An administrative note

In April of 2009, I stepped down as owner of Friar Forecast and handed the keys to Daniel Gettinger. Daniel promptly led this Website through its most successful period. In fact, Daniel has been the top dog in the Friar Forecast headquarters for about as long as I have. He’s had a huge impact on this blog and I’d like to thank him for that.

We have decided to again switch roles as Daniel has gotten busy with Real Life Things. Not much should change, really, but I figure it’s at least something you, the reader, may want to know. Daniel will still be posting. Ben is always around. And hopefully I’ll have more time to start writing again myself.

I’d like to thank you for your continued support of Friar Forecast and I hope that you join us in the future. Hopefully, we can get things revved up in time for what should be a very interesting 2011 season.

Thanks again,
Myron

A lesson in regression

In 2009, Everth Cabrera hit a very respectable .255/.342/.361 as the San Diego Padres every day shortstop. Even more impressive, though, was the fact that he did it as a 22 year old making the rare jump from Single-A to the majors, thanks to the Rule 5 draft.

After last season’s stellar rookie campaign, it was hard not to get excited about Cabrera’s future. He put up a .700 OPS as a 22 year old shortstop in Petco Park, with very little professional experience. He’s fast, athletic, and showed potential in the field.

If he was two wins above replacement in 2009, let’s say, how good could he be in his prime, at age 26 or 27? Four or five WAR, easily.

The problem with this type of analysis, and it’s a trap that we often fall into, I think, it that Cabrera’s 2009 performance is merely a microcosm of his game as a whole. It’s just a sample of 100 games played, in the context of the 2009 season and everything that came with it.

Cabrera could have been particularly lucky or simply been playing well above his head for a number of games. Or, perhaps, his performance in 2009 was indicative of his true talent. We don’t know, for sure, and we can only estimate.

Given what we know, both about Cabrera’s past and baseball players in general, his 2009 season was largely fluky. I mean, guys just don’t make that kind of jump that seamlessly. And based on Cabrera’s relatively brief minor league track record, there isn’t much of a reason to believe he’d be an exception.

Perhaps as expected, 2010 was nearly a complete reversal for Cabrera, as both the injury bug and poor performance (.208/.279/.278, 241 PAs) hit hard. Last year’s season was more representative of what we may have anticipated in 2009, a deer-in-the-headlights look from someone not quite ready to perform at this level.

With Jason Bartlett taking over at short, however, Cabrera will have time to hone his craft in the minors, making up for some much needed development that was missed due to the early call-up. If he’s able to get healthy and make some improvements in both parts of his game (hitting and fielding), he still has a good chance to be a productive major league shortstop. But if you were expecting a star, based on his flashy 2009 debut, you might end up disappointed.

Previewing the 2011 Tuscon Padres: Pitching

Welcome to Tucson! The Padres say goodbye to the Rose City and hello to a place considerably hotter. The biggest question might be will AAA fans show up for a new team who only plans on staying there for a few years? Either way the Padres’ AAA affiliate really can’t get much worse than last year when they finished 59-85. The Beavers pitching wasn’t the biggest culprit as they finished in the middle of the pack in nearly all pitching categories. However, outside of the bullpen, no pitcher had anything close to a good year. The good news is that many of the “organizational depth” pitchers that have come through AAA in the past few years are slowly being replaced by legitimate prospects. The interesting thing in terms of predictions will be which “organizational depth” pitchers the Padres keep, and which ones are released during spring training (for instance Josh Geer, Nathan Culp, and Will Inman are all still part of the Padres organization).

