Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Response to Comment

WebSoulSurfer wrote a constructive comment about our Rule 5 selections, and rather than burying it at the bottom of the last entry, I figured I would respond with an additional post.

Comment from WebSoulSurfer:
Cabrera, like Deivi Cruz, is really a 2B, having played 171 of his 219 games in the minors at that position.

He hasn't played much at SS, only 45 games in his professional career, and hasn't looked good when he did.

In 3 games I saw the Tourists play against the Del Marva Shorebirds and the Charleston Riverdogs, he started one game at SS and looked lost. One throwing error and another play that should have been called an error. Yes, 3 games and just one at SS is a small sample size, but from the people that follow the Sally League and the Tourists in particular, I got that it is typical of what little time he gets at SS.

On the bright side he did steal 4 bases in the 3 games.

Maybe he will do better than Travis Denker, EGon, and Matt Antonelli to win the 2B position in Spring Training, but from what I saw and from what I was told by those who watched him play daily, he is not a SS.His .946 FP and his 9 throwing errors of 11 total errors in just 45 games at the SS position seem to bear that out as well.

And now you have a 25 man roster slot filled by someone, 2 someones actually, who have very little shot at making the team. Kind of ties your hands if you want to make trades, doesn't it?I just don't understand either of the Rule V pick ups and nothing you have said makes it any clearer why you picked these two.

It's not unusual for young middle infielders to play both 2B and SS at times. As an example, when Furcal was Cabrera's age he had played 114 games at 2B and 117 at SS (and his fielding percentage at SS was .932 - below Cabrera's) in his career. The next year he was the starting SS in Atlanta.

Sometimes playing both 2B and SS is for developmental reasons (most kids break in needing to be able to play multiple positions) and other times it's due to the presence of other players. In this case the Rockies had a young, 19 year old SS on Cabrera's team both last year and this year who was their 5th round pick in 2006. This happens more often than you might think.

In fact, it's happening right now in our system. Jorge Minyeti has been playing mainly 2B in the Dominican Republic, but we all believe he could play SS if needed. He's playing primarily 2B because Jonathan Galvez is getting most of the time at SS. In our system next year we'll have some similar decisions to make with guys like Drew Cumberland, Cole Figueroa, Beamer Weems, Lance Zawadski, Jesus Lopez, and Jeudy Valdez - every one of whom we believe has the ability to play SS.

Our scouts, including one who has seen Everth since he was an amateur in Nicaragua, believe that he has the tools to play SS, but he certainly needs more experience. Young infielders generally make errors - lots of them. I remember when I first got to Oakland, the knock on Eric Chavez was that he wasn't going to be able to stick at 3B. His BEST fielding percentage in the minors was .935, and he had made more than 50 errors in fewer than 250 minor league games. He won his first Gold Glove at the age of 23. The point is that if the player has the tools and athleticism to handle a position, they typically get much better with experience.

I'm not saying that we expect Everth to win a Gold Glove at SS, but this gets to your second question - why would we pick these guys? We picked them not solely because of what they are today, but also because of what we believe they can become.

In past years we've taken Rule 5 guys who can play a particular position or fill a certain role even though that's likely all they might ever do at the ML level. The good news is that our minor league system is now providing us with those players. This afforded us an opportunity in this year's draft, an opportunity to take a chance (or two) on players who have a higher ceiling in the future while filling a role today.

In the immediate term, Cabrera can play at least three positions (2B, SS, and CF), has impact speed, and is an excellent bunter. Most National League managers would love to have that guy available to them. Nova is a solid strikethrower, has a fastball that averages around 92-93 and flashes above average secondary pitches. Most teams won't do much better than that with the 12th pitcher on their staff.

In the longer term, Cabrera could be a leadoff-hitting middle-of-the-diamond defender with impact speed, and Nova could be a middle of the rotation starter with plus stuff. Will either player fulfill that promise? Very simply, we don't know. I wish we were that good. However, their ability to fill a role now while also projecting to more significant roles down the line made them worth the selections.

Now, of course, they actually need to make the team. We'll see how that goes come February and March, as neither one is assured of a spot.

PS The allure of Deivi Cruz was that he was an excellent defender at SS regularly posting above average fielding percentages and range factors. He played 1124 ML games at SS and just 51 at 2B.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rule V Draft

We just completed the Major League phase of the Rule V draft, so I wanted to give a brief overview of the players we selected. It's probably not what you've come to expect of the Padres.

In the first round with the third overall pick, we selected shortstop Everth Cabrera from the Rockies. Everth played in Asheville in 2008, Colorado's A-ball affiliate. A high energy player, the 5'9" shortstop can absolutely fly - 73 bases in 89 attempts this year. A legitimate leadoff hitter with some power to go along with the speed, Everth has a lot of upside potential.

The easy comparable to throw around due to the size, position, and speed is Rafael Furcal (though Everth does not have Furcal's plus, plus arm). Now, Furcal's a great Major League player, and Everth hasn't played above A ball. That said, when Furcal was Everth's age (season played at 21) he split the year between A and high-A hitting .322/.392/.389 and stealing 96 bases in 126 attempts. Everth hit .284/.361/.399 (less average but more power and more efficient stealing bases). The next year Furcal was the starting SS for the Braves. It's fun to dream.

In the second round we selected RHP Ivan Nova from the Yankees. Consistently rated as one of the Yankees top 20 prospects, the 6'4" right-hander spent the 2008 season pitching for Tampa in the high-A Florida State League as a 21-year old. Our scouting reports indicate that Ivan has a 90-95 mph fastball and shows a plus curveball and a plus changeup. As with most young pitchers, the key is consistency, but the stuff is definitely there. We believe he has big league starter potential in the long run.

As I stated at the beginning, this is a different look for the Padres. We didn't take a semi-polished AAA reliever or a guy who could potentially just fill a role, we decided to take a couple of shots on guys with big upside who could truly impact our organization. As with all young players, Rule V picks in particular, patience is absolutely critical. We can't expect either Cabrera or Nova to tear up the Major Leagues in 2009 - neither has even played one game in AA yet. However, these guys have skills (explosive speed at a premium defensive position and a power arm) that could make them key players in the future.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What Happens in Vegas...

