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.