The rotation:
1) Simon Castro RHP (AA, 7-6, 2.92 ERA, 129.2 IP, 107 H, 36 BB, 107 K). Castro was last years #1 prospect in the Padres farm system, and also got the honor of being the starter for the world team in the MLB Futures game. At 22 it is hard to say that those numbers were disappointing, but most of us expected to see a bit more from this breakout Dominican pitcher. Anyone who is reading this already knows anything and everything about Simon Castro so I don’t need to say much else.
2) Cory Luebke LHP (AA/AAA 10-1, 2.68 ERA, 114 IP, 83 H, 29 BB, 88 K). Luebke will be given a shot to win the 5th starter spot with the Padres, but my guess is that when the dust is settled Luebke will at least begin the year in AAA. After a horrendous 1st half in 2008 that saw Luebke go 3-6 with a 6.84 ERA in Elsinore, Luebke has turned things around and become the pitcher the Padres thought he could be when they drafted him in the supplemental 1st round. Luebke is extremely smart, knows how to pitch, and keeps the ball down. He will probably begin the year in AAA but don’t expect him here for long. Lueke may not have the ceiling of Castro, Kelly, or a few of the other Padre pitching prospects, but a #4 type starter + left handed + Petco = double digit wins and a 3.6 ERA.
3) Jeremy Hefner RHP (AA 11-8, 2.95 ERA, 167.2 IP, 156 H, 51 BB, 115 K). Hefner is the pitcher who has been called, on multiple occasions, “the forgotten man.” For the past few years he has been stuck in a rotation featuring top prospects such as the 2 above him, Wynn Pelzer (now with Baltimore) and Corey Kluber (now with Cleveland). Luckily the Padres did not forget him when they added him to the 40 man roster during the offseason. Unspectacular but constantly efficient Hefner has an opportunity to prove the 2010 was not a fluke by putting up solid numbers in Tucson. At best Hefner is a #4 MLB starter, at worst he should be a 4A starter. Either or means that we should see a good season from Hefner.
4) Erik Davis RHP (A/AA/AAA 14-3, 3.52 ERA, 143.1 IP, 134 H, 48 BB, 133 K). There is a chance Davis starts the year in San Antonio, but when you go 4-0 with a 2.75 ERA, in 7 starts in AA I think he will get a long look at cracking the AAA staff. Add the fact that Davis has led the organization in wins 2 years in a row now (16-6 in 2009). Think of Davis as a right handed Wade Leblanc. The change isn’t as good, but the rest of his pitches are slightly better. He might end up fitting into the mold of a Josh Geer but definitely deserves a shot at either San Antonio or Tucson.
5) Will Inman RHP (AAA, 2-4, 3.61 ERA, 62.1 IP, 54 H, 27 BB, 52 K) Poor Will Inman. 4 years ago he was voted as the top pitcher in all of class A (by milb.com) after going 10-2, with a 1.71 ERA, and 134 K compared to 24 BB in 110 IP. Inman was the cornerstone of the Linebrink deal, and while we knew his stuff wouldn’t equate to all star MLB pitcher we all thought that he would end up being more than we have seen. Inman was actually posting his best year in the PCL before the flu and an elbow strain ended his season. Inman has always gotten by with great deception and a plus curve, however in AAA an average fastball can still be belted a long way with or without deception. Combine that with non fluid mechanics and the walks have soared. This might be Inman’s last year with the Padres. If he can’t put up the numbers he will be wearing another uniform by the end of 2011.

Others of note: Josh Geer is still hanging around. Sam Deduno will bounce between starting and relief, he will be talked about later. Casey Kelly will be in AAA by the all star break. Then there are the “others” that will pop up and make an appearance.

Bullpen:
Closer: Craig Italiano RHP (AA, 4-6, 2.58 ERA, 52 IP, 43 H, 27 BB, 36 K). Those stats are somewhat misleading as Italiano returned from an injury too soon and wasn’t the same. His 4-1, 0.72 ERA, 16 SV in 17 chances is more telling. The injury cost Italiano a spot on the 40 man roster, but luckily no one claimed him and he resigned with the Padres. If healthy and back to form Italiano is a HARD throwing righty who throws the ball from a very low ¾ giving him great downward action and making it extremely hard to hit. Combine a mid 90s fastball, trick arm angle, a sharp slider, and an ok change and you have the Texas Leagues top closer in 2010 (as voted on by BA)

8th inning: Evan Scribner: RHP (AA, 4-5, 2.79 ERA, 66 IP, 51 H, 15 BB, 81 K) Great command + + 12-6 curveball, low 90s FB with good sink, deceptive delivery, and you have all the makings for a solid back end of the rotation pitcher and either AAA or the majors. Scribner doesn’t have the heavy heat of Italiano, but he will join Frieri, Webb, and Gregerson in a long line of great young Padre relievers.