It's Sunday afternoon, and much of the baseball industry has descended upon Las Vegas for the annual Winter Meetings. I'm actually still home, as the idea of flying INTO Vegas on a Sunday night just seemed unnatural.

I attended my first Winter Meetings in 1995 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. At that time the Major League Clubs didn't attend the meetings, so it was really just for the minor league organizations, and I was there for the annual job fair. You see, I was an unpaid intern for the Baltimore Stallions in the Canadian Football League, and the team was moving to Montreal. So, my fellow interns (six of us, if I remember correctly) and I flew out to LA and occupied exactly one hotel room in the neary Holiday Inn in the hopes of landing a job in baseball.

I'll never forget those meetings or the people who were kind enough to spend time with me there, like Pat Filippone, Andy Berg, Bill Ianniciello (the only Major League person willing to talk to me), Hank Stickney, and others. It was a wild few days.

In the winter of 1998 the big league Clubs rejoined the fray, and those meetings marked my first official days with the Oakland A's. Since that time the meetings have been equally as wild for me, but in a very different way. Now I spend virtually all of my time holed up in a room helping to evaluate all sorts of options and ideas. It's an intense time and probably the most unhealthy stretch of the year - no fresh air, very little sleep, lots of room service, and an emotional rollercoaster. It's the best.

I'm going first thing in the morning.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Khalil to St. Louis

I wish I could have written something on this earlier in the day, but we always have to wait for the moves to be official before commenting on them. Nevertheless, late last night we agreed to trade Khalil Greene to the Cardinals for RHP Mark Worrell and a player to be named later.

First and foremost, Khalil created a lot of great memories here in San Diego. The first round pick of the Padres in 2002, Khalil quickly made his way through the minor league system and made his Major League debut at the end of 2003, never to return to the minors. In addition to stellar defensive play at shortstop, Khalil's five full seasons here resulted in 82 homers and more than 300 rbi. The Cardinals got a good player, and I would guess he's going to have a very nice year for them.

For the Padres, we bring back RHP Mark Worrell and a PTBNL. A 2004 draft out of Florida International, Mark has spent the past two seasons at AAA Memphis: 126 ip, 103 h, 56 bb, and 146 k's. Mark is a sidearmer with some funk to his delivery, but he'll still run it up to 92 mph and typically pitches around 89-90. Despite his sidearming delivery, Mark has been very tough on both left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters, and we think he has a good chance to contribute to our Major League bullpen in 2009 and beyond. He is currently protected on the 40-man roster and has options remaining.

As you probably know, I can't discuss the PTBNL. I will say that as we've done in the past, we have a few options to choose from, and we will take our time deciding in order to make the best possible decision.

In all candor, the other part of this deal is the trade of Khalil's contract which was due to pay him $6.5 million in 2009. There are times when we have to make tough choices, and unfortunately finances do play a role. The Padres certainly aren't alone in that reality. Fortunately for us, this move provides us some flexibility in our other dealings, which could be very helpful going forward through this winter and provides us some more definition as we approach next week's Winter Meetings.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Offering Arbitration

This story has been heavily reported in the past few days, more so than I can ever remember, but last night was the deadline for offering arbitration to your own free agents. The result was a total of 24 offers across the industry.

Once upon a time, actually up until just a few years ago, if a Club failed to offer arbitration to one of their free agents then they could basically no longer negotiate with that player. He was essentially cut off from returning. Therefore, this was actually a huge deadline, and you'd often see many deals get done at the 11th hour. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, this is no longer the case. Players who did not receive the offer may still sign with their old organizations.

With the new system, the offer of arbitration has just two components: 1) if the player accepts he is deemed a "signed" player, immediately returns to the 40-man roster, and enters into the arbitration process just as a younger player would, and 2) if the player rejects the offer, is a Type A or Type B free agent, and signs with another Club, then the original Club receives some sort of draft pick compensation. So, basically, Clubs will offer arbitration only if they want draft pick compensation or would be happy with a one year deal that the arbitration process would create (or both, really - they want draft picks but would also be happy with the one year deal).

At the Padres we had one ranked free agent, Trevor Hoffman, and we declined to offer him arbitration. Therefore, we will not receive draft pick compensation should he sign elsewhere.

What yesterday's events also mean for the Padres is that the 2009 Rule IV draft has begun to take shape. We have the #3 pick overall in the amateur draft next summer, and now our second round pick will be no deeper than the mid-50's. If a number of players who were offered arbitration accept the offer or re-sign with their current clubs, our second round pick could end up somewhere in the 40's, which has been the area of many compensation picks in past years.

It will certainly be interesting to see how these 24 players react (they have until Sunday to accept or reject), as this is the most undeveloped market I can remember.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roster Changes

If you've been viewing the transactions of MLB teams the past few days, you've noticed a lot of activity. Today is the deadline for setting the ML roster for purposes of the Rule V draft next month.

First, the rules (well, the shorthand version): 1) players drafted out of high school or signed internationally in the high school age group are eligible for the Rule V draft five years after being signed, and 2) players drafted out of college are eligible four years after being signed. As always, there are details that can alter the above explanation, but it's a decent guide.

If players aren't protected on the Major League 40-man roster, they can be taken in the Rule V draft. If selected, they need to remain in the Majors for the entire following season or be offered to the other clubs.

These can be tricky decisions. On the one hand, you'd like to protect as many players as possible. However, on the other hand you have to anticipate roster moves that could happen between now and Opening Day in 2009. How many spots may we need for Major League free agents? How many players could we potentially outright or non-tender? Do we want to leave some spots open for potential waiver claims?

Another part of the game is whether or not you think a certain player would, in fact, get selected in the draft AND if you think that player has the ability to stick in the Majors for the season. Sometimes teams will protect a lesser prospect simply because he has a greater chance of being taken or even because of organizational needs/depth going forward.

When weighing the risk of a player getting taken, it can be counterintuitive. It would seem logical that the best way to protect a player would be to put him on the 40-man roster. That is often, but not always, the case. Sometimes, for players who are borderline roster considerations, you may be safer by leaving him OFF the 40-man. The reason is that if he's taken in the Rule V, he has to stay in the Majors or else be offered back. However, if for some reason (add a free agent, add someone through trade, need someone during the season due to injury) you need to add a player to the 40-man at a later date, you may be forced to outright someone to make room. When you outright a first year roster player, he still has all of his minor league options, so teams can claim him and send him right into their minor league system. In short, it's much easier to lose a player trying to remove him from the 40-man than it is to lose him via the Rule V draft.

