Padres Farm Report: Spotlight on San Antonio

I once caught a game at San Antonio’s Wolff Stadium, back when the Missions were a Mariners affiliate. It’s a nice ballpark in a nice town — definitely on my short list of places to return to one of these years, especially now that the Padres have their Double-A team there…

San Antonio Missions in a Box:
Record: 63-56
Runs Scored: 557
Runs Allowed: 479
BA/OBP/SLG: .265/.349/.392 (Texas League: .269/.341/.410)
ERA: 3.46 (TL: 4.33)
DER: .656 (TL: .647)
Source: Baseball-Reference.

This is a good ballclub with some solid young talent. The pitching has been superb (San Antonio leads the league in ERA by a healthy margin — the second place team is closer to last than first), although we need to attach a disclaimer: Over the past three seasons, Wolff Stadium has suppressed offense at about the same level as Petco Park. Here are the park factors for these two venues (average is 1000, lower favors pitchers):

Wolff Stadium vs Petco Park, 2005-2007
  2005 2006 2007
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2008.
Wolff Stadium 928 918 905
Petco Park 920 919 910

Obviously, this doesn’t negate the accomplishments of guys who pitch there, but we do need to take environment into consideration when making our evaluations.

The big names at San Antonio in 2008 include first baseman Kyle Blanks (whom I ranked as the Padres #5 prospect entering the season), left fielder Chad Huffman, right-hander Will Inman (#8), and left-hander Steve Garrison.

Others to note are center fielder Drew Macias, shortstop Sean Kazmar (who was recalled to the big club on Monday), right fielder Craig Cooper, catcher Jose Lobaton, and right-handers Matthew Buschmann, Stephen Faris, and Manny Ayala. Let’s take a closer look…

Kyle Blanks: .307/.387/.473; .603 BB/K, .092 BB/PA, .166 ISO, .283 XB/H

Kyle BlanksIf you’ve spent any time here at all, you know I’m a big fan of Blanks. The 21-year-old first baseman has hit between .292 and .307 in each of his four minor-league seasons, and is starting to flash the power expected of a man listed at 6’6″, 270+ lbs. Unfortunately, the latter is coming at the expense of a disciplined approach that had served him well earlier in the season. Before the All-Star break, Blanks hit .315/.405/.446 with 35 walks and 36 strikeouts; since then he’s hitting .292/.353/.519 with 9 walks and 37 strikeouts. Obviously the results have been positive, but I question the shift in approach. Blanks is too good a hitter to be relying on a hack-and-slash strategy, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s feeling pressure to hit for more power. It would be a shame if his offensive game deteriorated because some folks think a kid his size should be able to crank the ball out of the park with greater regularity. I still really like Blanks and what he’s doing this year at Double-A, but his performance so far in the second half is cause for concern. He has no home/road splits to speak of, which is nice.

Chad Huffman: .285/.384/.425; .799 BB/K, .129 BB/PA, .140 ISO, .321 XB/H

Chad HuffmanI’m not a huge believer in Huffman, but as always, I hope the player proves me wrong. He is 23 years old and strictly a left fielder, which means he has to keep crushing baseballs at every level to have a chance. This probably isn’t a fair comparison, but whenever I see someone with his skill set, I think of a guy like Kevin Mench — useful in the right context, but not special. Huffman has severe lefty/righty splits and hasn’t done well in his home park (eight of his nine homers have come on the road). On the bright side, he controls the strike zone fairly well and hits a lot of doubles. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get excited about Huffman. Nothing would make me happier than for him to make me look like an idiot for saying that.

Drew Macias: .292/.402/.418; 1.014 BB/K, .145 BB/PA, .126 ISO, .285 XB/H

Drew MaciasYeah, Macias is 25, but he has good on-base skills and plays a legitimate center field. Not every prospect is destined to become a starter in the big leagues. Guys with Macias’ skill set could have value as a fourth or fifth outfielder at some point. Just don’t expect much more than that, and you’ll be fine.

Sean Kazmar: .264/.333/.359; .576 BB/K, .088 BB/PA, .095 ISO, .267 XB/H

Kazmar’s presence here says more about the Padres lack of depth at shortstop in the high minors than it does about his status as a prospect. He’s a decent defender but offers very little at the plate. The 23-year-old Kazmar is sort of a middle-infield version of Luke Carlin — he’ll do in a pinch, but it’s best to have other options. If everything breaks right, Kazmar could be the new Rafael Santana.

