless the unsigned Buddy Reed – a second-round draft choice by the Padres this month out of Florida, where he was a All-Southeastern Conference outfielder – signs soon and makes a big statement at short-season Tri-City, center-field help may not be on the way from outside the current roster.

Ruddy Giron’s progress

Giron, the Padres’ No. 4 prospect, got off to a great start last year after joining low-A Fort Wayne, hitting .383 with six home runs through the first half, but then cratered and has not recovered this season. His average has not been above the Mendoza Line since May 2.

Just 19 years old, Giron’s 19 errors at shortstop are a big reason the TinCaps committed 91 in the first half, most in the Midwest League.

One of the top priorities the rest of the way will be getting Giron trending back in the right direction as a prospect.

Starting pitching’s solid prowess

The rotation – J.C. Cosme, Jake Nix, Thomas Dorminy, Austin Smith and Logan Allen – is solid for Fort Wayne, even if Allen remains sidelined after experiencing elbow soreness.

What they do as well as any team is throw strikes. Entering Sunday, the staff had allowed the third-fewest walks (197) in the league.

The TinCaps need momentum, and, as has been said many times, momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher.

Austin Allen as an anchor

Allen is hitting for a high average and should be Fort Wayne’s regular No. 3 hitter now that Gettys is gone. The TinCaps were second in the league in runs scored in 2014, fell to seventh last season and are one of a half dozen teams in the league on pace to score 600 or more runs this year.

By far the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, Allen must remain a force at the plate now that he’s no longer hitting behind Gettys.

Playoff push

The TinCaps are competing with six teams for one of two available playoff spots in the Eastern Division, and their upcoming schedule is softer.

The next four, starting tonight at Parkview Field, are against Dayton, the Midwest League’s worst team. Overall, the TinCaps have 15 games in the final 66 against Dayton or versus under-.500 Great Lakes.

That allows Fort Wayne a chance to fatten its record and extend the league’s longest playoff streak to eight seasons.

cgoff@jg.net