Deep breath.

As we do every year we held a series of meetings with a large group of our baseball personnel (front office, field staff, and scouts), and ultimately decided on adding the following players: Matt Bush, Cesar Carrillo, Luis Durango, Jose Lobaton, Jackson Quezada, and Cesar Ramos. That brings our roster to 37 players, so we still have a few spots remaining as we approach the beginning of the winter.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giles and Hoffman

I apologize for the dual subjects of this post, especially given the importance of each individual one. However, both are timely, and neither should be ignored.

There were a lot of relevant comments following the Brian Giles post, so I wanted to respond. There are a lot of reasons why we chose to pick up Brian's option for the 2009 season, three of which I'll outline below. I'm not going to get into our nitty-gritty evaluation of Brian as a player. Rather, just take a look here in Baseball Prospectus where Brian ranks as one of the best offensive players in the game and as the 2nd best RF in 2008, and let's assume that he's still very productive.

Reason #1: We're always trying to win. In fact, I can't stand the term "rebuilding". The nature of MLB today is that every team is reloading all the time. That doesn't mean we aren't trying to win concurrently. Do we have different expectations from year-to-year based on personnel? Sure. Are we going to have more inexperienced players on our roster going forward than we have had over the past four years? Yes. Do we expect to lose? No.

I hate losing. Kevin Towers hates losing. Nobody in the organization enjoys it, and we know our fans don't either. That's exactly why we've tried to win at the big league level while simultaneously restocking the farm system over the past four seasons - a tenuous balancing act. We're not going to be a bunch of pollyannas running around expecting to win 115 games in 2009, but if you go into anything with the expectation of failure, then you're well on your way to fulfilling that expectation. We're not waiving the white flag in November.

Reason #2: We've already talked about this in other posts, probably ad nauseum, but Brian is precisely the type of player we want our younger guys to emulate. He never gives away an at-bat, controls the strike zone, plays every day, and was still breaking up double plays late in September when we were way out of the race. If our inexperienced players pick up any of those traits, we'll be better off both in the short-term and the long-term.

Reason #3: This is the one that has been touched on, but not fully explored. This is the raw business end of the deal. If we had not picked up Brian's option, we would have had to pay a $3 million buyout, and it would not have made sense to offer him arbitration. Therefore, declining the option would mean: $3 million and nothing in return.

By picking up the option, however, we gave ourselves the chance at upside. The 2009 season can unfold two ways, roughly speaking. The first scenario, the one everyone wants, is that we play well in the first half of next season - we get into July and we're in the race. Brian certainly gives us a better chance of that happening, and if it does happen, we'll be happy to have him.

The second scenario is that we don't play well, and we're out of contention. In this instance, we have the chance of trading Brian (a reader already posted a link to an article that mentions Brian's willingness to be traded under those circumstances) and getting some prospects in return. Should we trade him in the middle of July, our total payment would be about $5.25 million.

So, rather than paying $3 million for nothing, we could pay $5.25 million for 3 1/2 months of Brian's productive play, his mentoring of our younger players, and either possible contention or prospects in return. There is the possibility of injury or reduced production, but that is a risk with every player, and given Brian's track record that is a very acceptable risk given the upside potential.

On to Trevor...

This is an intensely personal situation for Trevor, the Padres, and the fans. I haven't been here that long, but even I have a connection - my oldest son's favorite player is Trevor Hoffman. Trevor is the all-time saves leader, an organizational icon, and a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. This isn't easy.

The emotion in all of this overwhelms the facts, but I'll present the facts anyway just as background.

Due to Trevor's standing in the organization, Kevin had an extended private conversation with him prior to the end of the season regarding the organization's intentions. We followed up with a contract offer in early October, at which time Kevin requested that the negotiations remain private, feeling that it was the best way for all of us to get a deal done and to do so quickly.

After a couple of weeks passed without contact, Trevor's representatives did request a meeting with Kevin, Sandy, and John Moores. Kevin responded to this request directly to Trevor saying that he and Sandy would be happy to meet with Trevor. We did not hear back regarding a possible meeting. After one month had passed, it was clear that our offer was not sufficient, so we officially withdrew it.

Again I'll say that I don't think the above facts are all that important. The reason is that there is simply no graceful way to handle this situation. Trevor has meant too much to this franchise for any kind of separation to be seamless. No matter how the situation is handled, if Trevor pitches elsewhere in 2009, it will be deemed to have been handled poorly. We know that.

These dealings blur the line between business and personal, which makes everything more delicate. In fact, when a player has been around as long as Trevor has, it is like dealing with family. It's not easy for us, it's not easy for Trevor, and we know it's not easy for the fans.
I'm not going to try to defend what we've done, how we've done or write about why this might make sense for us organizationally.

Instead, I'll share something a little more genuine - these types of decisions are pure agony.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Brian Giles

Today we exercised the option on Brian Giles.

I know there's been a lot of debate here about whether or not the Club should pick up this option. In the end, Brian's combination of offense, defense, leadership, and strong desire to remain in San Diego made the decision pretty easy. To a large degree, I think Brian's overall contribution to our team over the past few seasons has been overlooked, or at least discounted.

As I've written in this space, we're sticking with our plan of developing our own talent, but as more and more players make it to stage three (big leaguers), it is players like Brian who will help us get to stage four (championship players). Even though we're committed to going with our homegrown players moving forward, it can make a significant difference for the team to have a rock or two in the middle of the lineup that can be counted on for quality at-bat after quality at-bat.

Some readers have asked about draft pick compensation if we had declined the option. Brian is a Type A Free Agent this winter, meaning that the signing team would give either their first or second round pick to us (or their third in a rare case). If the signing team's first round selection was between picks 1 and 15, they would give us their second round pick. If the signing team was picking from 16-30, they would give us their first round pick. Additionally, we would receive a compensation pick in between the first and second round. However...

That all assumes that we would offer Brian arbitration, and that he would decline it. In this case, that was highly unlikely. Therefore, had we declined the option, we would have received no compensation for Brian.

Most importantly, however, we're happy to have him for another year.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


So, is everyone tired of the rumors, or are you hungry for more?