7th inning: Luis Perdomo: RHP (AAA, 4-6, 3.40 ERA, 82 IP 76 H, 34 BB, 49 K). Mid 90s FB, good slider, solid change. Perdomo has all the makings of a solid back end of the rotation pitcher. The problem is, and always has been control. When Perdmo is on his game he is nearly unhittable. When he is off he misses, and badly. IF Perdomo ever gets the command that they know he is capable of, he can be a big asset in San Diego.

Others: LHP Aaron Poreda (1-2, 3.83 ERA, 54 IP, 64 BB, 47 K) has arguably the best stuff of any pitcher in Portland, he also has the least control. Thought is always that if he can ever come close to spotting his pitches he can be a #2 MLB starter or a top 5 MLB closer. But the chances of that are getting less and less likely. Mike DeMark struggled early in Portland but became one of the Beaver’s best pitchers with a 2.89 ERA, 18.2 IP, 19 K post all star break. Bryan Oland has great stuff but is often lost in such a deep pen. Finally Sam Deduno is old for the PCL at 27, but has averaged 10 K/9 and has 2 legit strikeout pitches. He will probably be the long man in the pen, and has another opportunity to shine and hopefully get back to the majors.

Previewing the 2011 Missions: Batting

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.

Lineup:

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.

Concern About the Rotation

I have been thrilled with the moves the San Diego Padres have made this off-season.  Trading Adrian Gonzalez was essential to the future success of the franchise, and helped re-stock the farm system.  The acquisitions of Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson vastly improved the middle-infield situation.  Cameron Maybin, Brad Hawpe, and Jorge Cantu were all acquired on the cheap, and have some upside with minimal risk.  With the exception of losing Gonzalez, the team has certainly improved.

That said, I am concerned about the starting rotation.

Mat Latos should be solid, but nobody should expect a repeat of last season.  Its not that Latos will fall victim to some mythical sophomore slump, but rather, regression to the mean must be built into his projection for next season.

Clayton Richard was quite valuable last season, and given his contract, should continue to be so in 2011. However, I worry that his 2010 xFIP of 4.19 is more indicative of what we should expect out of him than his 2010 ERA (3.75).

Tim Stauffer is an obvious regression candidate.  He came out of nowhere to post a 1.85 ERA in 82 innings. However, Stauffer’s success was greatly aided by good luck.  He had an unsustainable 0.33 HR/9 rate, and an equally ridiculous 0.263 BABIP.  Stauffer does not have the raw stuff to consistently strike out a lot of batters, and thus must rely on limiting his walks, homeruns, and his defense.  Pitchers like Stauffer can be somewhat successful, but hoping for an ERA much better than 4.00 from Stauffer in 2011 is probably quite optimistic.

I do like Aaron Harang.  The Padres were able to acquire him cheaply, and he should benefit from moving from Cincinnati into Petco Park, as he does surrender a large percentage of fly-balls.  That said, last season, his K/9 rate dropped to 6.61–his lowest mark since 2003, and his BB/9 rate increased to 3.06–his highest mark since 2002.  I am hopeful that his numbers will regress towards his career averages (7.47 K/9, and 2.52 BB/9), but he is starting to age, and did struggle with injuries last season.  It is possible that 2010 was a sign of things to come, and not a one-year abberation.