Craig Cooper: .277/.347/.408; .456 BB/K, .087 BB/PA, .131 ISO, .304 XB/H

Cooper is a big kid who doesn’t hit for much power. He’s also 23, so it’s hard to say whether he’ll develop more. Cooper can play both corner outfield spots and first base; if he hits enough, he could end up on a big-league bench one of these years. Again, this may not sound exciting to you, but I imagine that Cooper feels otherwise.

Jose Lobaton: .251/.317/.402; .412 BB/K, .095 BB/PA, .151 ISO, .385 XB/H

In the Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual I said that Lobaton “could develop into a solid backup catcher,” and that still sounds about right to me. The 23-year-old switch-hitter from Venezuela has put up much better numbers against right-handers, although this could be partly a result of his having seen so few southpaws (42 AB). The other extreme split for Lobaton comes as something of a surprise: He’s actually hitting much better at home (.311/.388/.500) than on the road (.189/.241/.299). If Lobaton can put up those numbers at a place like Wolff Stadium, then maybe he has a chance.

Will Inman: 3.43 ERA, 4.52 BB/9, 9.71 K/9

Will InmanThere is some question as to whether Inman can remain a starting pitcher. Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus doesn’t think so, comparing Inman to former big-league reliever Jeff Nelson. I haven’t seen Inman pitch (the photo is from a spring training workout), so I can’t comment on Sheehan’s concerns. It’s worth noting, however, that Tommy Lasorda once didn’t think Pedro Martinez could remain a starting pitcher. Obviously Inman isn’t Martinez, but the point is, it’s difficult to know what will come to pass until it actually does. Don’t believe me? Try winning the lottery.

Anyway, as he usually does, Inman is dominating his league. It’d be nice to see him get those walk totals down a bit — he’s already set a single-season high — but when you’re missing as many bats as he is, I suppose a little wildness can be forgiven. Inman isn’t a real big kid, and apparently he doesn’t impress in person as much as he does on paper. (Lest anyone think I’m picking on Sheehan, whose larger point about the need to balance statistical evaluation with actual observation I completely agree with, I’ve heard others voice similar sentiments about Inman.) Still, when you’re 21 years old, kicking butt in Double-A, and striking out better than 10 batters per 9 innings for the career, you must be doing something right.

Steve Garrison: 3.61 ERA, 2.38 BB/9, 7.44 K/9

Steve GarrisonGarrison came over from Milwaukee (along with Inman) in last summer’s Scott Linebrink deal. The 21-year-old southpaw isn’t overpowering but has been effective at every minor-league stop. He’s been especially tough on lefties this year (.179 BAA). For most of the season, his numbers have been solid but not spectacular, the exception being June, when he went 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in five starts. One caveat: Garrison’s ERA is nearly a run lower at Wolff Stadium than away from it. This may or may not be indicative of anything, but it’s worth mentioning.

Matthew Buschmann: 3.00 ERA, 3.29 BB/9, 7.14 K/9

Taken in the 15th round of the 2006 draft out of Vanderbilt, Buschmann lacks the pedigree of many other pitchers in the system. At age 24, he’s a tad old for the Texas League, but all the guy has done at every level is get hitters out. Buschmann is around the plate a lot, but because of his age and lack of dominance, he’ll need to keep proving himself. Lefties have given him trouble this year. They’re hitting .314 against him, and they account for half of the dozen homers he’s allowed. His strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is better than 3-to-1 against right-handed batters, is just about even against southpaws. He’ll need to figure out a way to neutralize lefties if he wants to remain in the rotation at higher levels.

Stephen Faris: 3.30 ERA, 2.61 BB/9, 6.98 K/9

Faris is another 24-year-old finesse guy who gets almost no play as a prospect. There’s a good reason for that: pitchers who struggle to strike out 6 batters per 9 innings (his career mark is 5.96 K/9) typically don’t turn into successful big leaguers. That said, Faris is enjoying a fine campaign at Double-A. Like Buschmann, Faris has done better against right-handers than lefties. There’s a chance that one of these two guys will become the next Mike Thompson, but I’m not sure which one.

Manny Ayala: 3.86 ERA, 4.11 BB/9, 7.59 K/9

Manny AyalaI probably like Ayala too much. He impressed me the few times I saw him pitch at Elsinore last year. Most of the comments that apply to Buschmann and Faris apply to Ayala as well: not terribly young, not overpowering, around the plate. I think he’s still worth watching, but temper your expectations.