The off-season rumor mill has come out of the blocks with about as much force as Usain Bolt. I think I mentioned this long ago, maybe sometime before the trading deadline, but more than 90% of deals that are discussed never actually happen. Furthermore, many of the potential deals that are written about are never actually discussed.

We had many discussions over the course of the past four days at the GM's meetings, some of which have been productive and even unexpected. At this point, however, there is nothing to report. We continue to look for deals that would shore up our deficiencies, both short-term and long-term, and we've been asked about many of our players. Vague enough? I know, I know, but when there's something of substance to be written, I promise I will.

With that said, enjoy the rumors if it's a fun distraction, but don't take them too seriously... except, of course, the few that prove to be true. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Plan

With the GM's meetings around the corner, I thought it appropriate to share the general parameters of our "plan". The Padres launched this plan approximately 3 1/2 years ago, which was about a year before I was here, so I'll do my best in terms of accuracy.

Informally, the plan has four stages. At the beginning, each stage was sequential, which is to say that we couldn't implement Stage Three before successfully navigating Stages One and Two. However, once in place, all four stages continue indefinitely. We never officially "finish" any stage.

Stage One - Procure Players
Simple enough, right? However, looking back a few years, the Padres were in a tough spot organizationally. In 2004 Baseball America ranked the Padres' system 25th out of 30. In 2005 that dropped to 27th. In 2006 it bottomed out at 29th. In order to become competitive there had to be a laser-like focus on acquiring talent. Unlike the NFL or the NBA, however, the MLB draft takes time to produce Major League players, so this wasn't going to be a quick fix, especially considering we were picking somewhere in the 20's every year in the first round as opposed to the top five or ten.

In order to accomplish this goal we amassed a number of compensation picks in the draft, signed some top end draft-and-follow players, traded for a number of minor league prospects, and became very aggressive in Latin America (in part by constructing the state-of-the-art complex in the Dominican Republic). In fact, going back to 2004 and continuing through 2008, the Padres rank 6th in all of baseball in signing bonus dollars allocated to domestic and international amateurs, a ranking which belies our market size.

Spending the money, though, is only a piece of the equation. You also have to spend it wisely. Bill Gayton, our Scouting Director, and Randy Smith, our International Scouting Director, accomplished this balance, and the results began to show in 2008 as our system rocketed from 29th to 12th according to BA. These were drastic measures, and they were undertaken to expedite a normally lengthy process, which leads me to Stage Two...

Stage Two - Develop Players
Again, very simple in theory, but very difficult in practice. Once you sign all of these players, you have to move them through your system in a productive manner. Fortunately, our player development staff (field staff, strength coaches, trainers, etc) has done an unbelievable job of adopting and implementing Grady Fuson's systematic approach to development. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're well ahead of where we were. At the conclusion of this season we actually had six classification All-Stars as well as 11 players named to the Top 20 prospect list of their respective leagues. From an organizational perspective, we ranked in the top ten in OBP (1st), K/BB (1st), Runs Scored (2nd), BB/9 allowed (3rd), OPS (4th), Average (6th), K/9 (6th), and WHIP (8th).

Enough about prospects, though...

Stage Three - Produce Major League Players
A few years ago Chuck Lamar, the former GM of the Rays, infamously said, "The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the Major League level." There's obviously a cheap laugh in there, but Chuck's point was that the foundation they had built in Tampa was strong, which was a necessary step, and that it was only a matter of time before that foundation led to Major League success. At the same time, Chuck acknowledged that the only thing that counts at the end of the day is winning Major League games. Everyone - front office execs, field staff, fans, you name it - likes to know that they have good young players in the system, but they really want pennants.

Unfortunately, the attrition rate is gruesome. Out of the entire pool of drafted and signed players, only about 18% of them ever get even one day in the big leagues, and only about 7% of them actually accumulate three years in the Major Leagues. It's even scarier if you examine the rounds - fewer than 50% of 1st round picks get three years in the big leagues, and from rounds two through five that number drops to about 15%. After that it plummets to the low single digits. In short, it's very difficult to scout, draft, sign, and develop Major Leaguers, so having a plan to do so isn't enough.

That's why the 2008 season, despite the trauma, was exciting for us at the end.

Chase Headley, Nick Hundley, Will Venable, Josh Geer, Wade LeBlanc, and Matt Antonelli, all players drafted in 2005 and 2006, became Major Leaguers. That is a rapid and successful ascent and a significant step in the organizational plan.

This doesn't mean that all of the above are now locked in as Major Leaguers and are guaranteed to make it to the three year mark and beyond, but just getting here is a big step. The next stage, however, is the most important one...

Stage Four - Produce Championship Players
This is the most elusive stage of all. After all, just getting guys to the big leagues isn't enough - we need to win. Like all of the other stages, this takes time and plenty of patience. It is the rare player who rises to the big leagues and doesn't miss a beat. More often it literally takes years for a player to realize his potential at the highest level. There are constant adjustments and refinements to a player's game that unfortunately can't be accelerated.

Now that we've managed to reach the Stage Three/going on Stage Four area, however, we're incredibly excited about what that means going forward. Not only will these players be fighting to solidify their Stage Four status, but also right behind this first wave are additional waves of talent currently climbing through Stage Two. I guarantee that it won't be seamless, and not everyone is going to make it through, but the journey is going to be both entertaining and meaningful.

The aspect that has made this plan all the more difficult is that while building this pipeline we were absolutely committed to competing for a Championship at the Major League level. Rebuild and contend simultaneously - that was the goal.

This is akin to undergoing a major remodel at your house, but deciding to live there at the same time... and having a dinner party for all of your friends every week.

The Padres managed this balance for a number of years, effectively hiding the construction, especially in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, however, we failed on the Major League side. There is no other way to describe it. Trying to do everything at once spreads an organization pretty thin, and this season that was exposed. Fortunately, however, our system has caught up just in time with the realization of the beginning of Stage Three.

What does all of this mean for 2009 and beyond? You can expect us to remain committed to our plan.

For us to compete on a consistent basis, we need to: 1) produce our own players and 2) rely heavily, though not exclusively, on youth. Both our process and execution get better with each year, so we continue to strengthen the early stages of the plan even as we continue to push forward toward Stage Four. We believe in the players in our system and, most importantly, we have a chance in the near future to expand our foundation at the Major League level to include some of these players.