As for guys like Cory Luebke and Wade LeBlanc–I am not expecting very much.  Luebke has very limited major league experience, and LeBlanc has not had much success in the majors.  After LeBlanc and Luebke, I just don’t see many starting pitching options.  The Padres will need at least 7 starting pitchers over the course of the season, as injuries or ineffectiveness to some of the projected starters are likely.

In all, while I don’t mind the pitchers the Padres currently have penciled into the rotation, I do wonder whether they are good enough to help the Padres contend for a playoff birth.  They strike me as a bunch of league average/slightly below league average starting pitchers with a good amount of uncertainty surrounding their 2011 projections.

Of course, I said the same thing about the 2010 rotation, and they ended up in the top half of the league in FIP.  Combined with a very good bullpen, that is all a team really needs to have high quality pitching.

Padres add Jorge Cantu

In what continues to be a very interesting off-season, the San Diego Padres have added 1B/3B Jorge Cantu for $885,000 (plus incentives).

Cantu has been sort of an enigma throughout his career, switching between a useful starter and an offensive liability.

He started his career off well with the Tampa Bay Rays, hitting nearly .300 with good power in his first two seasons while playing second base (where he was never a strong defender). He then followed with two seasons where he hit near .250 with less power.

In 2008, a switch to the Florida Marlins and the National League seemed to revitalize Cantu, as he followed with back-to-back solid years, hitting .283./.336/.462 combined, while flipping between first and third for Florida. Last season he again reverted back to his struggles with Florida and Texas, as his average dropped back into the .250s.

Cantu’s ups and downs lie mostly with his batting average. When he’s up around .280 or higher, he’s a solid player. When he’s in the .250s, he has almost no value whatsoever, considering he’s not a defensive specialist by any means.

You might imagine that Cantu’s BABiP is the cause for the peaks and valleys with his batting average, but it’s actually his strikeout rates.

His BABiP has been very stable throughout his career, hovering around the .300 mark. His K-rate, however, has been much more volatile, dipping down to 15% or so in his good years and bouncing to the low-to-mid 20s in the bad ones.

Cantu may be counted on to face lefties while replacing Brad Hawpe at first, but it should be noted that he doesn’t have much of a platoon split (.764 OPS vs. RHP, .773 OPS vs. LHP). Hawpe actually has a comparable OPS vs. lefties at .760, though that is Coors-aided. Small samples noted with each, especially versus left-handers.

For under a million bucks, Cantu offers enough upside to be worth the money, and he should provide good depth for the Padres. Jed Hoyer continues to patch together a very nice looking ballclub, despite the loss of its best player.

Previewing the 2011 Missions: Pitching

The 2010 Mission pitching staff was led by 2010 #1 prospect Simon Castro. 2011 will once again see the Missions led by the Padres #1 prospect. This time the prospect is once again a 21 year old RHP, but this time he goes by Casey Kelly. Luckily, Kelly will get the run support that Castro and company never got in 2010, but that is another post for later in the week. The Missions had all the makings of a terrific rotation in 2010, but unfortunately trades, injuries, and inability to score runs decimated the rotation and the W/L record. However, 2011 is a new season, with a new rotation, and an almost completely new staff ready to recapture the Texas League crown.

Starting Pitching:
Casey Kelly: RHP (AA, 3-5, 5.31 ERA, 95 IP, 118 H, 10 HR, 35 BB, 81 K). There is no doubt that the stats put up by Kelly last year were not stats expected out of the #1 Padre prospect, and top 30 MLB prospect. However, like many stats in baseball, you can take these numbers with a grain of salt. Not only was Kelly one of the youngest players in AA but he was also transitioning to his first full year of pitching. Kelly already has 2 MLB quality pitches in his mid 90’s FB and change. His curveball will eventually be a plus pitch, giving him 3 above average MLB pitches. Kelly’s move to the NL might have been a best of both worlds as he will have the opportunity to hit in both AA and AAA. Kelly might challenge for a rotation spot with the Padres in 2012 but for right now he should be the Missions opening day starter.

