by Ben Davey
This is the 3rd in the 4 part minor league series getting everyone ready for the 2009 minor league season. *Note there are only 4 minor league teams in April (Portland, San Antonio, Lake Elsinore, and Fort Wayne). Eugene, Peoria, and DSL all open up in June/July. The further you go down in the system, the harder it becomes to project who will be starting at every position. In fact, as of right now, I dont think the Padres know exactly who will be at Lake Elsinore, but just like them….we have a good idea. So let’s again start with players that I am almost positive will start for the Storm (position wise):
SS (and probably leadoff hitter), Drew Cumberland-
Cumberland is probably the Padres best shortstop prospect. And in comparing to past Padres is nearly the exact opposite of Khalil (offensively). In 319 professional at bats he has struck out only 36 times, which is pretty incredible for an 19 year old kid (just turned 20 a couple weeks ago). Also is incredibly fast and hits for a high average. Do not be surprised to see him hit over .320 next year in hitter friendly Lake Elsinore. Cumberland does have a few faults, as he only has 1 HR in all of the minors (very little power), he has was also injured for most of the 2nd half last year. (He probably could have come back but Fuson decided not to rush him). Also defensively has quick feet, but only an average arm (some say below average but I beg to differ). I think he will be fine defensively, just needs more games. IF he stays healthy next year, look for him to be the leadoff man, steal 30+ bases and have 100+ RS, to lead the attack of the Storm.
2B- Lance Zawadski
The interesting thing is that Zawadski is viewed as having the strongest arm in the system (By BA), and yet with Cumberland at short will end up being the 2B in Lake Elsinore (probably see some time at short, and DH as Parrino will also get starts at 2B). Zawadski is a bit old compared to Cumberland (23 last year) but, in the wake of Drew’s injury, stepped in amazingly at the shortstop role. Hit .273/.352/.399/.751 with 28 SB (3 CS) in the VERY tough Midwest league. Did have over 100 strike outs though (which will be something he needs to work on). In addition, led the team with 32 errors. He might have a cannon for an arm, but definitely has some things to work on to lower the amount of errors. Look for Zawaski to also hit closer to .300 in the much friendlier Cal League.
*Others to note; Beamer Weems (probably the best defensive 2b/SS in the system ) and Adrew Parrino will also probably appear on the roster*
And that is all the 100% sure of starters in the system (Yes only 2 of 8). From here on out it is closer to an educated guess and based on hints from management and madfriars.com.
1B- Alan Dykstra (75% sure)
Dykstra was the 2008 1st round draft pick. 75% sure because there is a 25% chance he starts in AA. He was “the man” at Wake Forest leading the team in power, and virtually every offensive category. Very patient from the plate, and looks like THE HULK. Saw him at the Storm game last year and he towered over the entire team (only 6’5″ 240 lb). In only 24 AB in LE last year hit .292/.469/.458/.927. Look for him to hit cleanup and be one of the biggest sources of power for the Storm.
25% Felix Carrasco. Led Fort Wayne last year in HR with 16 (only person above 10), won the MidWest League HR derby. But it seems management soured on him. His power numbers all but vanished in the 2nd half (13 2B 12 HR to 3 2B, 4 HR in 2nd half), also struck out 162 times in one year. He has the power but his .237 average with the strike outs is going to make it hard for this Dominican import to ever become a great prospect.
RF- Sawyer Carroll (65%)
The OF for Lake Elsinore is a complete mess. Most of the OF from the 2007 draft (not named Kellen Kulbacki) struggled or were injured in 2008. While at the same time Sawyer Carroll, Blake Tekotte, Dan Robertson, and Jaff Decker had amazing 2008 campaigns, so the popular belief is that at least one of them will (pretty much) skip Fort Wayne and go straight to Lake Elsinore. My guess is that Carroll will be that guy (if there is only one). Despite spending the final 3 weeks in Fort Wayne, Carroll still led the Emeralds in HR (8), he was also 3rd on the team in 2B, and in players with 80 or more AB (sorry Darnell), Sawyer led the team with a .951 OPS (.299/.403/.548). He was selected in the 3rd round of the 08′ draft, and his age (22) might be one of the bigger reasons why he makes it over Decker (18). Carroll plays a solid RF with a good arm (has a 3B arm) and pretty good speed for a corner OF. He is a fun player to watch, and shows a lot of heart out on the field.
