by Ben Davey

The final leg of the offseason tour lands us in beautiful Portland, Oregon. Last year the Beavers finished a dissapointing 60-84, good for last place in the Pacific division of the PCL, and good enough for last place in the PCL. 2009 was really a year to forget if you are a Beaver fan.  2010 should be a different story, and it all begins with the offense.

Last year Portland finished dead last in BA (.251), 15th (of 16) in OBP (.328), 14th in SLG (.390), 14th in SLG (.718), 15th in SB (60), 15th in RS (590) …..I think you get the picture. The offense was BAD last year. Sure you can atribute some of it to the revolving door between Portland and San Diego Padres, where top prospects like Kyle Blanks and Will Venable left Portland with gaping holes in the lineup. Those holes were uhhh “filled” by guys like Russ Adams, Val Pascucci, and Danny Putnam. Well maybe its a good thing that the 2010 Beavers will only return 2 starters from last years horrendous team (Huffman and Antonelli). Unlike the 2009 edition, you can use words like “athletic, speedy, talented, and FUTURE,” to describe members of the 2010 Beaver team. At the very least the Beaver team should begin the year with a fairly talented group of batters looking to beef up their stats before getting a shot in Petco.

Your 2010 starting lineup (batting, age on opening day):

1 CF: Luis Durango (Switch, 24) In 2009 Portland stole 60 bases as a team. In 2009 Durango stole 44 bases by himself. Durango is your prototypical leadoff hitter. He has tremendous speed, hits for a good average, can draw a walk, and is probably one of the best drag bunters in baseball. Durango sports a career .328/.422/.385 line, which is impressive for a leadoff hitter. Durango needs to keep on doing what he is doing, get on base, steal bases, score runs; however Beaver fans beware if he is going to be more than a speedy PR in the big leagues he needs to hit for SOME sort of power. Durangos 3 lifetime HR in 406 minor league games, is a problem, but for right now speed and a solid group behind him will help Durango be top 10-20 in BA, OBP, SB, and RS.

2 SS: Lance Zawadzki (switch, 24)
Madfriars #7 prospect, he has the potential to be a 5 tool prospect. But of course potential is a big word. He hit 15 HR and stole 17 bases last year and has the potential for more. .285/.369/.456 last year and should improve upon that in the hitter friendly PCL. He is an above average defender at both 2nd and short, and the only thing keeping him from being the future Padres 2B/SS is averaging a K a game. If he can improve on pitch selection he will become a household name in both Portland and San Diego pretty quickly. For 2010 look for good average, power, speed, and good D.

3 3B: Logan Forsythe (RHB, 23)
Madfriars #5 prospect. Yes there are talks everywhere about Forsythe moving to 2B, but for the 2010 season he will mainly be a 3B. Of the 4 major 3B (Headley, Forsythe, Darnell, and Rincon) he is probably the best defender at 3rd (although he is maybe a tick above average). Offensively he is SANDY BALL…aka patiently aggressive. Last year hit .300/.429/.440 across 2 leagues, while being top 5 in all of baseball in walks (102). He also stole 11 bases and hit 11 HR. He has always been a high BA high OBP guy. The big question is does he have enough power to stay at 3B, or better yet does he have enough power to stay at 3rd when Darnell is breathing down his neck? Whether or not he remains at 3rd is a different topic, but look for high BA, high OBP, and some amount of power and speed out of this top prospect.

4 RF: Aaron Cunningham (RHB, 23) Here is the big question with Cunningham 4A suspect, or MLB prospect? He has given his time in the PCL spending most of the last year and a half going against the Beavers as a member of the Sacramento River Cats. Last year in 83 PCL games he hit .302/.372/.479 11 HR, 11 SB…which was a tick under his average numbers in the minors. The only problem is in 45 big league games (over 2 years) Aaron has given a .211/.271/338 line. Many scouts think this is just due to his lack of playing everyday, but we wont know till he starts for the Padres. As of right now he is slated to be the Beavers RF but he could beat out Wil Venable which would put Will in this spot. If it is Aaron though expect similar numbers to last year, which would have ranked him as Portlands best hitter last year haha.

5 LF: Chad Huffman (RHB, 24) Huffman far and away led the Beavers in HR last year with 20, and also won the PCL HR derby. He has MLB power, the question is does he have the BA and OBP that can translate to the bigs. Maybe he just needs some protection, we will see when the season begins, but look for Chad to be near the front in HR.

6 1B: Craig Cooper (RHB, 25) Cooper led the Missions last year in almost every stat hitting .312/.405/451 in the tough Texas League. Cooper has a pretty good eye at the plate and hits for a good average. Baring severe injuries he should be the starting 1B for the entire year in Portland, and wouldnt be surprised if he is there for the next couple years.

7 C: Mitch Canham (LHB, 25)
(also Dusty Ryan) Canham was billed, and might still pan out to be a Jason Kendell type of catcher. When he was drafted and up through last year we heard “good BA, great eye, some power, surprising speed, needs to work on D” Well we didnt see much, if any of that last year in SA where he hit .263/.339/.371. The talent and ceiling is still there the question is will he hit well enough to start, and whether his D is passable. If not/splitting time will be Dusty Ryan who hit .257/.359/.455 in the nonhitter friendly IL (AAA).

8 2B: Matt Antonelli (RHB, turns 25 on opening day) 2 years ago, a fan asked Keith Law who would you rather have Dustin Pedroia (after his rookie year) or Matt Antonelli who had just come off a year where he hit .307/.404/.491 in High A and AA. Well Law said he would rather have Antonelli, because he thought Matt would be a more complete player with average, power, and speed. Hmmm…. as Padre fans dont we wish we could have made that trade. Matt has struggled and batled injuries the past 2 years and he went from #2 prospect in the Padres org and top 50 overall, to playing for a starting job. Anton has the talent and the ceiling to be an all star 2B in the major leagues, unfortunately this is his last chance to show to the Padres and the Beavers that he has any chance of reaching that ceiling. IF he can than wow! if not…well it just becomes another sad story of a Padre bust.

Also making appearance will be Mike Baxter, Bret Dowdy, and Sean Kazmar, who everyone knows from last year. Any way you look at it HUGE improvement from last year, as the Padres great drafts in 07-09 are reaching AAA and soon to be the majors. I’ll finish off with the pitchers *gulp* at the end of the week, and then get to sleepers/picks to click (thanks Hawk CWS) in the next few weeks.