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. Well hopefully this is the start of a nice career for Venable on another team. The answer is Denofria, that’s for sure. Not sure what the question is but the Padres are in love with him and weren’t with Venable.

  2. I’m not a Bud Black basher by any means, but he isn’t doing what he used to do: when he got a new player, he’d throw him out there to get his feet wet.

    Forsythe’s time was his first in the majors, and I expected him to get a start so he’d have a half-inning in the field before his first major league at-bat. Instead, Bud used him as a pinch hitter his first 3 ABs, and that’s a tough job for a veteran, let alone a kid with first-game jitters.

    That’s a good way to bury a young player, in my opinion. Forsythe was an injury replacement, but Tekotte may be up for awhile, so I hope Bud does the right thing and gives him a start at home to get his first AB. If that start is the day game Wednesday, I’ll be pulling for Bud to leave Tekotte on the bench tonight and not use him as a pinch hitter.

  3. phew… I cant say that I expected the padres to match last years performance given the player turnover, but I didn’t expect them to play like a bunch of pagan ritual sacrifice victims(no heart).

  4. Meh the move makes sense, Tekotte probably projects as a 4th OF so the Padres are just pulling him into that spot early and getting him use to being productive in limited ABs day in and day out.

    In other words Tekotte = Denorfia 2.0 with a slightly better glove.

  5. This is hardly the first time Cunningham has been slighted. Anyone have any ideas why he seems to be out of favor?

  6. Maybe the Padres are in love with the fact Denorfia has actually been productive and not so much with the fact Venable has been awful.

  7. @TMM

    It’s defense. They probably didn’t want to clear the 40 man roster spot and risk losing Deduno, but Cunningham is not a quality CF. They definitely don’t need another RH outfielder. It feels like more of a roster construction issue than slighting anybody.

    There’s a good chance Cunningham is the starting LF by August and on Opening Day 2012. That would soothe his feelings.

  8. @TW The way its looking Blanks or Decker will be the starting LF in 2012. Cunningham has a better shot at RF IMO.

  9. @Pat

    Agree. They gave Venable a long leash this season. His component numbers are encouraging, really, but it’s still a game of production. BB/K rate steady, higher LD and GB rate, which should play well at Petco, but you’d normally see a higher BABIP and ISO with that many line drives. And while I may be inferring way too much from a couple of sound bites and news comments, maybe he needed the kick in the rear.

  10. I hate for the team to give away outs but at this point, the Padres should bunt runners over whenever said runners reach 2B with no outs. Three lead-off doubles led only to 1 run last night in which the situation was runners at the corners with no outs.

    Back to situational hitting, guys. Our team OPS with RISP is .628 v. .712 in NL (.711 in ML); with 2 outs is even worse .529 v. .667 in NL (.663 in ML).

    Interesting read on Will Venable, who’s switched his approach at the plate this season:

  11. @Steve C

    Blanks has a long way to go to prove he’s still capable of playing the OF. I’m seeing the big man as trade bait. Hey, the Twins could use a DH who isn’t a member of AARP (no disrespect to the Amazing Thome) and they sound willing to part with Kevin Slowey.

    Decker’s hitting, but this front office seems careful about service time. I think GY has mentioned this before, or it came from Rany J or Rob Neyer, but small market teams may benefit from making sure their prospects are “overripe,” thus keeping them cheaper through their peak years. He’s a legitimate candidate, though, no argument there.

  12. @Didi

    Jinx. You owe me a Coke.

  13. Cunnigham was slighted cause he’s a righty as is Denorfia so that would give Black no good reason to juggle them. With the lefty it gives Black an excuse to do the shuffle.

    @Pat as for Denorfia being productive, well yes, he’s getting hits with no one on, but not really scoring or knocking them in.

  14. @Ben – and Deno can control that how?

