I can sum up the Missions 2010 offensive season in 1 word…Disappointing. Whether it was Logan Forsythe hitting .253, James Darnell only hitting 10 HR, or Kellen Kulbacki not appearing in a game after May 28th; the Missions had a remarkably disappointing year offensively. The Missions finished with a league worst .245 BA, and 62 SB. They also finished in the bottom half in nearly every category. Yes, a lot can be attributed to playing at the pitcher friendly Wolff Field, but I am sure every player would have told you that they should have played better. Well that was 2010.
During the current offseason Jed Hoyer went out and acquired Jorge Cantu, Brad Hawpe, Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, and Cameron Maybin. While it might be difficult to look at those moves and see it directly correlating to San Antonio, it surprisingly does. With the acquisition of Maybin the Padres opening day outfield became virtually set. This means that players like Aaron (Richie) Cunningham, Luis Durango, Mike Baxter, and Cedric Hunter, who would all be vying for a spot or two on the Padres, will now more than likely start the year in Tucson. Well if they are starting in Tucson then other prospects like Blake Tekotte and Sawyer Carroll will undoubtedly end up remaining in San Antonio. The same can be said for Drew “Sparkplug” Cumberland (blocked by Cabrera in Tucson), Anthony Rizzo, and possibly Matt Clark (blocked by Blanks, though I still figure him to be in AAA as the DH). What all this means for fans of the Missions is that that the Missions get to keep some of the better pieces from last year and include a few more lynchpins. To put it into other words this team will have insane depth, and will be interesting to see who gets playing time.
1) Drew Cumberland: SS (A+/AA .350/.385/.505 18 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 21 SB, in 75 G). There is so much that can be said about Drew. He is an incredibly gifted athlete, and many people can see him being a MLB starter for years to come. That is if he can stay healthy. The good news is that all the injuries have been freak injuries. The latest of which was a fractured left patella that he suffered while sliding into the railing chasing after a foul ball. He is 100% and if healthy should very easily score 100+ runs this year. Drew is an excellent contact hitter who has a tremendous ability to hit to all side of the field and put nearly everything he swings at in play. That being said the Padres would like to see him work the count more and draw a few more walks (56 walks last 2 seasons combined). Drew might still be converted to 2B or CF, but I don’t see it happening this year. He will get some PT at 2nd with Beemer Weems or Parrino at SS, but look for him to remain as the primary SS for most of the season.
2) Dan Robertson: RF (A+ .300/.375/.418 27 2B, 9 3B, 95 RS, 59 BB, 52 K, 30 SB). The Padres had the “prototypical” #2 hitter in Cole Figueroa but sadly he was traded in the Bartlett deal. In scoping out all the other possible starters Dan is really the only other player that fits into the #2 hitter type role (great contact, fairly high average, some speed). Of course there is a good chance that Robertson will be splitting time with Carroll (or Kulbacki?) but for right now I will pencil him in as the starting RF and #2 hitter. Robertson is the little engine that could. A late round draft pick that wasn’t supposed to do much in the minors, Dan has excelled at every location he has been at. This might be the year that his numbers take a hit, but he has the eye, speed, and knowledge to put up decent numbers even during a down year.
3) Jaff Decker: LF (A+, .262/.374/.500 14 2B, 17 HR, 5 SB in 79 G). Jaff was ranked as a top 50 MLB prospect by Keith Law, and is a top 5 Padre prospect in any remotely competent experts rankings *cough Canepa cough*. Like many Padre fans I am sick and tired of the “sure he is one of the best pure hitters in all of the minors, but look he is overweight,” comments. Jaff played a majority of his rookie year in CF before going over to LF. And even that was mainly due to being surrounded by the likes of Tekotte, Robertson, and Carroll. Decker has lost a lot of the weight anyway so it should be a moot point, but wow can he hit. Decker finally started to “heat up” in August before being injured again. His numbers? An otherworldly .360/.492/.860 with 8 HR, 18 RS, 25 RBI, 11 BB, 13 K in 14 games in August. Yes, he is that good. For a kid who isn’t even legally allowed to go to a bar (turns 21 on 2/23), Jaff deserves some respect.
4) Anthony Rizzo: 1B (AA, .263/.334/.481 30 2B, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 100 K in 107 G). Speaking of top 50 prospects, the Missions get to go back 2 back with Decker and Rizzo. Rizzo came in at 38 (8 ahead of Decker) and deserves the ranking. Rizzo is a plus fielding, power hitting 1B. What is even more impressive is that Rizzo is only 21, which means he has a lot of room to grow. He might see a deflation of numbers going to the Wolff, but he has power that will travel anywhere, and will have protection up and down the lineup. His R/L splits and K numbers need to improve but he has an incredible ceiling, and should be in SD before too long. Rizzo could begin the season in AAA, but with Blanks starting every day and Matt Clark also vying for AAA Abs I see Rizzo in SA.