Anthony Bass: RHP (A+, 8-7, 3.13 ERA, 132.1 IP, 124 H, 9 HR, 20 BB, 109 K). Bass has the type of hard work and dedication that makes him an easy guy to root for, and makes every coach wish he had 24 other Anthony Bass’s. Bass does not have any overpowering pitches, but has tremendous control (a ridiculous 1.36 BB/9), and has a deceptive delivery that causes swings and misses. Bass may not have the projection of almost any of the other starters, but with his control and ability to get consistent outs, he will find himself in a Padre uniform sooner rather than later.

Juan Oramas: LHP (A+, 7-3, 3.00 ERA, 84 IP, 64 H, 10 HR, 26 BB, 90 K). No one really knew what to expect out of the 2009 Mexican League ERA champ. Well before the pen could even hit the paper to write a report on Oramas, he came within 2 outs of a perfect game with Lake Elsinore. While he started the year in Fort Wayne, Oramas was the Storms most dominating and consistent starter. Oramas is actually 7 months younger than Kelly, and 3 months younger than Jaff Decker, thus making him the youngest 2011 Mission. Oramas has a solid low 90’s FB and is able to compliment it with one of the best curves in the system. Oramas is tenacious on the mound and is not afraid to pitch inside. Despite the age difference Oramas has the maturity, work ethic, stuff, and undoubtedly huevos to succeed in San Antonio.

Jeremy McBryde RHP (A+, 4-4, 4.38 ERA, 63.2 IP, 62 H, 17 BB, 49 K). Stupid injuries. Last year I went with the bold prediction and put McBryde in my top 10 prospect list. While I wasn’t proved wrong, Jeremy missing most of the season due to injuries didn’t help. Before an injury derailed 2009 McBryde was working on great numbers in the Cal League (3.44 ERA, .218 BAA, 9.68 K/9). McBryde will have another opportunity in 2011 and despite missing more than an entire year due to injuries, at only 23 years of age McBryde is far from old for AA. McBryde has one of the heaviest sinkers in the system, and being able to locate it in the low 90’s makes it a true plus pitch. For McBryde it is just about getting healthy, stay healthy, and performing to the level we all know he is capable of.

So many names so little spots. Erik Davis once again led the Padres minor league system in wins in 2010 going 14-3. However there is a great chance he starts the year in AAA. Despite being kicked out of the Tin Cap rotation in 2009 and being subjugated to long relief for the Storm in 2010, Rob Musgrave led the team in K’s (113). Not only did Musgrave have a 10.38 K/9 but also allowed only 27 BB in 99 IP. Musgrave might be subjugated to the pen once again, but it chomping at the bit and proving he is earning the opportunity again. Jorge Reyes has the tools to be a top prospect but has shown it at times but has not put everything together just yet. He might be the most likely choice but could also end up in Elsinore to begin the season. Then there is former #1 pick Nick Schmidt. Could the Padres really effectively wipe the slate clean of 4 1st round picks this year? Antonelli was let go and signed by the Nats, Carrillo is gone, Rizzo will start over Dykstra at 1st, and Schmidt really doesn’t deserve the 5th starter spot over any of the above pitchers. Schmidt still has the stuff to be dominating, but at 25 years of age, and virtually no command shown post surgery, the time is running out.

