Previewing the 2012 Lake Elsinore Storm: Offense

Last year the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm won the Cal League Championship, so they will look to build on that momentum in 2012.  Of course they will do so with nearly a completely different roster, but that is just some of the fun of following minor league baseball.

The Storm will have at least two first round picks in their lineup, which should boost the offense.  The Storm’s offense was hurt last year after promotions of Jedd Gyorko and Jason Hagerty, and an injury to Edinson Rincon.  The weakness of the offense, though, was the lack of hitting from the outfielders.  Fuentes (.711 OPS), Meeley (.707 OPS), Olabisi (.658 OPS), and Payne (.245 BA, .819 OPS) all struggled in the very hitter-friendly Cal League.  This year should be different with Midwest League MVP Rymer Liriano, first round pick Donavan Tate, and Rico Noel all patrolling the outfield.  So without further ado, here we go…

1)      Rico Noel CF/DH .253/.345/.347 50 SB, 4 CS
Noel struggled to find consistency with the bat last year.  However, Noel provides speed at the top of the order on a team that will challenge for the lead in SB.  Between Fort Wayne and Elsinore last year, Noel stole a combined 62 bases with only 5 CS.  Unfortunately in a deep lineup, with plenty of outfield, Noel will have to hit closer to .300 if he wants to remain hitting at the top of the order.  No matter how bad his offense is, Noel’s defense in center field will allow him to get ample playing time.

2)      Cory Spangenberg 2B .316/.419/.418 25 SB, 8 CS
Spangenberg was mister everything in Eugene, reaching base safely in all 25 of his games.  More impressive was that Cory had nearly a 2:1 BB:K ratio — that’s right nearly 2x as many BB as K.  The tides changed in Fort Wayne as he struggled the first month to make solid contact.  He rebounded nicely hitting .360 over his last 30 G.  Cory has the tools to demolish Cal League pitching.  While we might see his power numbers increase slightly, they will still not be nearly that of a Chase Utley.  Still, look for Spangy to hit around .330 with 25 SB at the break and be promoted to Double-A San Antonio shortly there after.

3)      Rymer Liriano RF .319/.383/.499, 12 HR, 65 SB
We all know about Liriano by now, so I figured I would point out an interesting nugget of info on him.  Looking at Liriano’s triple slash line, and knowing he hit third in the TinCap’s lineup you would assume he would have more than 62 RBI in 116 G for the TinCaps.  Nope.  Liriano last year found himself more as a table setter than anything else.

Everyone is excited about Liriano’s five tool ability, and believe me I have been on the Liriano band wagon since I saw him in the AZL a few years ago, BUT despite his impressive line, and his Midwest MVP award, I will hold off on anointing him the Padres number one prospect.  The reason for that is Liriano (who is now 20) is still young and has a long way to go before we see him in San Diego.  Two years ago we were all hailing Simon Castro as the next great Padres pitcher throwing him into the same sentence as Peavy, and yet when Castro was recently traded this offseason no one made much of a fuss (ed. note: Myron did!).  I am a huge Liriano supporter but as many of us know there is about as good of a chance that Liriano will never make it past Double-AA as there is he becomes an everyday MLB player.  I sure hope he lives up to his potential and becomes the next Vlad, but I am cautious.

4)      Connor Powers 1B 338/.422/.538
While Liriano rightfully won the Midwest League MVP, it was a tough decision to even name Liriano the team MVP because of what Connor Powers did for the club.  Powers gave Liriano someone to protect him in the lineup, and was able to “clean up” the bases every time Liriano got on.  Despite playing in 40 fewer games than Liriano, Powers ended up only one double behind him (30 vs. 29).  Powers doesn’t have the raw power that Storm fans are used to seeing from their previous first basemen (Freiman and Decker), but Powers has the ability to hit for a higher average, and has enough power that he could still belt 20 home runs in the Cal League.

5)      Donavan Tate CF/LF/DH .288/.410/.411 39 G, 29 BB, 35 K, 19 SB
Tate could eventually be the leadoff hitter, but without another “power” type bat to hit behind Powers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tate start the year off hitting fifth.  We all know about Tate’s abilities and we all know about his shortcomings.  If he can ever get his head on straight he can battle with Liriano for Cal League MVP.  Of course that is a big IF.

6)      Jake Blackwood 3B .269/.319/.456 17 HR, 36 2B
***OR Everett Williams LF/DH*** Blackwood was a Midwest League all-star before his promotion to Lake Elsinore (when Gyorko was promoted to Double-A) and he didn’t light the world on fire in Elsinore.  Still, Blackwood will either be around in Elsinore or San Antonio depending on what the Padres do with Gyorko.  Rincon will not be the everyday third basemen in San Antonio, as his defense still hasn’t improved, and Blackwood could provide that other bat in SA.  If that happens look for Bisson to be the everyday 3B.  Williams will split time in the outfield and DH.  Williams has a lot of potential, but had an attitude problem early in his career (too good to practice).  Well not much in stats and a big injury later and we will see if Williams has matured.  Williams still has excellent speed, but has not developed the pop everyone thought he would.  The potential might still be there but he is far away from reaching it.

7)      Rocky Gale/Emanuel Quiles C .267/.310/.333 (Gale), .211/.241/.279 (Quiles)
Quiles got the bulk of the starts last year behind the plate as he is a plus defender (at least compared to the other catchers the TinCaps had last year).  However, as you can see, he couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag.  In 300 at bats, Quiles had 13 xbh, 11 BB, and 64 K.  Gale provides more in terms of offense and got the bulk of the starts down the stretch.  Gale is a singles hitter, who is mainly just organizational depth.  As much as the Padres don’t want to rush Hedges, if he is hitting at all in Fort Wayne, look for a midseason promotion.