* * *
I saw Cesar Carillo pitch at Lake Elsinore on Sunday. He gave up three hits, all ground balls that found holes. As his final line would suggest, Carrillo didn’t have much in the way of command, which is in stark contrast to the only other time I’ve seen him on the mound. Still, a bit of rust is to be expected after missing so much time. Personally I’m giving him a mulligan for the season in terms of performance. Like Clay Hensley, Carrillo gets credit just for being out there and throwing some innings. Next year, of course, is different; then he’ll need to produce.

* * *
I also got my first look at right-hander Robert Woodard. He’s probably not a prospect, but he might be my favorite pitcher in the organization (it’s a toss-up between him and Dirk Hayhurst) because he relies almost exclusively on guile. Woodard also is a former North Carolina state chess champion, which is just way too cool. Anyway, Woodard retired all eight batters he faced in relief of Carrillo on Sunday and got extra style points for that crazy karate kick in his delivery.

* * *
Finally, the Padres have extended their player development agreement with the Fort Wayne Wizards through 2010. This pleases me not only because I have fond memories of the place, but also because I like to see continuity in the organization. Why? Well, I don’t know. It makes me feel better, I suppose…

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81 Responses »

  1. #49@Schlom: Lots of players have kept their draft demands secret. Partly because it’s against MLB rules to talk about contract details before the draft, partly because they want to preserve as much leverage as they can. They’d love to be drafted by a team that feels so compelled not to “waste” a pick that they’ll accede to the kid’s demands.

    You really don’t understand how agents or teams view negotiations if you think this would burn any bridges. If every team that ever had a negotiation go sour with an agent then cut that agent off, no baseball team would be able to deal with any agent. There’d be no free agent signings, no draft signings, nothing. The only solution would be for a new crop of agents to come in every year along with the draftees.

    “just find it hard to believe that they had no idea that these demands were coming.”

    That’s basically a complete contradiction of your earlier claim, that the Padres were just idiots: “All they had to do was ask him and there would be absolutely no reason for him to lie so they might not have even asked such a simple question.”

  2. Caught the end of the Sandy Alderson report on 1090 radio.

    He says they knew Dykstra had a hip injury when they drafted him but not to the extent of what they know now. When asked if they would’ve drafted him if they had that info before the draft, he said they wouldn’t, at least not in the 1st round.

    He touched on the Giles situation briefly. Basically, he still thinks Giles is still the type of player they want in the organization, but Giles is getting up in age and towards the end of his contract. Therefore, a trade could’ve benefited Giles and the Padres, in that they might’ve been able to get some good players in return and would’ve gained financial flexibility going into the offseason. He says their moving forward at this point and will decide on whether to pick up his option once the season is over.

  3. #51@Tom Waits: But he was asking for a huge amount of money — more money then anyone except himself thought he was worth. I don’t think you’d find anyone that thinks that he’s a top 50 talent, yet he wanted to get paid like a late first round/supplemental draft pick. Other then the first 10 picks (and the high school players with strong college commitments) he’s asking for the most amount of money, or least the highest percentage over slot. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd? Personally I find it a bit far-fetched that the Padres had no idea that he was asking for an amount so out of whack with his draft position.

    However, let’s assume that it’s true. Then isn’t Kipnis pulling a Matt Harrington situation here? He’s not worth anything close to what he is asking and so he’s only going to hurt himself in the long run. Unless he ends up a top 10 talent next season who is going to take the chance of drafting him? If he thinks he’s worth $1m as the 135th pick, what is going to think he’s worth as the 30th pick? But with his skills, there isn’t much chance he’s going to go really high as he doesn’t do anything that outstanding (not great power, not great speed).

  4. Unfortunately I had a longer post that was eaten.

    Basically what worries me most about this whole situation is that I fear that it’s a reprisal of the Grant Green/Christian Colon debacles of past drafts. Instead of paying a few extra hundred thousand dollars on draftees (less then 1% of the major league budget) they let them go to college instead. Now maybe Kipnis won’t compromise and lower his budget demands. But if he does, does it make sense to let a good player (obviously the Padres think so otherwise they wouldn’t have drafted him so high) walk over a $200k? For all this talk about rebuilding the farm system, we haven’t really seen it — or at least them spending money to procure talent.