Friday, August 29, 2008

More Major League Debuts

Today we announced the callups of RHP Josh Geer and OF Will Venable in addition to the recall of RHP Cla Meredith. In order to make room for these players, Scott Hairston was placed on the DL, Josh Banks was outrighted to AAA Portland, and Wil Ledezma was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks. We were planning on purchasing the contracts of Geer and Venable at the beginning of September, but our current situation dictated the moves be made now.

After being named our Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 with a 3.20 ERA across 171 innings in AA San Antonio, Josh Geer has spent the season in the the rotation for AAA Portland. His 166.2 innings currently lead the Pacific Coast League, and his 4.54 ERA is significantly better than the league average (as a point of reference, the 10th best ERA in the PCL is 4.24). A 3rd round selection out of Rice in 2005, Josh has been a very good strikethrower throughout his career, walking just 115 in 567 innings.

Will Venable has also spent a very productive year in Portland. While playing primarily CF, Will is currently hitting .292 with a .361 obp and a .464 slg. A corner OF for much of his minor league career, Will has made a seamless transition to CF this season and has surprised people with his range and instincts. Will was our 7th round pick in the 2005 draft out of Princeton where he was just the second player in Ivy League history to be named first team all-Ivy in both basketball and baseball. The only other player to accomplish the feat is Padres' RHP Chris Young.

Both Josh and Will have made their way through our minor league system, and we're happy that now they've broken through to the Major League level. They join Chase Headley and Nick Hundley as members of the 2005 draft class to appear for the Padres. We're excited to see both of them here throughout September.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Drafted Players - Part II

Get ready for a lot of player updates here, as I'm going to try to get all the way through the remainder of our draft.

Round 16 - Tom Davis, signed, Eugene - A right-hander from Fordham (and Madison, CT where some of my family is from), Tom started the season in Eugene's rotation. After struggling a bit, in part due to a long season, Tom didn't pitch for a few weeks. He did get back on the mound earlier this week pitching out of the pen for Eugene.

Round 17 - Derek Shunk, signed, Eugene - A shortstop at Villanova, Derek has been a jack of all trades at Eugene playing multiple infield positions and some DH. He has hit for some power and walked, though his playing decreased after the signings of Figueroa and Weems.

Round 18 - Nick Vincent, signed, Eugene - A reliever at Long Beach St and at the beginning of tenure in Eugene, we moved Nick into the rotation in mid-season. A good strike thrower, Nick has thrown 41 innings in seven starts and eight relief appearances while yielding 36 hits and notching 36 strikeouts. Nick went up to AAA Portland earlier this week to make a spot start for the Beavers and went five innings giving up two hits and three earned runs.

Round 19 - Robert Lara, signed, Arizona - A 6'2" catcher from the University of Central Florida, Robert has absolutely raked in Arizona. He has hit .344 with a .492 obp and a .483 slg. He has more walks than strikeouts, is 2nd in the league in obp (behind Decker), and 5th in average. Overall, he's had a tremendous start to his career.

Round 20 - Jason Codiroli, signed, Arizona - A leadoff hitting centerfielder from West Valley College, Jason has also had a very nice first season. He has hit .324 with a .435 obp and has stolen 14 bases. He currently ranks 4th in the league in obp, 5th in runs scored, and 10th in average.

Round 21 - Joey Railey, signed, Arizona - A left-handed hitting 2B from the University of San Francisco, Joey began the season in Eugene and reported to Arizona after the signings of Figueroa and Weems. In a relatively small sample in Arizona, Joey has posted a .375 obp.

Round 22 - Chris Wilkes, signed, Arizona - A 6'4", 235 lb high school right-hander from Dr. Phillips HS in Orlando, Chris signed with the Padres in lieu of going to play college football. We're fortunate he did. Starting out in the bullpen and then moving into the rotation, Chris is leading the Arizona League in wins (7), has posted a 2.81 ERA (6th in the league) and pitched 57.2 ip (tied for third). He has walked just five hitters all year while striking out 41. He seems to get better with every start (zero walks and just four runs in his last 27 innings) and has shown an advanced feel for pitching.

Round 23 - Nick Conaway, unsigned - Nick was not in school this past spring when we drafted him, though previously he had been the closer for the University of Oklahoma before arm surgery last winter. Nick decided that he would like to go back to school and re-enter the draft next year.