Bullpen:
Closer: Brad Brach (A+, 5-2, 2.47 ERA, 41 SV, 65.2 IP, 50 H, 11 BB, 74 K). As easy as it was to write Kelly’s name as the top pitcher, it is even easier to write in Brach’s name as the closer. Brach broke the saves record in the Cal League and is one of the more dominant closers in the minors. Brach pitches quickly, pounds the corners and has a FB that creeps up to 94 mph. For Brach to ever be considered a future MLB pitcher he will need to work on his splitter/change and not get too fastball happy.
Setup: Nick Vincent RHP (A+, 4-0, 1.87 ERA, 81.2 IP, 60 H, 23 BB, 76 K) and Rob Musgrave LHP (if he isn’t the 5th starter, 4-4, 2.48 ERA, 98 IP, 91 H, 27 BB, 113 K in A+).
Others: Along with the starting rotation rejects you will probably see Zach Herr LHP (A+, 4-2, 3.04 ERA) Colt Hynes, Eric Gonzalez (if he is not released), and Aaron Breit. Also last years beloved ST prospect Alexis Lara has a good chance of remaining in SA. If he does we can see him anywhere from long man to 8th inning in a 1 run game. Lara as most of us know has tremendous stuff but has difficulties with control.

All in all the rotation and bullpen should be a strength for the Missions. Even better is that should 1 or 2 of the pitchers go down with injuries the Missions have tremendous depth at both SP and reliever. Giving a spot start to Reyes/Schmidt/Musgrave/calling up Lollis >>>>> Tyler Lumsden (who was 4-8 with more BB (34) than K (33) in 91 IP for SA last year).

Up next will be the offense that will see a surplus of returning top prospects as Portland will have former Padres (Evereth, Blanks, Richie Cunningham) blocking them.

The 2011 Hardball Times Baseball Annual

As you may know, I’m a contributor to The Hardball Times, but I’ve been an ardent supporter of the Website and the annual publication far before I had any affiliation.

With that, I’d like to encourage you to consider purchasing the 2011 Hardball Times Annual.

I received my copy a few weeks ago, and I’ve already combed through a good number of articles, including an entire section on fielding analysis. There’s a bunch more commentary on all aspects of the game from the likes of Tom Tango, Craig Calcaterra, and Vince Gennaro (to name just a few), plus a plethora of statistics from the 2010 season.

Highly  recommended.  

Previewing the 2011 Storm: Batting

Potential. That was the one word used by many experts to describe the 2010 Tin Cap offense. A year later that same team hopes to turn “potential” into “production.” There is no doubt that the 2011 Storm offense will have the firepower to compete with any team in the Cal League. The biggest questions going into the season will be whether the young Dominican players can put up the numbers that had them labeled as top 20 prospects, and whether or not Hagerty/Freiman can duplicate the stellar years they had in 2010. The good news for all Storm fans is that they will be getting a boost with the additions of Gyorko (at 3B, yay defense) and Fuentes (yay defense).

Batting Order:

