Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2003: 11-20

I was checking out stats for my domains yesterday and discovered that one of them had 108,000+ hits the other day. I’m a little slow sometimes, so my initial reaction was "wow, cool." Understand that normal traffic for that site is in the 300-500 range.

Upon further investigation, I’ve discovered that the vast majority of those came from a single IP address. So, thanks to the handy ARIN WHOIS Database I was able to find the technical contact for the domain in question. In all likelihood, someone has hijacked their network. Either that, or someone really likes the Padres.

Thankfully the technical contact has been nothing but helpful, so with luck that will be the end of that. There were a few other offending IP addresses, so I’ve blocked access to those as well. If the site seems a little slower than usual, it’s because the server has to verify that you’re not one of the bad guys (I know you’re not, but the computer has to figure it out for itself).

And who’s the wiseguy who visited Ducksnorts last month using Lynx? I probably shouldn’t show this to you, but here is what my blog looks like in Lynx. Ack. Get a new browser already.


Mark Davis (1 vote) and Sid Fernandez (2 votes) didn’t make it. The HOF is a sham!

Seriously, congratulations to Gary Carter and Eddie Murray for a much-deserved spot in Cooperstown. Carter grew up in the same town where I (mis)spent most of my youth. I remember him mainly as an Expo. What an arm.

My primary recollection of Murray is the night he played third base for the Dodgers in that marathon down in Houston. I know it’s a silly thing to remember about a great, great hitter but the mind is funny that way.

Sad to see Bert Blyleven (29.2%), Tommy John (23.4%), and Jim Kaat (26.2%) get so little support. Kaat now needs the Veterans Committee to come through for him if he’s to be enshrined in the HOF.

I was a bit surprised to see Jim Rice (52.2%), Andre Dawson (50%), and Ryne Sandberg (49.2%) fall so short. And how does Bruce Sutter (53.6%) get more support than those guys? Methinks the voters are giving him too much credit for the splitter.

Alan Trammell checked in at 14.1%, while Steve Garvey nabbed 27.8%. Pitiful. Here’s hoping that Tram has a great managerial career.

Mickey Tettleton didn’t get a single vote. How does Davis get one and not Tettleton? Not that it makes a difference, but still.

Anyway, congrats again to Carter and Murray…

Padres Top 20 Prospects: 11-20

As always, I’ve tried to balance upside with likelihood of success. This gives us a mix of kids who are far away (Sean Thompson, Javier Martinez, Henry Perez) and more experienced players (Brad Baker, Mike Rivera, Ben Johnson, Vince Faison, Rusty Tucker). Three of these guys made last year’s list as well (Johnson, #5 in 2002; Faison, #15; Perez, #25).

Without further ado, here’s the list…

Sean Thompson, LHP
DOB: 10/13/82
Acq: draft 2002, rd 5; Thunder Ridge HS (La Junta, Colo.)
Ht: 5’11″ Wt: 165

Club  Lvl    IP   H  HR  BB  SO   ERA
IdF    R+  56.1  51   4  38  69  3.83

Shortly after drafting Thompson, Kevin Towers referred to him as "a left-hander, who throws 87-89 mph, but [who] has a good curve." An excellent outfielder in high school, Thompson had a solid pro debut against older competition in the Pioneer League. The good news is, he struck out 28% of the batters he faced. The downside is that he walked 15%. Thompson also unleashed 13 wild pitches in just over 56 innings. His stuff isn’t overpowering, so he’ll need to improve his control as he moves up the ranks and has to deal with more disciplined hitters. But the fact that Thompson was able to put the ball past guys coming out of college is an encouraging sign. Expect him to begin 2003 at Ft. Wayne and work his way up the ladder one rung at a time.

Brad Baker, RHP
DOB: 09/11/79
Acq: draft 1999, rd 1 (Bos); Pioneer Valley HS (Layden, Mass.)
Ht: 6’4″ Wt: 200

Club  Lvl    IP   H  HR  BB  SO   ERA
Sar    A+  61.1  53   4  25  65  2.79
Mob    AA  64.1  47   5  45  57  4.48

Baker came over in the deal that sent Alan Embree to the Red Sox last summer. Baker has excellent stuff but hasn’t been consistent with it. He overpowered Florida State League hitters before coming to the Padres and being pushed to Double-A, where he struggled with his command. Baker also also worked 34 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Once again, he had high strikeout and high walk totals. Baker was left off the Padres’ 40-man roster this winter and exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Nobody selected him, which may send a message to the youngster that he needs to refine his approach if he’s to succeed at higher levels and ultimately reach the big leagues. Baker is young and has talent. The same can be said of many people. If he can find the strike zone with more regularity, his upside is that of a #2 or #3 starter. A move to the bullpen may also be in order at some point. This season will tell us a lot about what the future holds for Baker.

