There are several intriguing stories in the Padres minor-league system — the emergence of Beamer Weems (giving up switch-hitting was a good idea, huh?) and international signee Luis Domoromo, the sudden glut of third basemen, the signing of first-round pick Cory Spangenberg — but today we’ll focus on a few items I’ve been tracking…
Jaff Decker’s Slump
The 21-year-old lefty-swinging left fielder is hitting .228/.374/.434 on the season. Despite the low batting average, that is nice production. Decker is even hitting well (.282/.440/.466) at San Antonio’s Wolff Stadium, a notoriously difficult environment. The downside is that he isn’t doing much on the road (.184/.316/.408).
The further downside is that since a torrid April, Decker’s bat has disappeared:
Month(s) PA* BA OBP* SLG HR% BB% K% Apr 98 .316 .449 .759 8.2 18.4 26.5 May & Jun 188 .181 .335 .262 1.1 17.6 27.1
* MiLB.com doesn’t provide HBP or SF for batters (man, I miss MinorLeagueSplits.com), so the PA and OBP numbers are guesstimates but should be close enough to make the point. Stats are through games of June 14.
Decker’s BB% and K% haven’t changed much; the only thing he’s doing differently now is not hitting the bejeezus out of the baseball when he makes contact. His track record suggests this is probably a blip, but when you’re striking out more than a quarter of the time and sporting a sub-.300 SLG, it’s time to make an adjustment.
Oramas and Blanks
Left-handed pitcher Juan Oramas (21) and 1B/LF Kyle Blanks (24) are healthy and were recently promoted to Triple-A Tucson. Oramas missed the first several weeks of the season with shoulder issues but returned to active duty in May and made a few starts at San Antonio before joining the T-Padres last week. On June 13, he made his Triple-A debut at Reno and got shelled.
I’m not sure how much of a prospect Oramas really is. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but I like his youth and dominance (career 9.9 K/9 in 320 IP). As with all things Padres, we watch and hope.
As for Blanks, he has played three games each at first base and in left field. He’s off to a blistering .391/.417/.696 start (love me some small samples), and our pal John Conniff likes what he sees, noting that Blanks “seems to be much more aggressive at the plate and moved very well in his start in the outfield.”
I have concerns about Blanks in the outfield — I worry about his health — but with Anthony Rizzo now in San Diego, first base doesn’t appear to be an option… at least not with the Padres. A trade still seems likely to me.
Hagerty and Fuentes
Third baseman Jedd Gyorko (22) has been getting all the attention at Lake Elsinore (and deservedly so — he’s hitting a nearly unfathomable .384/.445/.663), but catcher Jason Hagerty (23) is no slouch himself. Hagerty is a bit old for the California League, and some folks wonder about his defense, but there is no questioning the switch-hitter’s offensive abilities.
Hagerty is hitting .330/.398/.578 this year. He is showing more power this season than last (.248 ISO vs .192), but at the expense of plate discipline:
Year ISO BB% K% 2010 .192 16.5 19.5 2011 .248 8.5 19.4
No change in strikeouts, but a dramatic decrease in walks… Still, Hagerty is improving as the season progresses:
Month(s) PA* BA OBP* SLG HR% BB% K% Apr 78 .296 .346 .479 2.6 6.4 26.9 May & Jun 133 .351 .429 .640 3.8 9.8 15.0
* Again, PA and OBP are estimates.
This is encouraging. We’ll have to check back in after the season to see whether Hagerty is able to sustain his current levels of production. If so, he just might be something.
Less encouraging is the bat of center fielder Reymond Fuentes (20). He is three years younger than Hagerty and at a different stage of development, but at some point, a guy has to produce.
Given that Fuentes hit just .270/.328/.377 at Low-A ball last season, his advancement to High-A on arriving in the Padres organization (he was the third guy to come over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade — certainly the fastest and the one most related to Carlos Beltran) seems a bit aggressive. The fact that his offensive game hasn’t progressed at all this year lends further support to that idea, although with kids that young, sometimes the light bulb just goes on one day.
That being said, Fuentes isn’t hitting as well Cedric Hunter did at the same age in the Cal League:
Player Year PA BA OBP SLG BB% K% Hunter 2008 641 .318 .362 .442 6.6 7.3 Fuentes 2011 269 .299 .351 .357 6.3 20.8
Granted, Fuentes steals a lot of bases (28 in 58 games, at a 77.8% success rate) and is considered a superior defender, but that empty .300 troubles me.
You know this already but it’s worth reiterating that statistical output seldom tells the entire story. Fuentes is a 2009 first-round pick and a good athlete. I remain skeptical of his ability to translate that athleticism into useful baseball skills, but as always, I hope I’m wrong.
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- Harmon Killebrew and “Versatility” (Baseball Analysts). Mark Armour examines the value of defensive utility.
- Mistaken identity leads to Angels’ fan dream (OC Register). Someone thought he was ex-Padre Mark “It Was a Strike, Dammit!” Langston and let him hang out in the owner’s suite, where he got to meet Reggie Jackson, among others. [h/t BBTF]
- The Lowdown on Diagnostic Imaging (Baseball Prospectus). Here’s a useful primer on tools used to diagnose injuries.
- Introducing HR/OFFB Park Factors (Hardball Times). Which MLB ballpark has the lowest ratio of homers to outfield fly balls? Hint: It isn’t located in San Diego.
- Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium (Stadium Journey). Speaking of ballparks, Mike Schwartzer reviews the Tucson Padres’ home venue. With seats behind home plate running $10.50, what’s not to love?
- The Deserving All-Stars: NL Edition (FanGraphs). Dave Cameron likes Chase Headley over Mike Adams as the Padres’ rep, which would be an interesting choice if I gave two snorts about the All-Star Game.
- Night owls see 45 point batting average boost under the lights (Ars Technica). One of many reasons I would make a terrible baseball player: I start falling asleep around the fifth inning. [h/t BBTF]
- A Relief Pitcher of Beer (Washington Beer Blog). Right-hander Chris Ray has brewed his own beer that is being sold at Safeco Field to benefit service members and wounded warriors. How can I continue my innate hatred of all things Mariners when one of their pitchers does something so cool? [h/t BBTF]
- Pitchers’ Roundtable – the 1980s (FanGraphs). David Laurila chats with six former big-league pitchers, including Padres skipper Bud Black and ex-Padre Greg Maddux.