Danny Payne (25%), Payne was selected in the supplemental 1st round (64th overall) of the 2007 draft. After being drafted, hit .279/.444/.355/.799 with 17 SB and as many BB as K in Eugene. Plays an above average RF (one of the top Padre defenders), and has tremendous speed on the basepaths. 08′ he was destroyed by leg injuries and in 39 games only hit .172/.342/.227/.569. He has a lot of potential but needs to stay healthy. Carroll passed him on the depth chart, but that doesn’t mean a healthy and solid 2009 can’t put Payne back on the map. He was named most improved player at the Padres Instructional Leagues and if he doesn’t start at RF might start in LF or CF
3B- James Darnell (60%)
Was a last minute signing last year and thus only got into a couple games in Eugene and he did not disappoint (.373/.462/.582/1.044). Like Dykstra, has great power, and is a very patient hitter offensively. Obviously he will not hit .373 over 500 AB, but hit .315 in his last 2 years at South Carolina, and .280-.305 is probably more accurate for Darnell. He looks good at 3B, but there have been talks that he will move to either C or LF. With Logan Forsythe also an above average 3B from the 2008 draft, Darnell will probably skip Fort Wayne, but don’t rule out a move in the next year.
Justin Baum (40%)
Baum is a former classmate of mine at Grossmont High School, so I am slightly biased towards him getting more PT. Baum flew WAY under the radar last year and didn’t get any publicity at Fort Wayne. And yet he led the team in both RBI (70) and RS (76), also 2nd on the team with 9 HR. Baum is a great guy (and also recently engaged), so I am excited to cheer him on next year in Lake Elsinore. Probably the biggest thing to put him on the radar is to improve on his defense. He was 2nd worst on the team with 30 errors (ouch), but a year older and playing with Dykstra at 1st (solid defender) vs Carrasco (not a solid defender) should cut down on some of those errors. Also decreasing the strike out numbers (111 last year) will help.
The last 3 spots are completely up in the air, as I do not think there is even a favorite going into ST. So good luck to Fuson…
Luis Durango (check the AA post for his info, might not make the AA team though)
Brad Chalk- 2nd rd 07′ draft, above average CF defense, good speed, pretty good average, good patient
hitter….no power whatsoever. (512 AB, 26 2B, 5 3B, 0 HR)
Yefri Carvajal- Last year was a top 10 prospect. Thought of as a 5 tool player but didn’t play like it last
year. .268/.305/.357/.662 4 SB, 100 K, 25 BB last year….ouch. Only 19, might be in Ft Wayne again
Robert Perry- Broke on the scene last year as a 16th rd draft pick, but last year was a flop. Another patient
hitter with good speed, but needs the power and offense to be there if he wants to start
Blake Tekotte- 3rd round 2008 draft. Above average CF defense, power, speed, pretty solid patience and
average. Was the instructs MVP “Tom Gamboa said. “His hustle, his defensive in centerfield, his batting,
his on-base percentage, stealing bases – he did everything.”” (from scout.com). Probably see him in Fort
Wayne though starting in CF
Dan Robertson- 2008 NWL MVP, broke a league hit record (114), also had 20 SB while playing solid defense
in CF. Good patience, solid contact hitter, reminds me a lot of Eric Owens. Another guy who will more
likely start in Fort Wayne.
Jaff Decker- 2008 AZL MVP, .352/.523/.541/1.084, 1st rd pick last year. Another strong CF, who despite
being 18 plays like he is 30. Has tremendous upside (and is up there in rankings with Kulbacki and
Hunter). Biggest down side is he looks like PMac but that won’t stop him succeeding in whatever league he
Luis Martinez is the favorite but when at the age of 23 you hit .223/.338/.298/.636 it’s hard to stay around, no matter what the defense looks like. Chance Adam Zornes or even Emanual Qualies makes it, but Martinez is the favorite.
So here is the projected lineup
Drew Cumberland (SS)
Lance Zawadski (2B)
James Darnell (3B)
Alan Dykstra (1B)
Sawyer Carrol (RF)
Justin Baum (DH)
Danny Payne (LF)
Blake Tekotte (CF)
Luis Martinez (C)
Payne and Tekotte can play all 3 OF spots WAY above average.
It will be a fun year in Lake Elsinore. Part 2 will be much shorter and will be on the rotation and bullpen