I don't know exactly which players going to make it to Stage Four (I wish I did), but I'm confident that enough of them will in varying degrees to put us back competing for a Championship year-in and year-out, which is exactly where we want to be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our Season

I'm sorry that I went radio silent for a few days there after responding to a handful of comments. In general, this is a very busy time of year for us, but throw in a family wedding and my wife's birthday and I fell behind more than I expected.

People often ask, "So what do you do when the season ends? Do you take a lot of time off?"

My first season in baseball was with the Cleveland Indians in 1996. The team dominated during the regular season (99-62), so the playoffs were never a question. The only question was how far we were going to go. Since the Indians had been to the World Series in 1995, we held lofty expectations.

We lost in the first round.

Nobody, including the intern (me), was ready for such a shock. As it happened, the fourth and final game was on a Sunday, and my parents had traveled to Cleveland for the weekend. In the midst of my post-game stupor, I remember saying to them, "What do you I think I do tomorrow? Do I show up for work at the same time? Do I wear the same attire? Is everyone going to take some time away?" Since I had started my job during spring training, I had never experienced an "off-season".

The next day I showed up at my normal time in my normal attire figuring that if anything I should err on the side of diligence. Somewhat to my surprise, everyone was there already busy at work. That afternoon, John Hart called us into his office, and we had a brief discussion regarding the upcoming months. John began by saying, "Today starts OUR season."

I remember thinking that I really needed a break.

Now, of course, I'm accustomed to the schedule, and John was absolutely right. This is our season, and we've been busy the last few weeks in preparation. The GM's meetings, which begin next week, are akin to Opening Day, so our "spring training" is nearly finished and we can't wait to get started.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Trading Peavy

Since I have been in Arizona all week, I haven't read the papers or listened to the radio, so I don't know what has been written or what has been said. What I do know, though, is what actually is happening.

We are looking to get better.

It's really that simple. We're not trying to trade certain players, and we're certainly not looking to move players just to move them. As with any off-season or trading deadline, we're assessing the market value for our players to see whether or not that value surpasses their value to the Padres. If you have something you value at one million dollars, it would be foolish to refuse to consider selling it for twenty million dollars. On the flip side, it would also be foolish to sell it for anything less than one million. The thing that makes the market work is that each player has a different value to virtually every Club.

Furthermore, no one player makes a great team. This has been proven time and time again in baseball. We don't need to look any further than the 2008 Padres that went 63-99 with Jake Peavy, but I will.

There have been a number of occasions in recent memory where teams have traded or lost one of their best players only to be as good or better... immediately:
  • The 2008 Indians were 37-51 when they traded CC Sabathia, and then went 43-30.
  • The 2007 Twins finished 79-83, traded Johan Santana and let Torii Hunter leave in free agency, and then went 88-75 in 2008.
  • The 2003 Rangers finished 71-91, traded Alex Rodriguez, and then went 89-73 in 2004.
  • The 1996 Giants finished 68-94, traded Matt Williams, and then went 90-72 in 1997.

There are many, many more, but here is my favorite string:

  • The 1998 Mariners traded Randy Johnson in the middle of a 76-85 season.
  • In 1999 the Mariners finished 79-83 without the Big Unit.
  • After 1999, the Mariners traded Ken Griffey, Jr and then went 91-71 in 2000.
  • After 2000, the Mariners lost Alex Rodriguez to free agency and went 116-46 in 2001.

That's three Hall-of-Famers in three successive seasons, and the Mariners improved each time. Baseball is a crazy game.

This, of course, doesn't mean that trading a star player ensures success. What it does show, however, is that trading a star player can buoy a team. That is what we're exploring.

As far as Jake's particular situation, we have him under contract for the next four years with an option for a fifth year. Our task, then, is to determine whether what we would receive in exchange for him would outweigh the benefits of having him for those five years (presumably some player(s) we would get in return could be of service for more than five years, so that needs to be factored in as well). Make no mistake, however - we place tremendous value on Jake's presence here. That is why any offers for him in past years and every day up until this writing have been rejected.

Come to think of it, though, it's really not about Jake's particular situation at all. There was a very good comment in my last post asking about our process as it pertains to Brian Giles. Why would we be unwilling to trade him before the deadline, possibly willing to after the deadline, and then plan on picking up his option? The answer is rather straightforward - it all depends on the return. The return wasn't sufficient in any deal before the deadline, but was sufficient in the proposed deal after the dealine.

In short, we are charged with fielding the best possible team in both the short and long terms. Believe me, we wish we could put together a dynamic team comprised of players who would remain as Padres for the duration of their careers. On a personal level, we don't enjoy trading players. I don't know any executive who does. However, that just isn't the reality of today's game. Because of that fact, the best organizations out there can't really believe in the concept of "untouchable", because one can lose great opportunities with such blinders.

So, to answer the most basic question: are we going to trade Jake Peavy? We'll see if someone offers us a compelling deal that makes us better.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Instructional League

Sorry for the absence the last few days. I have been in Peoria, Arizona attending our annual scouting meetings at our Fall Instructional League. Though we're not at the St. Regis enjoying golf, the spa, and blowout dinners, it's always a good time.

We've been spending the mornings in meetings going over the 2008 draft - what we did well, what we did poorly, and what we learned - as well as doing some early prep for 2009. More importantly, we're all back together, scouts and player development personnel, for a few days to break down players, share ideas, and talk baseball.

The afternoons have been very valuable, because we've been watching our Instructional League games. Like most organizations, our FIL roster is diverse. We have players from AA to the Dominican Summer League all on the same team. Some are here to work on specific parts of their game, some are trying a position change, and others are here to get more at-bats and detailed instruction. The best part for us, front office and scouts included, is that we get to see all of these guys playing together.

During the spring scouting season comparisons are critically important and terribly difficult. You may have seen one player for two games back in March and another for three at-bats in late May (as well as 100 other players in between), and you have to be able to rank those players with some sound reasoning as the backbone. At Instructional League we get to see these players literally right next to each other, which helps tremendously to reinforce our thought process or to expose a shortcoming.

With both Fall Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League, this is a great time of year to be in Arizona. Though the crowds don't extend beyond friends and family, there are future big leaguers all over the place.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Claiming Travis Denker

Today we claimed 23-year old 2B Travis Denker from the San Francisco Giants.