Round 24 - Eric Gonzalez, signed, Arizona - A 6'5" right-hander from the University of South Alabama (and originally from the Canary Islands), Eric has had a great season out of the pen for Arizona. In 19.1 ip he has allowed just three runs (1.40 ERA) and punched out 28 hitters.

Round 25 - Logan Power, unsigned - An OF from the University of Mississippi, Logan decided that he would like to go back to school.

Round 26 - Dean Anna, signed, Arizona - A middle infielder from Ball State, Dean began the season in Eugene before moving to Arizona after the signings of Figueroa and Weems. Dean had a .366 opb and a .355 slg in Eugene playing both SS and 2B and has stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts. He has the distinction of hitting a homer in his first professional at-bat.

Round 27 - Aaron Murphree, signed, Arizona - A left-handed hitting 6'5", 235 lb OF and 1B from the University fo Arkansas, Aaron has big power. Currently, Aaron has a .383 obp and a .435 slg for Arizona. Interestingly, he is ried for the team lead in triples with three.

Round 28 - Nick Schumacher, signed, Eugene - A 6'4" right-hander from Wayne St (in Nebraska), Nick began the season in the Arizona pen before moving up to Eugene. Between his two stops, he has thrown 37.1 ip, allowed 39 hits, seven walks, and compiled 34 strikeouts.

Round 29 - Omar Gutierrez, signed, Ft. Wayne - A right-hander from Texas A&M, Corpus Christi, we moved Omar to Ft. Wayne after he threw six shutout innings in Eugene with nine strikeouts. The 23-year old has since made 23 appearances out of the pen for Ft. Wayne, going 26.2 innings with 28 hits, 17 walks, and 37 strikeouts.

Round 30 - Bobby Verbick, signed, Eugene - A right-handed hitting outfielder from Sam Houston State, Bobby has had an excellent season in Eugene. Bobby currently has a .397 obp and a .433 slg, and his 31 RBI are tied for 2nd on the team behind Sawyer Carroll.

Round 31 - Sean Gilmartin, unsigned - We knew Sean would be a tough sign, as he was committed to Florida State. He decided to enroll in school rather than sign, and we'll be tracking his progress over the next three years.

Round 32 - Kyle Heyne, signed, Eugene - A right-hander from Ball State, Kyle made a quick stop (3 ip) in Arizona, but has spent the bulk of the season in Eugene. There he has pitched 34 innings in relief, compiling a 4.76 ERA.

Round 33 - Dan Robertson, signed, Eugene - Well, it's not often the the Northwest League MVP comes out of the 33rd round. A sparkplug centerfielder from Oregon State, Dan has had an exceptional season for Eugene. He is leading the league in hitting (.371), leading in hits (102), leading in runs (55), second in obp (.438), and third in stolen bases (20).

Round 34 - Matt Gaski, signed, Arizona - A left-handed hitting shortstop from UNC Greensboro, Matt has spent the season in the Arizona infield. He has more walks than strikeouts and currently posts a .362 obp.

Round 35 - Logan Gelbrich, signed, Eugene - An experienced handler of pitchers, Logan has done a nice job for Eugene both offensively and defensively while splitting the catching duties with Emmanuel Quiles. Logan is hitting .253 with a .382 obp.

Round 36 - Jake Shadle, unsigned - A right-handed pitcher from Graham-Kapowsin HS in Washington, Jake decided to attend school.

Round 37 - Matt Means, signed, Arizona - A left-hander from Sonoma State, Matt has pitched for both Eugene and Arizona this summer. After struggling with his command in Eugene, Matt has struck out 13 against four walks in 10 innings of work in Arizona.

Round 38 - Zach Herr, signed, Eugene - A left-hander from the University of Nebraska, we knew that Zach wasn't going to be an easy sign after a terrific season in the Cornhusker bullpen. Fortunately, we were able to get him signed later in the summer, and he's pitched 12.2 innings so far. After yielding five earned runs in his first 1.2 innings, Zach has allowed just one run in his past 11 innings of work.

Round 39 - Gary Poynter, signed, Eugene - A strong right-hander from Lubbock Christian, Gary started the season in Arizona before moving up to Eugene. With a fastball that reaches 94 mph, Gary has pitched primarily out of the pen, though he has made two starts. All in all he has a 4.71 ERA in 28.2 innings across the two leagues.

