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:
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)
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):
|Statistics are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2008.|
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
If 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
I’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
Yeah, 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
There 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
Garrison 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
I 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.
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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.
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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.
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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…