Friday, June 20, 2008

The Past Week

While the past week has not been a good one for the Major League club, it's been quite the opposite for a trio of our young position player prospects who are all in AAA for the first time.

Over the past seven games Matt Antonelli, Nick Hundley, and Will Venable have been raking. Here is how it breaks out:

Antonelli: .407 avg, .484 obp, .481 slg
Hundley: .345 avg, .387 obp, .483 slg
Venable: .375 avg, .423 obp, .625 slg

Small sample size? Absolutely. Nonetheless, it's encouraging to see all of these guys playing well at this point in the year.

As players move up levels, there is usually an adjustment period. This doesn't always happen, but it's expected to happen, especially when we feel as though we are pushing guys. In this particular case, there was a fair argument for starting all three of these players in AA this season: Antonelli had just a partial season above A-ball, while both Hundley and Venable basically jumped High-A to go to AA last year which was a leap in itself. However, our player development staff believed all three were ready for the challenge of AAA.

When we make a move like that with a player, the month of June is an important one. If a player has struggled early for whatever reason (tougher league, bad weather, more travel, etc), we want to see some improvement as the season continues. For instance, when we pushed Hundley to AA last year his first three months looked like this:

April: .206 avg, .264 obp, .365 slg
May: .250 avg, .321 obp, .460 slg
June: .280 avg, .349 obp, .560 slg

It's usually not so obvious (or so linear), but by the end of June it was clear that Nick had found his stride in AA. Here's the key point: Nick's performance trend showed us that facing the better competition was making him better, not beating him down.

We talked about this a bit in the Headley discussion, and there were some great comments on the subject. In short, there's always a fine line between challenging a player so that he can continue his development and challenging a player to the point of frustration and loss of confidence. In the case of Antonelli, Hundley, and Venable, we're encouraged that all three are getting better by facing the tougher competition in AAA.

14 comments:

Tim said...

Speaking of raking in Portland, hard not to mention the consistency of Ambres and Myrow. Myrow is a case I'm curious about. He's 31 years old. Has had almost not had an extended shot in the majors. He's .321 avg, .426 OBP, and .976 OPS at the AAA level with the last two seasons being his best seasons. What is a guy like that to the Padres? Just insurance in case Adrian goes down? Secondary insurance at that as I would assume Clark takes over 1st were anything to happen. If he were younger with those numbers you would think he would be a great trading chip. But at 31 perhaps he doesn't have much value in a trade because if he takes a year to establish himself he may only have a few years of top level production. So is he stuck in the position of being insurance for us?

Eric said...

I was getting worried about Antonelli. With the big league club looking like it's really going to need to be fed from Portland over the next few years, it was disheartening to see him with a .160-something average just a couple weeks ago.

Now he's on a seven-game hit streak, and is about to sneak past the Mendoza line. It's been a huge relief as a fan to see him start to reverse the trend.

I'm just wondering if his cold start cost him a chance at seeing the big leagues next year. If he continues to tear it up for the rest of the season, will he be considered the front-runner for the starting 2B spot?

Peter said...

PDP, love the blog! I wonder if you guys talk psychology about these players' advancements. It has to be encouraging to see that when your top prospect performs at the highest levels, he's promoted. Kind of a "let me get my game in gear so I can join him," mentality... Likewise I wonder if clubs do harm when they have a top prospect and do not promote him and seek external options.

Cpt Top Off said...

Paul,

Has the club given any serious consideration to making Antonelli a center fielder? Given his athleticism he seems like a natural candidate for a position that has been an organizational weakness for a number of years. Also, is Venable a real candidate for CF given his lack of arm strength? Petco definitely exposes the likes of Juan Pierre with its deep right-center gap.

Will said...

Sort of along the lines of Tim's post, but I'm wondering if the organization has searched for guys like Edgar Gonzalez, Jody Gerut, Ambres and Myrow as a source of cheap, replacement level players? They all seem to be organizational guys who (with the exception of Jody) never really got a real shot in the majors before age made them non-prospects. Do all organizations pick up these guys on minor league contracts as insurance or have the Padres specifically looked for this type of player as a way of exploiting some market inefficiency? Are we looking for the guy who will be the next Jack Cust (except hopefully with some defensive ability)?

padresrevolution.com said...

I think it's safe to say that the Padres have the least productive group of catchers in baseball.

What are the concerns, if any, with bringing up Nick Hundley to be the everyday catcher at this point? From a fan's point of view, it would be great to get a look at the future, as well as improve the team right now. I'm guessing he'd struggle at the dish at times and he'd have his share of strikeouts, but I think he would be good for 8-12 homers if given significant playing time for the remainder of the season.

Sure, it would also be nice if Josh Bard would come off of the DL and hit like he did at the end of last season. And if Michael Barrett hit like he did a few years back, no one would be talking about Hundley right now. But I'm not very confident in either of those two things happening.

Paul R. said...

Just to back up padresrevoloutions statement-Padres catchers have an OPS of .514 (ouch!) this year and the NL average is .720.

I'm glad that so much of the Padres focus in player acquisition has been catching (Canham, Hundley, etc). It's clearly a major problem for the Padres right now.

Paul DePodesta said...

tim,

You're right in that there isn't much more that Myrow can do in AAA. His OPS has been over 1.000 in each of the past two seasons there. He is currently on the 40-man roster, because we believe he has Major League value. As you note, there isn't an obvious spot for him right now, but we do think he can be a contributor with the bat.

Paul DePodesta said...

cpt top off,

Antonelli has been talked about in CF. In fact, we think he could make that transition fairly easily given his athleticism (we've had him take fly balls there in the off-season). However, he just moved from 3B to 2B in the 2007 season, so we don't want to keep yanking him around the diamond. Currently, he's doing a nice job adjusting at 2B, and we think he can be a real asset there.

As for Venable, he has played a very solid CF in Portland. Will played a well above average RF in San Antonio last season, so though he's had some arm discomfort, we hope it does not impede his ability to play anywhere.

Paul DePodesta said...

padresrevolution,

The Hundley question is a great example of: will the push to the next level advance or impede his development?

Ideally, we want to be in a position organizationally where our prospects force their way onto the team as opposed to coming up prematurely due to a need.

field39 said...

Paul

You speak of prospects forcing the issue. Is Songard forcing the issue in Elsinore right now? Do you have a minimum time period, before a prospect can move up a notch?

Brett said...

I, along with many others, enjoyed your posts about the draft. Is there any chance the Padres will be able to sign NCAA HR leader and 12th round pick Matt Clark of LSU? How do negotiations for money over slot typically work?

Denis Savage said...

Paul:

Can you look back and find a time when the strategy to move a player up did not work, especially regarding the part of keeping said player up when he was struggling?

Sean Kazmar of last year comes to mind. Ironically, he went through the same things this year and has prospered by being left in Double-A.

When do you worry that the prospect may never recover from such aggressive handling?

Colin said...

I'm not a Padres fan (so I don't follow your system too closely), but Myrow has also caught my attention recently. The thing that impressed me is that he's managed to carry a .400 OBP in almost 4 seasons of AAA ball. With the recent success of guys like Cust and Branyan, I'm really interested to see what he can do. Hope he gets a chance in San Diego.