Round 40 - Colin Lynch, signed, Arizona - A right-hander from St. John's, Colin has been a workhorse in the Arizona pen, pitching 30 innings in 21 appearances (league leader). He has notched 36 strikeouts against nine walks.

Round 41 - Zach Dascenzo, unsigned - A catcher from Laurel Highland HS in Uniontown, PA, Zach decided to attend school.

Round 42 - Brad Brach, signed, Arizona - A 6'6" right-hander from Monmouth, Brad has been an integral part of the pen in Arizona. Over 22.1 innings he has a 2.01 ERA and has struck out more batters (33) than baserunners allowed (28).

Round 43 - James Tunnell, unsigned - As with most high schoolers in this area of the draft, James decided not to start his professional baseball career just yet.

So there you have it. As I wrote in the previous installment, we're incredibly happy with the way this draft came together and the early returns have been very positive. This group will continue to be fun to track, and let's hope that some of them aren't too far away from Petco.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Minor League Playoff Races

This is the final full week of the regular season for the minor leagues, and we currently have a number of teams fighting for playoff berths. I'll go from top to bottom.

AAA - The Beavers are in third place (68-67) behind Salt Lake (Angels) and Tacoma (Mariners). The Salt Lake team got off to a blistering start and never relinquished the lead. There won't be playoffs this year in Portland, as the Beavers are 10 games back. However, considering how much we've been forced to take from them this year and how young a team they have, it's been a very good season.

AA - San Antonio (68-63 overall) is fighting for a wild card spot with Midland (A's) in the Texas League. The Missions are currently 2.5 games behind Midland with nine to play. These two teams are very similar, sharing the top five spots in individual ERA and the top two spots in terms of team walks.

HA - This one is a little complicated for Lake Elsinore. Lancaster won the first half, so they have an automatic bid, and they are also leading the second half by 3.5 games. If they hold on in the second half, there will be two wild card spots up for grabs. Lake Elsinore currently holds the top position for those spots with a three game lead and seven to play.

LA - Ft. Wayne (68-64 overall) is also battling for a wild card spot. They're three games back with eight to play. They won two big games over the weekend against the Lansing Lugnuts, who sit just ahead of them in the standings.

SA - Short-season Eugene has roared back from a slow start to sit one game out of first with 10 to play. They still have four more starting tonight against the first place club from Salem-Keizer (Giants). This one could get interesting.

R - Rookie League Arizona has also caught fire and is just a half game back with five to play in the second half. They're 17-5 in the second half and 31-20 overall.

DSL - The Dominican Summer League concluded with a 2nd place finish for the Padres.

As frustrating as it has been at the Major League level this year, it has been nice to see each and every affiliate performing well and competing for a chance to continue their respective seasons. After all, winning can become a habit.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Well, I guess Dirk was right - he's not a prospect. He's a big leaguer.

Though primarily a reliever in the past two seasons, Dirk will be starting for us today in San Francisco. He has made two spot starts in Portland this year with good success (1 ER in 10 IP). Overall, he's had a great year in Portland and was going to be a September callup. That being the case and with our rotation in flux right now, we decided to give him the start today.

It is well-deserved.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Drafted Players - Part I

Now that the signing deadline has passed, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at some of the early returns from the 2008 draft. As I've written before, short-season performance isn't always a great predictor for a number of reasons, but it's still fun to track. Today we'll look at the top 15 rounds.

Round 1 - Allan Dykstra, signed, Eugene - Currently working out to get his legs under him. He'll likely be activated shortly.

Comp #1 - Jaff Decker, signed, Peoria - As of today, he's leading the Arizona League in OPS (1.048), OBP (.522), runs scored (43), walks (49) and he's 5th in average (.338). To put his accomplishments in perspective, if Jaff were to go 0 for 56, his OBP would be a stellar .400. He's also stolen seven bases in eight tries and has played solid defense in the OF. Pretty ridiculous.

Comp #2 - Logan Forsythe, signed, Eugene/Peoria - Logan signed right away and reported to Eugene. Unfortunately, he injured his thumb on a slide in just his third game which required surgery. He is back now after rehabbing and has played the last three games with Peoria to work back into form.