Mike Rivera, C
DOB: 09/08/76
Acq: free agent 1997, Puerto Rico
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 205

Club  Lvl   AB    BA   OBP   SLG  BB  SO  SB  CS
Tol   AAA  265  .249  .341  .525  35  64   0   1
Det    AL  132  .227  .254  .326   4  35   0   0

Acquired this winter from Detroit in a trade for Eugene Kingsale, Rivera hasn’t shown much in his brief exposure to big-league pitching, but his minor-league credentials are impressive. Although his batting average wasn’t great in 2002, his secondary skills were solid. Rivera displayed a decent batting eye, and nearly half of his hits went for extra bases. He won’t be Mike Piazza. He probably won’t even be Jorge Posada. But he might be a better version of Jim Leyritz, and a guy with that skill set should be able to have a career. Rivera will compete with incumbent Wiki Gonzalez for the starting catching job in 2003. The most likely scenario has him getting 250-300 plate appearances, hitting around .230/.300/.430. Rivera won’t be a star, but he gives the Padres much-needed depth behind the plate and ultimately should help the Padres more than Kingsale would have.

Cory Stewart, LHP
DOB: 11/14/79
Acq: draft 1998, rd 27 (Cin); Boerne HS (Tex.)
Ht: 6’4″ Wt: 185

Club  Lvl    IP   H  HR  BB  SO   ERA
FtW    A   64.0  46   4  18  86  2.39
LkE    A+  64.2  60   3  29  69  3.20

An indy-league refugee, Stewart signed with the Padres following the 2001 season. In his first year with the organization, Stewart opened some eyes by dominating the Midwest League and continuing his success in the more advanced California League. The Padres thought so much of Stewart that they added him to the 40-man roster this winter. His fastball runs in the low-90s and his breaking ball is developing, although he still needs to gain more consistency with it. Stewart should return to Elsinore in 2003, where he’ll continue to refine his repertoire. Expect to see him at Mobile or possibly even Portland before season’s end. Although he doesn’t have the pedigree of some prospects, Stewart is making a name for himself; he could develop into a #4 or #5 starter, or he could become a swing man in the Terry Mulholland mode.

Ben Johnson, OF
DOB: 06/18/81
Acq: draft 1999, rd 4 (StL); Germantown (Tenn.) HS
Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 200

Club  Lvl   AB    BA   OBP   SLG  BB   SO  SB  CS
Mob    AA  456  .241  .337  .375  65  127  11   9

Highly touted coming into last season by many observers (myself included), Johnson slipped a bit in 2002. More accurately, he didn’t show any development. The tools that made Johnson a prospect are still there: He draws walks, he’s strong, and he runs well. The bad news is that he isn’t hitting for average, his strength isn’t translating into much power, and his speed isn’t translating into stolen bases. The good news is that his plate discipline is improving. His walk rate went up and his strikeout rate fell even as he moved up a level (PA is AB + BB in this case):

       PA  ISO BB/PA SO/PA
2001  557 .165  .097  .253
2002  521 .134  .125  .244

The other good news is that Johnson is only 22 years old, so he’s got time to learn how to put his tools to use. The Padres left him off the 40-man roster this winter but he went unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft. Johnson probably would benefit by at least starting the season at Double-A but the Pads have been fairly aggressive in promoting their toolsy prospects of late (see their handling of Vince Faison, for example), so it’s more likely that he’ll spend the year at Portland. If he can learn to use his strength, Johnson still could turn into another Brian Jordan. But I don’t like his chances now as much as I did at this time last year.