5) Vince Belnome: 3B (A+, .273/.397/.436 31 2B, 16 HR, 84 RBI, 102 BB, 136 K). Belnome has hit everywhere he has played, and it is hard to believe that will change too much next year. Belnome doesn’t have the raw power that is ideal out of a 3B, and was a 2B for most of college, but with a surplus of middle infielders (now minus 1 with Cole gone), and no real 3B, Belnome picked up the slack and has done a great job at being one of the most consistent members of the Padres minors. The numbers speak for themselves. Pretty good BA, moderate power, and huge BB and K numbers.
6) Blake Tekotte: CF (A+/AA, .276/ .367/.478 25 2B, 8 3B, 18 HR, 62 BB, 108 K, 28 SB, 17 CS). Tekotte could find himself batting 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th or 7th but for the purposes of this I think 6th fits pretty well. Ideally, Tekotte would be a great #2 hitter. He has a crisp line drive swing, which allows him to either hit it in the gaps or over the wall. He has the speed to take the extra base and turn routine 2B into 3B. The biggest problem thus far is that Tekotte will get “homer happy” which alters his swing and causes an influx in strikeouts. Its something Randy Smith, Tekotte, and pretty much everyone in SA knows about and is the one thing keeping him back from being an elite prospect. Defensively, Tekotte is one of the best pure CF in the Padres system. He has a + arm, great speed and an above average first step. Tekotte has already gotten a taste of hitting at Wolff field, so hopefully 2011 is the year we see him put it all together.
7) Cody Decker: DH (.270/.352/.513 35 2B, 28 HR, 90 RBI, 60 BB, 135 K). AZL MVP 2 years ago, jumped to Lake Elsinore where he led the organization in HR. It is hard to ask for more out of the just turned 24 year old. However, Decker will find it challenging to find playing time this year. Decker is one of the few Missions to hit lefties well (.285/.376/.628 last year) and that should give him an “in” if Rizzo continues to struggle off of them. Decker has tremendous power, but similar to Matt Clark last year, has a hole in his swing that causes a lot of K’s. Clark was able to respond by leading the Missions in HR last year. Hopefully Decker can put up a Clark-esque season.
8 ) Robert Lara; C (A+, .279/.369/.419 12 2B, 8 HR, 38 BB, 55 K in 75 G). Lara is one of those players that doesn’t do anything exceptional, but does everything right. He hits for a respectable average, has some pop, and calls a good game behind the plate. He is also a fairly gifted pitcher. Every blow out, Lara would be the position player willing to pitch an inning to save the pen. His #’s? 3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Awesome! Lara will split time once again, however the other C could be any number of players. We could see Canham, Collins, Zornes, or possibly even Luis Martinez depending on how AAA shakes out.
9) Andy Parrino: 2B (AA, .246/.363/.415 28 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 68 BB, 115 K) The one spot in the lineup the Padres do not really have a “stud” is at 2nd. Over the last 12 months the Padres have traded away 2 top 2B in Sogard and Figueroa, and released another in Antonelli. While David Eckstein and now Orlando Hudson has been able to hide the holes left in that area. The one spot it will be noticeable is in SA. Parrino is a solid 2B, who fits in more as a super utility player than as an actual starter. That didn’t stop him from putting up pretty good numbers last year in SA. Look for Parrino to once again bounce around the diamond, and see him share 2B with Cumberland (Weems at SS).
Others: If the lineup itself wasn’t fun enough how about an insanely deep bench. First off, I am in the dark as to what is going on with Kellen Kulbacki. The one thing I do know is that when healthy the dude can hit better than anyone I have ever seen in a Padre uniform not named Gwynn or Gonzalez (possibly Decker). I am still a believer, but those of us are becoming few and far between. Allen Dykstra is a former 1st round pick who is now blocked by both Rizzo and Cody Decker. He could be riding the bench in AA, in Elsinore (again) or find himself released. Beemer Weems was drafted as “amazing glove, no bat” then hit .253/.401/.353 in Lake Elsinore in 2009. He was injured for most of 2010, but has a good enough eye and fantastic glove at short. Sawyer Carroll is 1 year removed from being a NWL all star, and all star MVP, and also hitting .300 in 3 separate leagues. However after a disappointing 2010 and a crowed OF, he could find himself struggling for PT. Also it has to be noted that San Antonio is the first level where the pitchers have to bat. The DH is only in effect about 50% of the time, which means that there is even less room in the lineup.
Looking at the lineup, the Missions have all the makings for a fantastic 2011 season. While it might be unrealistic for anyone to expect them to replicate their 2010 numbers, this Missions team is incredibly talented and many of them will have a future in the majors. Provided key players on both side don’t suffer long injuries, 2011 should see another championship for the Missions.