A native of Southern California, Travis went to Brea Linda HS before the Dodgers drafted him in the 21st round in 2003. There wasn't much of an adjustment to pro ball for Travis as he hit .311/.372/.556 in about 250 pa's during that first summer in rookie ball. Given that performance, Travis made the jump the following season to full-season A ball in Columbus, the South Atlantic League affiliate of the Dodgers. He didn't slow down there going .310/.417/.556 before moving up to the High-A Florida State League.

In 2006 Travis split time in multiple ways - between Low-A and High-A and between 2B and 3B. Given the standard he had set, it was a down year for him offensively, but he still managed a .375 obp and actually walked more than he struck out. Travis then stuck in High-A (and at 2B) in 2007 putting up a nice year in the Florida State League before being traded to the Giants late in the year. The move to the Cal League was fortuitous for the San Jose Giants, as Travis hit .400 the rest of the way.

The Giants moved Travis aggressively in 2008, as he spent about half the year in AAA and finished his season in the big leagues hitting .243/.333/.486 in 42 Major League plate appearances.

There aren't many advantages to having a season like we did in 2008, but it does put us near the front of the waiver line for the next six months which helps in situations like this one.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pitching Prospects

There have been a number of comments over the past few months regarding our pitching philosophy. Generally, there has been some disdain that we tend to focus on command pitchers as opposed to power pitchers with specific mention of Petco Park and guys like Geer, Ramos, and LeBlanc since they are all on the cusp of the big leagues.

First and foremost, as a matter of practice, we do not target command over velocity. Every pitcher is a unique blend of skills - athleticism, delivery, repertoire, command, movement, velocity, durability, etc. Though it may appear that we have a particular preference, it is the balance of all of these factors and more that drives our decisions.

For instance, let's go back to draft day and discuss the trio of "command" pitchers listed above. Cesar Ramos was drafted in the compensation round of 2005 out of Long Beach St (I wasn't here at the time or in 2006, but I had seen all of these guys pitch, so the following perspective is just mine). Ramos is left-handed and he was always a very good strikethrower. The knock was that he didn't strike enough guys out, but it wasn't because of his fastball. Cesar routinely touches 92 mph and regularly pitches at 90-91, which for a left-hander is considered above average (or borderline above average). In this instance, the Padres took a left-hander with average to plus velocity and above average strike throwing ability. If nothing else changes, that's probably good enough to pitch at the back of a rotation or in the pen. If something more clicks, though, there is real upside. In fact, after striking out 4.5 per nine innings in A ball and 4.9 per nine innings in AA, Cesar this year struck out 6.3 per nine innings in AAA. I like the way this trend is going.

Josh Geer is a very different case. At Rice Josh had a fastball that sat at 91 and ranged from 88-93. Fast forward three years and Josh now pitches between 85 and 91 and throws more strikes than he ever did in college (3.2 walks per nine in college and 1.9 walks per nine as a pro). Sometimes this is a matter of becoming more consistent in one's effort level and delivery. Other times it's simply a matter of the pro workload - pitching every fifth day as opposed to once a week like in high school or college.

Wade LeBlanc was a guy in college who had a devastating out-pitch in his changeup, and that continues to be the case. His velocity in college was mainly 86-88, which has been his standard as a pro. He pitched a little below that in the big leagues, but that is likely because it was the first time he had pitched in Major League camp and September, which added two months to his season. With that velocity, however, Wade has struck out 8.8 per nine in A ball, 8.6 per nine in AA, and 9.0 per nine in AAA. The point is that velocity doesn't always equal strikeouts (though there is a correlation - I can't deny that). So basically, Wade continues to be the same successful pitcher that he was at Alabama with very consistent performance and stuff. In fact, Chris Young is another good example of this. Chris doesn't throw particularly hard, but batters have a decidedly difficult time against him, so his velocity alone does not dictate his place in the rotation.

The three examples above simply show that what we get on draft day isn't always what the guys look like three or four years later - one is striking more guys out, one is striking fewer guys out, and one guy is basically the same - so there hasn't necessarily been a focus on guys who don't throw particularly hard. In fact, the Padres took Cesar Carrillo in the first round of 2005 who threw hard with command - the combination that all teams want.

Fortunately, the Padres have a growing stable of these pitchers - guys who throw hard with command. Matt Latos, Wynn Pelzer, Drew Miller, and Jeremy McBryde are just some of the names that fit this mold. All of these guys were signed for above slot money in the draft, but just like the three mentioned above, they don't necesssarily have the same characteristics as on the day they signed. Furthermore, there are also many, many more whom we targeted in the draft but didn't get to select for one reason or another.

We've also been aggressive with our Latin American signings. Long before we signed Adis Portillo out of Venezuela in July, we signed Ernesto Frieri, Wilton Lopez, Simon Castro, Jackson Quezada, Alexis Lara, and Pascual Juan. Both Frieri and Lopez are on the 40-man roster, and all of these pitchers top out at least 94 mph. In fact, in the draft this year we also took a handful of guys, like Bass, Bagley, and Poynter to name a few, with above average fastballs, so our lower levels boast a large group of power arms.

The important takeaway here is that pitching is very difficult to predict and all different types of pitchers have success, so we draft and sign all different types of pitchers.

Back in 2005, the Padres' system was a little thin, so drafting polished college pitchers made sense - there was a need to build some pitching inventory in general - but those guys don't always turn out the way you'd expect. Fortunately, the farm system is much healthier now, and we're hopeful that we have created enough of a foundation across the spectrum of pitching to have a number of Major League contributors with all sorts of different repertoires and abilities.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Players To Be Named

Today we acquired RHP Eduardo Perez and LHP Michael Watt from the Dodgers in exchange from Greg Maddux.

Eduardo is a 20-year old, 6'2" right-hander from Venezuela. Our scouting reports indicate that he has an advanced feel for pitching, throws consistent strikes with four pitches, and has the makings of a terrific changeup. Due to an elbow fracture in 2006, Eduardo has pitched just 87 innings here in the US but has posted a 3.61 ERA and has struck out 81 hitters in those innings.