Round 2 - James Darnell, signed, Eugene - With just two games under his belt, James is four for nine with a double and a walk. Though it took some time and additional dollars to get him signed, James doesn't seemed to have missed a beat. He also may have had the best signing day batting practice at a Major League stadium that I've seen in my years. His first swing in Petco was a homer, and it just got better from here as he sprayed hard line drives all over the field (including a number of more homers to both left and center field).

Round 3 - Blake Tekotte, signed, Eugene - To put it succinctly, Blake has been tremendous. A prototypical leadoff-hitting centerfielder, Blake has shown surprising power so far, banging out 13 doubles and six homers in just 139 ab's. As of today, a player in the Northwest League needs 167 plate appearances to qualify for the league rankings, and Blake has just 165. Assuming he gets the requisite pa's, Blake currently sits 1st in slugging (.554), 3rd in OBP (.424), 5th in average (.331), and tied for 5th in homers (6). All of this comes after he started one for nine with seven strikeouts in his first three games.

Round 3 Comp - Sawyer Carroll, signed, Ft. Wayne - Sawyer had a tremendous season in Eugene and was recently promoted to Ft. Wayne. Despite his promotion and missing some time with a small injury, Sawyer is still 1st in the Northwest League in slugging (.548), 2nd in extra base hits (25), 2nd in RBI (39), 2nd in homers (8), 4th in runs (41) and 10th in average (.299).

Round 4 - Jason Kipnis, unsigned - As a sophomore elgible this year Jason made the decision to go back to ASU for his junior year. On the morning of the draft we were informed that Jason was looking to sign if taken anytime during the first day (top six rounds), so when we took him in the fourth we didn't anticipate any problems with signing him. Nevertheless, Jason went to the Cape and over time decided he would prefer to return to school. Offering him over slot money didn't change his mind, and the deadline passed without his signing. We wish Jason the best and will certainly be scouting him again next spring.

Round 5 - Anthony Bass, signed, Eugene - A starter in college, we've used Anthony exclusively out of the pen this summer so as not to overload his innings. With a fastball that has reached 94 mph to go along with a good slider and changeup, Anthony has put together a terrific season. His 1.63 ERA and four saves both lead the squad.

Round 6 - Cole Figueroa, signed, Eugene - We knew there were going to be some signability issues surrounding Cole since he was sophomore eligible out of the University of Florida. Fortunately, we were able to get him signed, and he has been the player we expected to see. A left-handed hitting middle infielder, Cole currently has a .383 obp, has stolen four bags, and has more walks than strikeouts.

Round 7 - Adam Zornes, signed, Ft. Wayne - Adam was a late sign, so he played a few games in Peoria to get back in the groove, and then we sent him up to Ft. Wayne where he's played three games so far. As a 22-year old junior from Rice, we felt Adam was ready to compete at that level, so we weren't afraid to be aggressive with him.

Round 8 - Beamer Weems, signed, Eugene - Like Cole Figueroa, we expected that it would take above slot money to sign Beamer away from Baylor. Beamer is a very slick defender at SS with excellent hands, a plus arm, and an innate feel for the position. In fact, his defense allowed us to send him up to AA for five games when we needed someone to fill in there. Offensively, he's started to get his bat going after a slow start (1 for 16 to start and a .381 obp and .353 slg since then including his time in AA).

Round 9 - Kyle Thebeau, unsigned - Quite frankly, we probably missed on this one. We didn't miss him from a baseball standpoint - he's a nice looking pitcher - but rather from a signability standpoint. Kyle wasn't terribly interested in signing and will be returning to school this fall.

Round 10 - Andrew Albers, signed, Peoria - Shortly after signing Andrew, he experienced a little tenderness in his arm, so we decided to take the summer really slow. Fortunately, he is back on the mound feeling good and has pitched three shutout innings in Peoria.

Round 11 - Tyson Bagley, signed, Eugene - Basically a reliever in college, we wanted to expose Tyson to starting a bit this summer if for no other reason than pitch development. He already has a plus fastball and hard breaking ball, so we wanted to stretch him out a bit. In a mix between starting and relieving he has struck out 44 hitters in 37 innings and has posted a 3.86 ERA.

Round 12 - Matt Clark, signed, Eugene - Another player we knew would take more to sign, we were happy to come to an agreement with Matt and get him going in Eugene. So far he's been tremendous. A big left-handed hitting first baseman with monster power, Matt is hitting .333 with a .444 obp and a .540 slg in his first 100 pa's.

