Musical Outfielders

The Padres have optioned outfielder Will Venable to Triple-A Tucson and recalled outfielder Blake Tekotte from Double-A San Antonio. I don’t know what is wrong with Venable (.224/.293/.291 in 151 PA this year) or how to fix it, but he vows to improve his approach.

At his best, Venable is a useful if flawed piece of the puzzle, providing a nice combination of power, speed, and defense. His swing is long and he often relies on pure athleticism to work around the rough spots in his game, but this year, he just stinks.

After two seasons of solid production and a terrific spring, Venable appeared to be a decent breakout candidate. Reality, as it so often does, had other ideas. Now Venable looks to break out of Triple-A.

So does Aaron Cunningham, who was bypassed in favor of Tekotte. The latter is younger, plays better defense, and bats left-handed. One or more of those factors may have helped tip the scales in Tekotte’s favor, and it’s nice to see him get the call, but I have to wonder where (or if) Cunningham fits into the Padres’ plans at this point.

Cunningham hit .288/.331/.417 in 147 PA last year, and although his current .293/.381/.461 line at Triple-A isn’t spectacular, it’s more than enough to replace Venable’s bat. But for now, Cunningham remains in Tucson, along with lesser lights such as Luis Durango and Cedric Hunter.

Meanwhile, Tekotte gets a shot, although it’s not clear what his role will be. Chris Denorfia started in Monday night’s loss to the Cardinals, which dropped the Padres’ home record to 8-19. Whether Denorfia plays and Tekotte sits, as Logan Forsythe did when summoned to replace Orlando Hudson earlier this month, remains to be seen.

Neither Forsythe nor Tekotte projects to be a star (one may turn out to be a regular, but I’ve no clue which), so bringing them up to sit isn’t quite the head-scratcher that recalling, say, Anthony Rizzo to ride pine would be. Still, given where the team appears to be headed, it would be nice to see Bud Black work the kids into the lineup every once in a while.

I ranked Tekotte as the Padres no. 20 prospect headed into 2011 and think he could be Mark Kotsay lite. The problem with Tekotte is that he plays center field, currently patrolled by Cameron Maybin, the one player on this club worth watching.

Tekotte was hitting .291/.410/.486 with 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts at the time of his recall. His game is sort of like Venable’s — some power, some speed, some defense — but with a much better understanding of the strike zone.

On a big-picture level, this is starting to feel a lot like 2009. The Padres can’t be super aggressive with their promotions just yet because it’s still May and there’s plenty of season left. At the same time, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the group charged with delivering a satisfying encore to last year’s 90-win opus isn’t up to the task.

The guess here is that we will begin to see the likes of Kyle Blanks, James Darnell, Jaff Decker, Forsythe, and Rizzo join the big club some time after the All-Star break. Maybe not all of those guys at once, but, depending on which guys on the roster can be moved, at least two or three.

The Padres are turning in the performance that everyone expected in 2010, which now looks like a spectacular anomaly. It’s a shame they couldn’t hold on to win the division last season, because despite the current relative weakness of the NL West, the Padres don’t appear poised to take advantage of… well, anything.

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56 Responses »

  1. @Ben

    I know you were referring to Patterson. Denorfia was a very similar player before 2010. Black played him, he performed. If it was a good idea to give him Deno a chance last year, stands to reason it’s a good idea to give a similar player a similar chance this year. So far he hasn’t performed the way you’d like, that doesn’t make it a bad plan. Patterson’s track record in the minors was pretty good and he had some runs of productivity in the majors. It’s hardly a sin for Black to give him the chances, given what he had at his disposal. If “showing confidence” goes a long way, why are you blasting Black for showing confidence in guys like Patterson or Venable?

    The Red Sox have adjusted their lineup? That’s a recipe for disaster!

    @Sean Callahan

    There was a lot of name-calling and chest-thumping in that thread. I’d classify this as spirited, but as in all things I defer to GY.


    I I think you may be confusing Seattle with Texas. By promoting him too soon the Mariners lost a full season of one of the best players in baseball at his peak. Nothing to do with the contract he signed with Texas.

  2. Regarding comments in this thread, I find the tone acceptable, although perhaps the discussion has run its course… at least the part about Black’s usage of Patterson.

    Points worth pursuing, IMO, are the issues of a) when to bring a guy up from the minors as it relates to service time (especially since, as Chase Headley demonstrated, there is a certain amount of guesswork in this) and b) how effective platooning is as a strategy in today’s game (Davey Johnson also belongs in that discussion).

    Thanks for checking, guys; much appreciated…

  3. @Tom

    Considering another commenter just said that it was Black who wanted Venable sent down, I think we can remove him from the “showing confidence” category.

    I did find today’s lineup quite appropriate given the discussion. Nice to see starting pitching looking like it’s coming back to early season form…somewhat.

  4. @Ben

    Black played Venable in 40 games. Seriously, I’m having a hard time tracking your complaints. If he wasn’t showing confidence in Venable, what was Big Willy doing out there for 151 plate appearances? Is it that Black platoons too much or too little?

    Obviously no one is suggesting that platooning is the solution for every situation. It’s not like Black has even done it much this year, the players who have been healthy enough have taken the field most of the time. It can be a good solution, especially for a team like the Padres that doesn’t have a payroll to support late-arbitration or attractive free agents at many spots.

    @GY (Platooning)

    Yep, Davey Johnson was good at it. Too bad he never went C. Montgomery Burns and pulled Strawberry against a lefty — “It’s what smart managers do to win ballgames.”

    @GY (Promotion)

    There are about 18 sides to the promotion story. Promote a lot of ‘em at the same time, let them struggle and grow together? Hold off to keep down costs during the productive years? Piecemeal it so there’s a veteran support network?


    Man on third, no outs, and the inning ends scoreless on the 1-5-4 DP. Brilliant.

  5. @ Ben & TW: all i wanted to say was that Patterson sucks. However, relative to the rest of the team, he’s OK, and that really sucks. I see no upside for him. Looks like we’ll see more of Patterson/Gonzalez at 2B with Hudson heading back onto DL. My frustration is that calling up Forsythe and having him warmed the bench with only 1 start. He maybe not good at 2B but I’d like to see him play and prove he’s not good. I see that Patterson started in RF today and that’s what he is, a super utility guy. The problem is that the Padres are using him as a starter all over the place and he’s not all that.

    Now, it’ll be interesting to see what Pepe Negro will do with Tekotte. I hope he gets to play more than Forsythe did as I think he can be what Denorfia was last season now that the latter is a starter. I hope Venable will find his power back even if that means his K rate goes up.

    re: promotion, with the Padres current season, the whole super 2 clock thing is important since there’s no reason to call up a legitimate prospect just to start his FA clock and sell a few more ticket in this losing season. Plus, regarding Rizzo, the Padres need to find out what Blanks is going to do before leapfrogging Rizzo over Blanks. Yes, Rizzo’s number is crazy like at the moment even for PCL & Tucson. Let him play down there.

    @Padres: wow, runners @3rd, no out & got stranded. sheesh!
    Leading the league in Ks and errors isn’t good, and not being able to score runs in such situation just make the losing even harder to take.