Michael is a 19-year old, 6'1" left-hander from Capistrano Valley HS in California. He was the Dodgers' 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft (#86 overall). Michael has a fastball, curveball, changeup repertoire, with his changeup grading out as above average already. He's a very good strikethrower and can move the ball around the zone as evidenced by his career 2.4 walks per nine innings and his 8.6 strikeouts per nine. We've also gotten tremendous reports on his makeup - competitive, tough, aggressive.

We're excited about adding these pitchers into the mix (Watt was actually scheduled to pitch against our Instructional League team today). Not only are these two interesting arms, but also they really complement our draft from this year. As many of you know, we targeted hitters in the early rounds of the 2008 draft, but with the trades that we made (Clark, Wolf, and Maddux), we've been able to add four young arms (two of whom are high school age) into the system - Scribner, Reineke, Perez, and Watt. That doesn't even include our international signings.

When looked at as a whole, our acquisition of young talent this year has turned out to be a nice balance of hitters, pitchers, high school age, and college age.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Organizational Consistency

When I was in 6th grade, my classmates and I spent the winter playing organized intramural basketball after school. My class comprised a league of four teams (my team nicknamed themselves Phi Slama Jama, though Drexler and Olajuwon were noticeably absent), and we played two games side-by-side on shortened courts. It wasn't until 7th grade that my class had tryouts for one real team that would compete against other schools on the regulation court.

The high school varsity coaches, however, weren't waiting until even the 7th grade to build a winner.

As it turned out, the varsity basketball coach of the high school was my homeroom English teacher in 6th grade. Every now and again we were able to coax him into talking basketball rather than the subject at hand, a diversion that in retrospect he probably enjoyed as much as we did. Those talks and those seemingly chaotic intramural games had one thing in common: the flex.

The flex was a complicated offense, well complicated for 6th graders who could barely discern the difference between man-to-man and a box-and-one. By many accounts, it was complicated for high school varsity players as well, as it involved crisp passing and a lot of coordinated movement away from the ball. So, this small school in Northern Virginia that wasn't necessarily competing for national championships started teaching the flex offense... in the 6th grade.

Guess what offense we ran in the 7th grade? 8th grade? And so on.

There were two primary results from this process: 1) by the time anyone reached the varsity basketball team the flex offense was second nature and 2) we won a whole lot of basketball games - many more than our talent (or certainly my talent) would have ever dictated.

The point of this is that organizational consistency is absolutely critical for any successful venture. I don't care if you're building cars, running a platoon, or rating debt; consistency and the resulting discipline and cohesion are fundamental elements of high achievement.

Notice here that I am not judging the process in place - the merits of the flex offense or the efficiency of the assembly line. That's because there isn't necessarily one perfect way to do things, at least not that we've been able to find. In baseball there have been many successful strategies in procuring players, developing players, and winning at the Major League level. Regardless of the plan, if an organization adheres strictly to their plan, it will lead to concerted execution, and that execution will more often than not lead to success.

Readers have asked that I comment about the resignation of our hitting instructor, and this is my way of doing so. If Wally really didn't believe in our philosophy, then he absolutely did the right thing for everyone involved. I'm sure it was not fun for him to swim against the tide, and he realized that it wasn't good for the organization either. Again, this is not offering any judgment on who is right or wrong - that's immaterial, and there really isn't a right or wrong philosophy. This situation is simply an acknowledgement from all parties that for the Padres to be successful we need to believe wholeheartedly in the philosophies and practices that we, as an organization, adopt.

This also does not imply that our philosophies are set in stone, so please don't quote Emerson in the comments. In fact, I personally hope that both our continued work and intellectual curiosity reveal evidence that would force us either to refine or to tear down our current beliefs. That means we're learning and getting better. If and when that happens, though, we need to be prepared to implement our new knowledge in the Dominican Republic, Lake Elsinore, San Diego, and everywhere else in between. That is how we will be successful in our quest to become a championship organization.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Confirmation Bias

In looking over Tom Tango's experiment with fielding grades, I couldn't stop thinking about one thing... confirmation bias.

Very simply, confirmation bias describes the act of accepting only those facts that buttress a pre-existing opinion while discarding those facts that run contrary to one's opinion. In short, we're much more comfortable continuing to believe what we already believe.

Here's the bad news: this affects every single one of us.

One example in the baseball world where confirmation bias bites us is during cut meetings in Major League spring training. In this setting the Major League coaching staff, a few front office members, and possibly a scout or two sit in a room to discuss all of the players in camp and decide which ones are going to back to the minor leagues.

First, some background: there are generally 50-60 players in Major League camp and all of these guys have survived an incredibly rigorous screening process over the previous five or ten years (high school, college, rookie ball, A ball, etc) in order to be invited to camp. Let's face it - every one of these players does something well enough to merit both the invitation and some enthusiasm from people in the room. On the flip side, there has never been a perfect player.

So, there we sit discussing the skills of a highly qualified and tested group where the distinction between players is very, very thin. However, what becomes clear is that for the players we want to keep in big league camp, we generally talk about what they can do. For the players we want to send down, we tend to focus on what they can't do, so the decisions seem obvious (which they're not). Understand, I keep using "we" because every one of us in the room is guilty - we can't help ourselves!

So, why do we do this?

I remember a time when Bill Parcells was in the midst of a so-called "quarterback controversy" where every week he was being asked about his quarterback. Week after week he had to answer the same questions in the same way, further committing to a certain QB. Then in one game in which they were losing, Parcells changed his QB in the second half, and they went on to win the game. Afterwards the press was grilling him about the QB change, attempting to get him to comment on the controversy, and saying, "I thought you said player x was your quarterback." Bill leaned into the microphone, probably as only Parcells can, and enunciating slowly, said:

"I changed my mind."

The fact is that it can be really difficult to change your mind, especially when you've taken a public stand on an issue. Nobody wants to be seen as a flip-flopper (I'll stay away from any partisan jabs) or someone without conviction. However, that mindset can often handicap us in making the best decision.

Circumstances change, rules change, new information becomes available. Many things can happen that should alter our position on a topic, but that's simply tough for us to do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time To Be A Scout

For anyone out there who is interested, Tom Tango, author of The Book, has run a study for the past few years that measures defensive ability by aggregating the opinions of fans who watch a particular team.