  15. @TW: yup, a coke is being chilled at the moment just waiting for your thirsty day. :)

    @Ben: regarding Denorfia being unproductive w/ RISP (OPS .606), well, he only has 16 PA in that situation, too small a sample to decide whether he is or isn’t. His teammates with similar PA so far: Rob Johnson (21 PA, .195 OPS), A. Gonzalez (19 PA, .743 OPS), E. Patterson (17 PA, .378 OPS).

    You want to pick on anybody, pick on Hawpe. Amongst the Padres with minimum 30 PA w/ RISP his .408 OPS in 39 PA is the lowest. Highest is Headley’s OPS of .975 in 40 PA. Ludwick is second with .769 with the most PA of 54.

  16. Ben, he has an OPS+ of 151; granted that is in very little playing time thus far, but when he’s been on the field he’s been exceptionally productive. I think you and I may have rather different ideas on how to measure productivity though. Driving in runners is largely a matter of opportunity, as both Steve C. and Didi have pointed out. Scoring, other than via the HR, is also significantly impacted by your teammates. I prefer to focus on measures of productivity which isolate a player’s contributions from those of his teammates. IOW, not raw runs and RBI, but OPS+, or RC, or WAR (not quite hep to the wOBA yet, but a lot of people like it). Of course, ymmv.

  17. I’m glad they’re trying something, but it scares me that this might not be anywhere near the bottom of how bad this team gets. We’ve already traded away our only real players of value (Peavy and Adrian), and i’m not convinced any of the players we got will become all stars (I know its early, but Poreda can’t throw strikes, Richard looks like he’s peaked as a #3-4 starter, and the guys from BOS haven’t proven anything yet). We have no money to sign any plus players that don’t play middle INF. And we have basically no position players in our system to get excited about (maybe i’m being a little hard on a few guys, but this is a farm system that has basically produced one “plus” position player (Kalil) in the last decade). Over the next 2-3 years, is there anyone in the organization not named Cameron Maybin that’s going to hit more than 20HR in a year? Maybe we should call Texas, and see if they’ll take a setup man and a FA in a walk year for some studs again…

  18. can we just get rid of hawpe already… jeeze but he can’t field his position nor can he hit…

    and they have him hitting 4th.. omg?

  19. d’oh, can i take that back….

  20. @steve – I agree with your assesment on Tekotte. He looks like a solid 4th outfielder with a 3rd outfielder ceiling. If the Padres get incredibly lucky he could become a .290/.360/.450 type with decent speed and good glove.
    @too many mikes – Tekotte is a better fielder with a little more power
    @Adam – rizzo, blanks, darnell, j decker all could hit 20 hr’s, I think the Padres future is bright, especially if they capitalize on this upcoming draft. I have been studying the Padres farm system for the last 7 years or so and this is by far the strongest group of players they have had in that time and probably even longer.

  21. @John, no need to take that back just on a HR. Hawpe is still not good.

    seriously, Padres, we have Patterson as a PH? that’s what we got, geez, he’s even suckier than Hawpe.

    Two darned hit all night…great hitting Padres…NOT.

  22. just love watching Maybin play CF. wow.

    nice comeback by Bell tonight. let’s go Padres score a run to win this game!

  23. the good news is that Bartlett is hitting about as well as Jeter…the bad news is that Jeter sucks this season and worse than Brendan Ryan.

    btw, Cantu needs to go also. cut him already, can’t play 3B, no good at 1B, hitting crappier and crappier. I’d rather just give that role to Logan Forsythe and be done with mr. Can’t-U-hit.

  24. @Didi careful, last time I mentioned that Patterson sucked someone came back with some statistic that supposedly showed him as being productive.

    The truth of it is that the Padres offense sucks and that can be blamed from the top on down. The GM filled the roster with the worst value for their dollar, the manager is picking lineups out of a hat, and the players aren’t even earning the league minimum they’re making. It’s a shame they won’t bring up the AAA players who actually want to be here and will give 120%. But hey, the club is still turning a profit (despite what they claim) so we know things will not be changing anytime soon.