Round 13 - Erik Davis, signed, Eugene - A weekend starter for Stanford this spring, we wanted to take it easy on Erik this summer. He was pitching so well out of the pen, however, that we decided to give him a few starts before the end of the season. Erik's excellent command and changeup have led him to a 2.75 ERA along with 30 strikeouts compared to just four walks in 19.2 innings.

Round 14 - Robert Musgrave, signed, Eugene - Robert is another pitcher who had a significant workload this spring as a starter for Wichita St, so he's pitched exclusively out of the pen for Eugene. A left-hander, Rob has pounded the strike zone, and his plus changeup and curveball have left the hitters little chance. He has a 1.98 ERA with 57 strikeouts and just six walks in 36.1 innings.

Round 15 - Brett Mooneyham, unsigned - There's been a lot of talk around Brett on this blog, so it's probably appropriate that he completes this post. The have been a lot of rumors about what Brett wanted. The fact of the matter is that what Brett wanted was to go to school, and I don't blame him. He's a big left-hander with a plus arm, and he's headed to Stanford. Many people have suggested that we should have paid him whatever he was looking for, but I can tell you that such a scenario rarely ends well for anyone involved. Nobody should make a significant life decision, like going into pro ball instead of attending college, because they've been convinced by a check. The minors are a real grind, and unless that is absolutely what an individual wants to pursue right now, they should continue to attend school. I applaud Brett for making the decision, and we look forward to tracking his progress over the next three years.

As you can probably imagine, we're very excited with the early returns from this draft even when considering my caveat about short-season performance. It seems to be a very strong class, and it'll be fun to have many of them in Instructional League this fall.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maddux Trade

The rumors that surfaced yesterday were true (strangely enough), and today we officially traded Greg Maddux to the Dodgers.

As was reported a few weeks ago, we engaged in conversations with the Dodgers prior to the trading deadline in July but weren't able to come to an agreement. We were under no pressure to move his salary, so we were perfectly happy to keep Greg here in San Diego unless there was a baseball deal that made sense for the Padres. We feel that is the case with this deal.

I'm not permitted to speak about any of the players that are rumored to be involved in this transaction, so unfortunately, I can't answer any questions along those lines. Though I wish I could share that info with you, I have always felt badly for players who read rumors about getting traded. It must be incredibly difficult for any player and all of his friends and family to live with that type of anticipation for a period of time. Even if the player isn't traded, it still must play on his psyche going forward to some degree.

When the appropriate time comes, I'll share our views of the players in this deal. In the meantime, we wish Greg the absolute best. In addition to being the greatest pitcher of this era, he has been a fantastic teammate. All of us - players, staff, front office, fans - benefited from his time as a Padre.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Signing Update - Allan Dykstra

Both parties worked hard to make this happen and beat the deadline. We're thrilled to have Allan in the fold.

Draft Signing - James Darnell

Today we announced the signing of our 2nd round pick, James Darnell from the University of South Carolina.

After a huge sophomore year in which he hit .341/.457/.632 and a summer on the Cape that resulted in eight homers and a .492 slg, James was considered a top talent coming into the 2008 season. Due to this, he was an early follow for us as we put together preliminary "target" players for the 2008 draft.

We spent a lot of time scouting James this spring, and the toughest part in his particular situation wasn't the evaluation of the player. After all, his plus raw power to all fields, his athleticism, and his energy on the field at all times didn't require a lot of imagination. Rather, the tough part was trying to figure out where he was going to go in the draft. Though his numbers weren't quite as good this year as his sophomore year, our reports throughout the spring season indicated that the only significant change was a drop in batting average which came from an early season slump. Needless to say, we were thrilled to get him with our 2nd round pick and didn't hesitate to play over slot to get him signed.

James took batting practice here at Petco today (hit a homer on his first swing) and will be reporting to Eugene.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chris Young to the DL

Today we placed Chris Young on the DL due to some forearm soreness. At this point in our season it's not worth taking any chances, so we've decided to take the most cautious route.

Brian Falkenborg will take CY's place on the roster for today's game. As far as CY's next start, which falls on Saturday, we have not made an announcement yet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Waiver Claim

Today we claimed RHP Brian Falkenborg on waivers from the Dodgers. This will be his second tour of duty with the Padres, and it was actually his second tour of duty with the Dodgers.