Vince Faison, OF
DOB: 1/22/81
Acq: draft 1999, rd 1; Toombs County (Ga.) HS
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 180

Club  Lvl   AB    BA   OBP   SLG  BB   SO  SB  CS
Mob    AA  359  .253  .339  .404  39  103   5   7

First the good news. Faison is young. He’s strong and fast, and he’s willing to take a walk. And he did a lot better in his first exposure to Double-A pitching than might reasonably have been expected based on his 2001 performance. Now the bad news: Faison’s strength hasn’t yet translated into overwhelming power. He isn’t using his speed well. He strikes out too much. He’s not a center fielder. Last year I wrote that Faison "could become a solid #6 hitter down the line." That still seems about right to me. The fact that Faison was able to bounce back from a terrible year while moving up a level is a good sign, as is his ability to hold his own in the AFL. With plenty of more experienced outfielders in the system and given his youth, expect Faison to start 2003 back at Mobile. But if he can make use of his considerable talent, his stay in the Southern League could be brief. Keep an eye on this one.

Rusty Tucker, LHP
DOB: 07/15/80
Acq: draft 2001, rd 21; U. of Maine
Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 190

Club  Lvl    IP   H  HR  BB  SO   ERA
FtW    A   35.2  19   2  10  50  1.01
LkE    A+  29.2  26   1  18  33  2.43

Tucker is one of the more intriguing stories in the Padre system. A soft-tossing starting pitcher at the University of Maine, he was moved to the bullpen as a pro. After a lackluster 2001, Tucker saw his velocity move into the mid- to high-90s (93-96 mph when I’ve seen him) as he carved up hitters in the Midwest League before finishing up in the California League and the AFL. In addition to the heat, Tucker also features a plus slider that is especially tough on left-handers. Tucker will spend 2003 at Mobile but could move quickly. His likely future is as a lefty specialist in the mold of, say, Alan Embree.

Mike Nicolas, RHP
DOB: 11/05/81
Acq: free agent 2000, Dominican Republic
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 207

Club  Lvl    IP   H  HR  BB   SO   ERA
LkE    A+  77.1  49   4  42  121  2.91

The first time I saw Nicolas pitch was at Elsinore in August 2001. He was brutal in his debut (one out, five runs), but the scouts were buzzing. Nicloas’ fastball runs anywhere from 91-97 mph, generally settling in around 94-95. His breaking ball is improving, though he still has occasional lapses of command. In 2003, Nicolas likely will serve again as Rusty Tucker’s primary setup man, this time at Double-A. He already has the ability to put the ball past hitters; if he keeps his walk totals down, he could be another Felix Rodriguez.

Javier Martinez, RHP
DOB: 12/09/82
Acq: free agent 2000, Mexico
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 170

Club  Lvl    IP   H  HR  BB  SO   ERA
Eug    A-  10.0   4   2   5   6  4.50
FtW    A   69.1  55   5  19  69  3.38

Martinez exploded onto the scene last summer in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old. He has a good build, with which he’s able to generate a fastball that runs in the low-90s. He complements the heater with a solid curve. Martinez used to feature a splitter as well, but he tended to fall in love with the pitch and couldn’t control it very well, so that’s been ditched from the arsenal. Martinez is young, he’s coachable, and if he keeps doing what he did last year, he’ll follow Oliver Perez in appearing to come out of nowhere and give the Padres another young, marketable Mexican player. With so little pro experience it’s hard to project what path his career might take, but keep an eye on Martinez. He’s a good bet to make next year’s top 10.

Henry Perez, RHP
DOB: 10/27/82
Acq: free agent 1999, Dominican Republic
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 210

Club  Lvl   IP    H  HR  BB  SO   ERA
IdF    R+  74.1  73   4  36  70  4.72

I’ll make the same comment this year about Perez as I did last year: His primary asset at this point is youth. Perez has good raw stuff but his command is shaky. It’s hard to get a good read on him since he hasn’t pitched in a full-season league. Perez is projectable and could come quickly, but there’s also a pretty high flameout possibility here.

Quick comparison of Perez’ 2001 and 2002 seasons at Idaho Falls:

        IP  H/9 BB/9  SO/9 HR/9  ERA
2001  71.2 9.92 4.90 10.30 1.26 6.28
2002  74.1 8.84 4.36  8.48 0.48 4.72

This is the very definition of baby steps. He didn’t strike out as many batters in 2002, but his hit prevention, walks, and especially homers allowed were much better. Keep an eye on Perez in 2003. If he has a solid showing at Ft. Wayne, he could show up on the radar in a hurry.

We’ll take a look at Padre prospects 1-10 next Wednesday. Tomorrow it’s back to Sickels and win shares…

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