  25. @Ben

    You can stick your fingers in your ears or cover your eyes, but Patterson has been a productive bench player AT THE PLATE this year. Not terribly productive, but hardly anybody is with 72 plate appearances.

    If all these players are as bad as you say, how can you then jump on Black for platooning them? You don’t even acknowledge the injuries. The players who have been healthy — Ludwick, Headley, Maybin — have played almost every day. Would it be better if he ran Headley into the ground like he did last year?

    Bench players are notoriously hard to predict. Last year Torrealba and JHairston were huge contributors for us. This year the former can’t hit, the latter isn’t hitting any better than Patterson and can’t field, either. Everyone knew the bench was suspect because we spent most of the available money on the starting middle infielders, but even if they’d spent more, there’s no guarantee it would have worked better. Certainly bringing back Yorvit and Hairston wouldn’t have helped.

  26. Don’t really understand the love for Rizzo over Blanks.

    As stated above Petco suppresses homers for lefties by 41%. A healthy Blanks seems a much more attractive prospect to me. Keep Rizzo in AAA for another year and you should be able to trade him for a good haul, while at least Blanks has a chance to excel here.

  27. @DMG

    There’s more to 1b production than homers at home, though. Rizzo’s 3 years younger, his elbow hasn’t been repaired, he’s a better defender, his swing (from what people who know how to evaluate it a lot better than me) has fewer holes. I’m not convinced Rizzo will be a better major league hitter than Blanks, but I wouldn’t let Petco’s effect on left-handers overwhelm his other possible advantages.

    You rarely see prospects traded for a good haul. More likely you’d see him traded for a major leaguer.


    Agree that those prospects could all hit 20HR even playing in Petco. More importantly, that they could all be 110 OPS+ hitters, with a couple of them possibly much higher. The farm weakness right now is starting pitching, and this sounds like a good draft to address that.

  28. @Tom So the funny that Patterson is being defended on a post about Venable being sent down because he’s not producing isn’t being seen? And it’s not 72 PA for Patterson, these are his 4 year averages he’s basically re-producing. Patterson also had 30 ABs before Hudson went down with an injury, that’s why I’m jumping on Black. He falls in love with bench players and continues to put them no matter how poorly they’re performing.

    But I could be mistaken, cause after all whatever Black is doing is working perfectly. Ludwick had 13 RBIs in a 7 game stretch batting 6th (and 5th) so it makes absolute sense to jockey the lineup around and move him to 3rd. Cause if it’s working, it must need to be fixed.

  29. @Ben

    Venable had a 70 OPS+ as a starting outfielder and he had minor league options remaining. Patterson has an 84 OPS+ as a bench player and doesn’t have options remaining.

    30 plate appearances is nothing. NOTHING. Ludwick barely had a hit in his first 30, now he’s the best hitter on the team. It wouldn’t surprise me if Patterson is DFA’d, possibly soon, but who was going to take those at-bats? Cantu? Gonzalez? Pick your poison, none of the bench players besides Denorfia have hit at all. Is there some mysterious 26th player on the roster who would have done better?

    Wait, Ludwick produced at TWO different spots over that 7 game stretch? But that’s impossible! The lineup was juggled during that time! No way he could have hit well under those conditions!

    Black’s management isn’t causing the starting pitchers to perform badly, the defense to avoid turning routine plays into outs, or the hitters to strike out. He’s not platooning much more, if any, than he did last year, when SS and 2b were revolving doors, when the two catchers split time, or when the LF with the most PA’s only had 336. It worked then because the players performed better. They weren’t crushed by platooning.

  30. @Tom – i agree the system needs starting pitchers… loaded with good RP’s.

    @Ben – I hope the Padres start trading and releasing the dead weight. I want to see what the homegrown young guys like rizzo, darnell, and decker can do.

    Does anyone know why Castro is struggling so much this year? Is he a candidate to move to the bullpen at some point?

  31. @PadresFuture

    The front office has to balance “seeing what the homegrown young guys” can do with “making sure those young guys, if they’re any good, will be affordable as long as possible.” They also don’t want to sicken the fans. Not an easy position.