Brian was a 2nd round pick out of Redmond High School is 1996 by the Baltimore Orioles. At just 21 years old, Brian made his Major League debut pitching three innings over two outings. However, it would be five more years before Brian would make it back to a Major League mound.

Fortunately for Brian, he has had stints in the big leagues in each of the past five seasons with the Dodgers, Padres, and Cardinals. Brian has always had a good fastball/curveball combination, but his stuff has really exploded in the past year. Typically armed with a 91-93 mph, Brian has been regularly touching 95, 96, and even 97 mph this season out of the bullpen.

Always showing solid command along with his stuff, this year he walked just 2.1 per nine innings and struck out 10.5 per nine innings before getting the call to the big leagues. So far he had pitched just 11.2 innings in the big leagues, giving up 11 hits, four walks, and striking out nine before being placed on outright waivers.

Our scouting reports from both Chris Gwynn and Randy Smith indicate that he has become an aggressive reliever whose fastball has been overpowering at times. We're excited to have him back in San Diego and anticipate giving him a good look between now and the end of the season.

Player Moves

A few astute readers pointed out yesterday that Sawyer Carroll was on his way to Ft. Wayne, but we actually have a number of moves effective today in addition to the Carroll promotion.

OF Luis Durango was promoted from Ft. Wayne to Lake Elsinore. The only bad news here is that it doesn't look like Luis is going to win the batting title in the Midwest League, which will mark the first league title that has eluded him. Previously, he won the batting title in the Arizona League (.378), the Northwest League (.367), and I believe his winter league as well. This season he currently stands sixth, and just one point out of fourth. In addition to his terrific bat control, Luis has excellent speed and strike zone judgment (4th in the Midwest League in OBP) which helped him become the Topps Northwest League Player of the Year in 2007. The speedy leadoff hitter should be a nice fit in the Elsinore lineup.

RHP Manny Ayala was promoted from San Antonio to Portland. Manny had an excellent year in 2007, posting a combined 2.90 ERA over 130 innings between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. Unfortunately, he experienced some arm discomfort in spring training and was unable to start the season with a team. After rehabbing in extended spring training, Manny joined the San Antonio club near the end of May and over 72 innings has put up a 3.86 ERA. Manny gives hitters problems with his excellent command and above average changeup.

A reliever with a good sinker/slider combo, RHP Jon Ellis was also promoted from San Antonio to Portland. Jon gives right-handed hitters a really hard time, holding them to a .196 average and a .510 ops so far this year. Overall, he has a 2.97 ERA in 63.2 innings of work while walking 27 and striking out 62. His sinker gets a lot of praise and is the primary reason for his 1.72 groundball to flyball ratio and the fact that he's given up just two home runs all year.

These four players moving up represent the good news. Unfortunately, when players move up through the chain something has to give to make room for them. In this particular case, we have a few injury issues on our pitching staff in Portland as both Kevin Cameron and Carlos Guevara have been placed on the DL with some elbow discomfort. Hopefully neither one will be serious.

In the meantime, we have a number of affiliates fighting for playoff spots over the next few weeks. We could have some exciting finishes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Eugene Emeralds

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend three days with our Short-Season A affiliate, the Eugene Emeralds.

At the time of my arrival, the team had been through a tough stretch and had a 12-21 record. Nevertheless, they rallied to win all three games while I was there and have gone on to win 11 out of the 14 since then, dispelling any notion that I brought any good luck. Oh well.

Going to Short-Season A is generally my favorite trip of the year. There is just nothing better in mid-to-late summer than taking a few days to see your new draftees playing together in pro ball for the first time. It's even better when you get to see them experience some success, as the Ems have this year (currently 1.0 game out of first).

To be honest, I generally don't put a lot of stock into individual performance in Short-Season, at least as it relates to predicting a player's future. Some players take a while to sign and lose their sharpness, other are exhausted from a long college season, and others are simply bigger and stronger and more immediately capable with the wood bat. Of course, it's always nice to see a few guys put up big years.

Sawyer Carroll was our compensation pick after the third round this year out of Kentucky, and he has more than fulfilled our expectations of him as a hitter. Sawyer currently leads the Northwest League in slugging and extra base hits, is second in runs scored and rbi, and third in homers.