1) Reymond Fuentes: CF (A, .270/.328/.377 15 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 42 SB, 25 BB, 87 K) As soon as the Adrian trade was announced the comparisons immediately began to be made between Fuentes and Donovan Tate. Both play CF, have tremendous speed and ++ defense. Both also have extremely raw hitting skills. He will have the opportunity to put on a show in Lake Elsinore in 2011, and the Padres are hoping that his potential and numbers will start to equate.
2) Jeudy Valdez: 2B (A, .247/.302/.380 34 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 34 SB, 43 BB, 115 K). The first in a long line of Dominican prospects with potential. Valdez has great speed and has a pretty solid .316 BABIP. Valdez will only be 21 when the season starts and has the ability to get on base, steal bases, hit for power, and do everything you would want out of a #1 or 2 hitter. The problem is ability and production are different things. If he can cut down on the K’s he will be a big asset the big hitter following him.
3) Jason Hagerty C (A, .302/.423/.494 35 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 74 RBI, 88 BB, 104 K). No one in the MWL put up the 2nd half that Hagerty did. His .351/.479/.586 post ASB # pretty much carried the team to the playoffs. Of course the anti-Hagertians are quick to point out that he was slightly old (22) last year. However, considering he is a catcher, and putting up those numbers, all I can say is WOW. He improved on all sides of the ball and has (slightly) lowered the voices saying he will not stay at catcher. Look for continued improvement and a monster year for this C out of Miami
4) Nate Frieman 1B (A, .294/.369/.457 43 2B, 14 HR, 84 RBI, 58 BB, 117 K) Freiman is a big kid standing at 6’7″. Like Hagerty Freimans numbers were not considered as impressive given his age (23). Despite whether or not he will become the future 1B of the Padres (probably not) there is no doubt that his numbers are everything you would want from a cleanup hitter. Hopefully Freiman will be able to concentrate more on his bat then trying to dig balls out of the dirt every other play now that Gyorko is the new 3B.
5) Jedd Gyorko 3B (Eug/FtW .302/.372/.444 17 2B, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 28 BB, 57 K in 68 G). What he brings is another stable college bat in the middle of the lineup. Even more noteworthy might be his stability as a fielder. While Gyorko, who was drafted as a 2B, will not win any gold gloves at 3rd, he is hands down better than Rincon defensively. Jedd has a smooth swing and makes hard contact with the ball. Look for him to replicate last years # in the hitter friendly Cal-League
6) Edinson Rincon: DH (A, .250/.315/.399 13 HR, 69 RBI in 132 G) Ahh potential. No one on the team, with the exception of the newly acquired Fuentes, has the potential to be a top 5 prospect more than Rincon. He has ridiculous power, a pretty good eye at the plate, and has shown he could hit for average. Add in the fact that he was only 19 and you have the makings of a top prospect. The biggest problem being that Rincon defensively is similar to Pedro Cerrano trying to hit a curveball in Major League. Its not pretty. Maybe a move to being the main DH (some 3B and LF mixed in) combined with the warm weather of California, and we will see the offensive numbers we expect from Rincon.
7) Daniel Meeley: LF (A, .304/.397/.353 10 2B, 23 RBI, 29 BB, 46 K in 58 G) Meeley was another late addition to the Tin Cap team last year and came on with a bang. Daniel hit .443 with 23 HR in CC in Oklahoma. While he didnt show nearly that much power in Fort Wayne his .304 BA and .359 BA with RISP will be a great addition to a powerful team provided he can replicate the numbers. Meeley will start the season at only 21 years of age and can burst onto the prospect scene with a big year.
8 ) Everett Williams: RF (A, .244/.333/.372 25 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 51 BB, 131 K, 10 SB) Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker “With great power comes great responsibility.” Well this quote applies to more than just cool nerds who get bit by radioactive spiders. Williams has all the talent in the world. He is young and has the ability to be a 5 tool prospect. But nothing will happen unless they work hard and go the extra mile. I am crossing my fingers that Williams realizes this and lives up to his potential. If so we could see him move from 8th to 2nd or 3rd in a very powerful lineup.
9) Johnathon Galvez: SS (A, .259/.360/.397 19 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 58 BB, 121 K, 18 SB) The Padres made a huge leap of faith when they promoted the 19 year old past Eugene and straight to Fort Wayne. As much as I would like to say that Galvez had a bad year he actually did about what the Padres expected. He is young, but has tremendous tools, and will hopefully continue to improve as he gets closer and closer to SD. The BA, OBP, SLG, and SB are not bad for a 19 year old SS. Sadly the 43 errors are!! Scouts continue to raise questions about his ability to stay at short, but the Padres are still holding out faith and will keep him there at least for another year.

Bench:
Danny Payne OF, was 2nd on the team in BB (74), led the team with 38 SB, led the team with 8 3B. Crazy K numbers and a low BA have kept him back. Dean Anna will see plenty of time at 2B/SS/3B, Griffin Benedict will spell Hagerty behind the plate. Wande Olabasi has an awesome name and will see time in the OF.

Like the Tin Caps 2011 pitching staff, the Lake Elsinore Storm have a great opportunity to be one of the dominant forces in the Cal League and minor league baseball. How many lineups in MiLB does a top 20 prospect hit 9th? The key will be to see continued improvement, both offensively and defensively, out of the young kids from the Dominican.

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