    Castro’s back in extended spring training. His K rate took a big hit last year, the San Antonio park may have masked the first signs of these struggles. I believe the Padres have said he’s injured, but that could be a real owwie or a cover story for mechanical / mental struggles. There’s always been some buzz about Castro possibly fitting in the bullpen, but it seems like scouts say that about a lot of pitchers. Everybody pitches better in the bullpen, it would be a huge blow if he can’t start.

  32. You’re right Tom, I have no idea why this site is so negative on the Padres when everything is obviously fine. The stats are there for the players but for some odd reason it’s not putting any stats in the W column.

  33. @PadresFuture The team right now is full of has-beens and never-will-bes. The latter is something both the GM and manager absolutely love for some odd reason.

  34. @Ben

    Exaggerating and misconstruing what other posters write doesn’t make your points any stronger.

    Nobody’s saying everything is fine. Many players are performing very poorly, but if frequent lineup changes caused bad performance, why didn’t we see it last year? Why didn’t we see it with dozens of great teams whose managers platooned all the time?

    Patterson’s not playing well, but as a hitter he’s hardly a problem compared to the average bench guy or to other Padres.

  35. @tom – thanks for the update on Castro.
    Maybe its about time the front office stop worrying about how long their homegrown talent will be affordable and worry more about playing the best players they have. The question has to be asked… when do the Padres want to win? I am ok with gradually bringing up the young guys this year.

  36. @PadresFuture

    Wasn’t much of an update. :)

    If the front office doesn’t pay attention to what the owner will pay, we’re in deep trouble. We can all hope, and even expect, the payroll to go up as the sale is completed and the new TV deal comes into play. But the payroll isn’t set by the front office, it’s set by the owner. It’s a limit the FO has to deal with, same as the 25 man roster, waiver rules, minor league options, etc.

    Seattle learned the perils of overly fast promotion the hard way with Arod, and there are other cases as well. If you want the team to win for as long as possible, you may be better off delaying the promotions instead of accelerating them. It’s not a fun thought and it could have consequences in the ticket line, but if players (position players especially) peak between ages 26 and 29, then a small payroll team wants as many players as possible to be that old and cheap, i.e. before or early in arbitration. Not such a concern for the college kids, a bigger issue for Decker and Rizzo.

  37. @Tom

    Last year wasn’t perfect. Despite the miracle they pulled off by not being in the bottom of the division, they still didn’t make the playoffs. As for the great platoon teams of the times, they’re more a rarity than the norm.

  38. @Ben

    Again, nobody said last year was perfect. Black managed the same way and the team won 90 games. Platooning and frequent lineup changes don’t cause bad play.

    Casey Stengel won 7 World Series and went to another 3 in a 12 year period and he platooned all the time. Earl Weaver had a .583 winning percentage over 17 years doing it. If you have a lot of very good position players it’s not the preferred strategy. Do the Padres have a lot of very good position players?

    And again, you haven’t explained what YOU’D have done differently given the roster that Black has at his disposal. You know the choices he faced when Hudson went down — Patterson or Gonzalez. You know the catchers he’s had to use since Hundley’s injury. You know his choices for pinch-hitting duty — Cantu or Hawpe, whoever hadn’t started, Patterson, Gonzalez, Rob Johnson. Point out the good options there.

  39. TW – you did miss one 2B option … Forsythe (for a while, anyway) … I think his riding of the pine is the source of some of the frustration being vented here …

  40. @LM

    That may be the source of some frustration, but if it’s a source of Ben’s, it’s inconsistent with his theme of “playing different guys makes us suck.”

    Can we really fault Black for not playing a guy 5-6 weeks into the season who has never had a major league at-bat and, by most unbiased reports, isn’t a very good second baseman? If he did it in August, 10 back and last in the division, that’s a different story. Patterson and Gonzalez weren’t setting the world on fire when Forysthe came up to practice seed-chewing, but that’s a choice almost all managers would make. Black sticking with Ludwick and Hawpe worked out, sticking with Patterson and Venable not so much.