Dan Robertson, out of nearby Oregon State, has been the team's engine since the season began. Playing the outfield and occasionally DH'ing, the sparkplug has put together a .370/.448/.487 line so far to go along with 17 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Playing all-out all the time on both sides of the ball, Dan has quickly become a fan favorite in Eugene.

Blake Tekotte, despite taking some time due to Miami's participation in the College World Series, has also had a stellar start to his pro career. The leadoff-hitting centerfielder is hitting .319 with a .406 obp, and a .560 slg, already smacking four homers in fewer than 100 ab's.

Our most recent signings, Matt Clark and Cole Figueroa, don't seem to have missed a beat, as combined they're hitting .338 with a .470 obp and a .513 slg in 100 pa's. Even better, both players have shown a good feel for the strike zone in addition to their power.

Two very young players, Jeudy Valdez and Emmanuel Quiles, also really impressed me with their play while I was there. Jeudy is a 19-year old SS who shows middle infield instincts along with real bat potential. Emmanuel is an 18-year old catcher from Puerto Rico who can really throw and also showed some pop during my visit. We have certainly pushed these two players by placing them at this level, but they are handling it well and should be better for it next year.

On the pitching side, Pablo Menchaca, Geoff Vandel, and Simon Castro are all in the top ten in the league in ERA (4th, 5th, and 7th, respectively). Menchaca shows a good sinker, Vandel is a lefty with solid secondary pitches, and Castro has the biggest arm of the group, reaching 95 mph.

Out of the pen, Anthony Bass, our 5th round pick this year, has posted a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings of work. His velocity has consistently been up to 93 mph, and he's shown a good slider as well. Robert Musgrave, a left-hander from Wichita State, has simply been outstanding, striking out 48 batters and walking five over 30.1 innings.

There are a number of others having nice years as well (OF Bobby Verbick, RHP Tyson Bagley, RHP Nick Vincent, RHP Erik Davis, RHP Tyler Davis, etc), which is why the team is now on a roll. Hopefully they can finish off their run and win a championship in their first season together.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

To Lake Elsinore

This afternoon I'll be driving up to Lake Elsinore for their game tonight against High Desert. In addition to being an easy drive from San Diego, I always enjoy going to Elsinore due to the atmosphere there (not to mention some of our bats).

Cesar Carrillo will be pitching tonight, which I'm anxious to see. I haven't seen Cesar pitch first-hand since he's returned from Tommy John surgery. Based on our reports, his arm speed, velocity, and stuff is returning bit-by-bit with every start. After giving up 19 earned runs in his first 17.1 innings, Cesar has posted a 3.77 era in his past three starts.

On the offensive side, there will be plenty to see. A number of guys are having outstanding years: catcher Mitch Canham (.285/.393/.430), second baseman Eric Sogard (.302/.397/.431), third baseman Brian Joynt (.302/.377/.505), leftfielder Sam Carter (.282/.371/.466), centerfielder Cedric Hunter (.314/.361/.419) and rightfielder Kellen Kulbacki (.347/.440/.620).

Yes, you read those numbers correctly on Kulbacki - .347/.440/.620. He leads the Cal League in all three categories.

Kellen was our first compensation pick (4oth overall) in the 2007 draft after a great collegiate career at James Madison University. Despite a slow start after signing, Kellen finished the 2007 season with a .301/.382/.491 line in short-season Eugene and was named a Short-Season All-Star by Baseball America. Unfortunately, Kellen missed some time in spring training in 2008 and started the year on the disabled list before heading to Ft. Wayne for a brief stay where he hit just .164 in 61 ab's. Nevertheless, we sent him to Elsinore, which was the original pre-injury plan, and he struggled getting hits at the beginning there as well, hitting .182 over his first 18 games. To his credit, though, he did maintain his plate discipline.

Then Kellen went off... in a big way.

Since May 27, Kellen has hit 20 homers and compiled a cartoonish overall batting line of .388/.460/.721 in about 250 plate appearances. I doubt there have been many two month stretches in the minor leagues in recent memory that can match that. Pretty amazing.

I'll write more tomorrow about some of these other prospects, who are very good in their own right, as well as some other arms in our bullpen (like Wilton Lopez who has allowed one earned run in 18.2 ip). It should be a fun night.