I'm including the link here for the Padres page, but if you're a diehard of some other team (we'll forgive you for now) you can navigate around. I'll be checking back in to see if your answers are correct. :) Kidding. Have fun with it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Charlie Haeger and Scott Patterson

We've been active on the waiver wire in the past 48 hours as we've claimed two right-handed pitchers: Charlie Haeger from the Chicago White Sox and Scott Patterson from the New York Yankees.

Charlie is a young (24) knuckleballer who was originally drafted as a more conventional pitcher by the White Sox in the 25th round in 2001. After pitching two seasons, Charlie went on the voluntary retired list for all of the 2003 season. I believe the history is that Charlie decided to come back in 2004 armed with a new weapon - the knuckler. He then moved quickly through the ranks, reaching both AAA and the Major Leagues in 2006. Over the past three seasons Charlie has amassed nearly 500 innings in AAA with a 3.87 ERA and an additional 30 innings in the big leagues with a 4.85 ERA.

Quite frankly, this is a situation where fit matters. As is the case with most knuckleballers, Charlie can walk some hitters, and he can give up some fly balls. That's not a great combo in the American League, particularly in US Cellular in Chicago, but it's more palatable in our environment. Kevin Towers has said in the past that he's been intrigued with the idea of a knuckleballer in our park given the coastal weather conditions and the spacious outfield. In a more general sense, knuckleballers can also create some flexibility within a pitching staff due to their ability to pitch often and in a variety of roles.

Scott Patterson (29 years old) has taken an equally interesting path to the Major Leagues. The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in 2002, Scott went undrafted and signed with the Gateway Grizzlies in the Frontier League. After a few successful seasons as a starter, an invitation to the Seattle Mariners minor league spring training, and a move to the pen, Scott really blossomed. In June of 2006 the Yankees signed Scott away from the independent leagues and sent him straight to AA Trenton. Over the next year and half Scott pitched 113 innings, allowed 71 hits and 23 walks while striking out 135 hitters. His performance enticed the Yankees to add him to the 40-man roster last winter.

2008 marked the first season that Scott began at the AAA level, and he broke through to the Majors pitching one inning for the Yankees. Despite battling pneumonia in the middle of the season, Scott's AAA totals over the past year plus are: 50 innings, 47 hits, 13 walks, and 55 strikeouts. A 6'6", 230 lb man, Scott has a deceptive delivery that has proven to give hitters all kinds of problems. Another flyball pitcher, Scott should be a good fit for Petco Park. Scouts Rich Bordi and Van Smith both have written positive reports on him, and we're excited to add him to our bullpen mix.

In addition to getting a chance to play all of our young players this September, the only other consolation to being in our current position is that it allows us to be aggressive on the waiver wire (we're near the front of the line). We plan to use that to our advantage, and we think both Charlie and Scott have a chance to help the Major League club going forward.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lake Elsinore

It comes down to tonight for the Storm.

After winning their first playoff series in a quick two game sweep, they are now tied 2-2 in a best of five series with Lancaster to determine who is going to the Cal League Championship. Jeremy Hefner, called up after a fantastic season in Ft. Wayne, gets the ball tonight after throwing three shutout innings with six strikeouts earlier in the series out of the bullpen.

There have been a number of stellar performances so far as Mitch Canham, Luis Durango, Cedric Hunter, and Eric Sogard are all hitting .360 or better for the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Storm lost Kellen Kulbacki (who was hitting .333/.429/.833 in the playoffs) after he made a diving catch in the outfield. He re-injured his right (non-throwing) shoulder and will miss the rest of the year. James Darnell, our 2nd round pick this year, was called on to replace Kulbacki on the roster taking over the 3B duties while Brian Joynt, the regular 3B, has moved to the OF to cover for Kulbacki.

If you have to have more on Allan Dykstra, Cedric Hunter, Eric Sogard, Kellen Kulbacki, and James Darnell, check out the Padres Channel. New "first take" videos that include interviews with these guys as well as some highlights from Lake Elsinore's recent game at Petco have been uploaded.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Antonelli and LeBlanc

I thought I'd let this one be a surprise for everyone either watching the game last night or reading the box score this morning. By now you probably know that we've purchased the contracts of both Matt Antonelli and Wade LeBlanc.

Matt started last night for the Padres at 2B and notched his first big league hit, against Greg Maddux no less. Matt's struggles this year at AAA have been well-chronicled. After spending a good part of the season with a batting average on the interstate, Anto had an Antonelli-like August which pushed his final season numbers at AAA to .215/.335/.322. That certainly wasn't what anyone was expecting this season. However, Matt's line in August of .290/.391/.473 was precisely what we were hoping for at some point during this season. The encouraging thing throughout the year was that Matt never lost his plate discipline despite his overall batting line, which is a testament to his strong mental makeup. The fact is that we pushed Matt aggressively through the system, his most recent promotion to the big leagues being no exception. Remember, the Padres drafted Anto just barely more than two years ago.

The 2B position has been a tough spot for the Padres over the past four seasons. Starting with 2005, we've ranked 15th, 10th, 15th, and 15th in the National League at 2B in terms of OPS. That isn't the end-all, be-all stat, but it does indicate that we haven't been competitive with the rest of the league at 2B even after considering park factors. Certainly, Edgar Gonzalez's bat has helped, but we thought this was as good a time as any, probably the best time actually, to get Antonelli some Major League experience, because we believe he will eventually make a difference at that position for us.

Wade LeBlanc is joining the Major League rotation with his first start coming tomorrow night (Wednesday) against the Dodgers. Like Antonelli, LeBlanc was a 2006 draft by the Padres and has moved rapidly through the system. We knew we were pushing him by putting him in AAA at the beginning of the season, and his performance reflected that: a 9.27 ERA in April and a 6.56 ERA in May. However, Wade surged in June and over the final three months went 93 innings with 80 hits, 20 walks, and 103 strikeouts.

The most significant part of these two callups and what separates them from your typical September callup is the fact that neither player needed to be protected on the 40-man roster this winter. I know it may not seem like it, but that is a big deal. Bringing these two players now is a loud statement for the Padres. I'll expand on that thought in a later post.

Quick Update: Both AA San Antonio and High-A Lake Elsinore have pulled through and qualified for the playoffs! Additionally, short-A Eugene is still alive - one game back with two to play. Playoffs in AA and High-A begin on Wednesday.

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.