  41. @Tom

    I would’ve fought against those players from Spring Training on. A 4 year journeyman with a .210 career average isn’t going to have a breakout year and fill a bench full of that and I’d hope the manager had enough to speak up against it. Black’s opinion is taken when figuring out rosters and if he was lobbying for minor league players we’d be seeing them. I’d much rather see a young player giving his all excited to be up than someone who is wondering which team he’s going to be on next year. At least the rookie has an excuse for hitting .190.

    Platooning and lineup changes don’t cause bad field play, but they do cause slumps and when you’re on an offensively challenged team. And if you don’t know not only where you’re going to bat but if you’re going to play it makes it tough to prep.

    As for the managers you named, I can’t argue with their skill but considering he died before I was born and before a lot of the stats that are constantly referenced on this site were figured out I’d say that’s not that valid of reference.

    So basically what I would’ve done different than Black was voiced my opinion, both pre-roster and now. Even if that cost me my job. A manager is not someone you want “just collecting a paycheck”. Last time there was passion on the field was Morganna the Kissing Bandit was on it.

  42. A page worth reading:

    Take particular note of the very first one, “Have a point worth making…”


    I’m thinking the thrid bullet under Don’t may apply as well.

  44. Awesome, first week posting and I’m being called a troll.

  45. @Ben

    You mean journeymen like Chris Denorfia, who had an unimpressive career and a major surgery in his past before the Padres gave him a chance last year?

    Why would you want the bench to be composed of players who haven’t polished their skills yet? The best thing for any young position player is to be on the field everyday. We didn’t need guys like Forsythe or Cabrera sitting on the bench, we need them to improve, and the way to do that is to play.

    Stengel and Weaver (and others) figured out how to run winning teams. The measurements invented over the last 20 years have nothing to do with their success.

    Okay, so you’d have committed career seppuko to prevent Patterson or whoever from being on the team, even though players like him HAVE succeeded in bench roles. Say Black did that. That’s not the question. The question is what would you have done differently given the players he actually did have? Would you have kept playing Hawpe for the supposed “consistency” benefit, even when he had a near-zero OPS+?

  46. @Tom

    Isn’t that what happened with Ludwick? Aren’t the better offensive players the ones getting consistent ABs? Headley, Maybin, Ludwick, Bartlett. Instead of letting Venable keep working at it they started benching him and gave him the boot. Crawford is struggling majorly for Boston so they dropped him in the lineup, but they’re still getting him in there to get his ABs to work his way out of it. Yeah you can say it’s because it has to do with the amount of money they’re giving him, but showing confidence in your players goes a long way.

    Far too many people in Black’s regime are getting 2 ABs per game and it always seems to be our “problem areas”. Pulling one .200 hitter to put in another .200 hitter isn’t going to bring about winning change.

    BTW, The journeyman I was referring to was Patterson.

  47. I recall a thread like this that was the straw that broke the IGD’s back. How long until Geoff reverts his comments policy back to what it was prior to the 3rd of February?

  48. @Ben- I agree with you that Buddy Black has to speak up and he has. Jed Hoyer said himself that the reason Venable was sent down was per Blacks request to play Denorfia everyday. I have seen enough of Venable to know that he is inconsistant. He will likely end up being a journeyman. Time to see if Denorfia can be consistant enough playing full time to warrant bringing him back next year.

    @Tom- One more year of not paying AROD $25/year shouldn’t sink a franchise, if so then they should have never gave him that contract and traded him prior… That mistake had nothing to do with AROD being called up too soon, the mistake was in not trading him regardless of age. If any of the Padres farm hands can produce like AROD then bring them up NOW! Worrying about 5-6 years later now is ridiculous. Giving bad longterm contracts is a whole different story and does warrant management being careful, but these young guys don’t need long term contracts now.