8)      Chris Bisson 3B/DH/2B  .261/.345/.321
Bisson, as well as teammates Noel and Guinn, were taken fairly highly in Jed Hoyer’s first draft.  Most importantly, all three of them were billed as “Petco park type players.”  Well so far, they may be Petco park players but they were not Midwest League players.  Bisson improved over the second half of the year hitting .274/.358/.341, but for a light hitting 2B it wasn’t enough.  Bisson should improve a bit in Elsinore, but unless he starts hitting over .300 with 30 SB he will get passed up and/or released.

9)      BJ Guinn SS .245/.307/.307 34 SB, 104 K
Speaking of light hitting middle infielders.  Guinn was supposed to lead the team with a .300 BA, 50 SB, and 100 RS.  Well, he had 18 extra base hits all year, a .551 OPS through the first half of the year and committed 29 errors at short.  We knew Guinn wouldn’t hit for much power, but the low BA, high K, and low OBP numbers are concerning.  Guinn was one of the big reasons the TinCaps struggled so much in the first half last year.  He will be kept around as the Padres need shortstop’s, but this might be his last chance, especially if Peterson hits well in Fort Wayne.

Look out forTommy Medica.  Medica hit fairly well in Fort Wayne before getting injured.  When he came back the Padres didn’t want to risk him getting re-injured and out for the remainder of the year so they kept him at DH/1B.  He hit .302/.440/.504 in Lake Elsinore.  If Medica is going to make the majors it will be as a catcher (where he has enough hitting ability to be a top 20 prospect on most teams).  However with Grandal in Tucson, Hagerty will stay in San Antonio which means if Medica is going to catch everyday like the organization wants it will be in Elsinore.  Also don’t forget that San Antonio only has DH half the time, and they also have big Nate Freiman at 1B.  While I originally had Medica in San Antonio, and he still might end up there, do not be surprised if he is the everyday catcher in Lake Elsinore (especially since there is not much else there).

Final Thought: This has the potential to be every bit as lethal of a lineup as the Storm have had over the past two years.  The team has some serious speed in Noel, Tate, Spangenberg, Liriano, Guinn, and Bisson.  They also have plenty of hitters that should hit at or close to .300.  Look for the team to challenge the league leaders in runs per game.  With the aforementioned hitters they have the ability to go all the way in the Cal League, especially considering they will have a rotation anchored by Madfriars numbers prospect Keyvius Sampson.

That other Decker

If all baseball articles posted online followed Twitter’s hashtag format, then #prospects would be a Worldwide Trend right now.

Analysts everywhere are crafting their top lists and blowing up websites and blogs. Books are lining store shelves and arriving in mailboxes to the collective glee of their recipients. Alexander Pope’s famous phrase, “Hope springs eternal…” is becoming more and more a reality for many organizations, San Diego in particular.

So, let’s continue in this vein.

In previous FF articles, I’ve looked at some prospects you may not have heard about. Guys like Connor Powers and Matt Jackson who, with another solid season, could crack the prospect list in a deep system. For this piece, I’m going to discuss Decker, a prospect many will be familiar with. No…not Jaff Decker. That other Decker: Cody Decker.

Decker was drafted in 2009 during the 22nd round out of UCLA. Over 191 games with the Bruins, Decker batted .288 with 47 HRs, 28 2Bs, and 153 RBI. His 21 HRs during the 2009 season led the Pac-10. On the glovework side, in 653 chances at 1B, Decker made just three errors, good for a .995 FLD%.

His debut in professional ball was worth noticing. In 198 ABs with the AZL Padres (Rookie), Decker hit: .354/.421/.717 (1.138 OPS…gulp). He was subsequently called up to Ft. Wayne (Low-A) at season’s end but only managed 18 ABs. For the 2010 season, the organization opted for Decker to skip Low-A, and the move paid off. In 507 ABs at High-A Lake Elsinore, Decker hit: .270/.352/.513 (.865 OPS). He clubbed 28 homers and  and knocked in 90 RBI. He also found the two-bag out of the box an impressive 35 times. Scouts and analysts alike were starting to take notice, as Decker found his way on many of the top lists.

So, why is he glaringly absent on this year’s lists? Good question.

This past season, Decker moved up to Double-A San Antonio. He only managed 177 ABs, hitting .237/.289/.525 (.815 OPS). The lack of at bats can be attributed to a devastating stay on the disabled list. Decker sustained a third degree ankle sprain while trying to beat out a grounder at first. The injury might as well have been a broken ankle, as Decker went on the DL on May 22, 2011 and wasn’t reinstated until August 23. Decker came back strong, however, including an impressive run in the playoffs where his Missions finished as Texas League Champions. In seven games, he went 9-25 (.360) with three homers and three doubles, when the games mattered most.

Obviously, missing the meat of the season, 2011 really shouldn’t count in the books as far as his status is concerned, but prospect analysis is very much a “what have you done for me lately” perspective. Myron pointed this out very astutely in the case of Simon Castro. His elite status was stripped away pretty quickly. In Decker’s case, one season of injury has unfairly (in my opinion) taken him off the radar as well.

Fangraphs’ advanced  info on Decker is also worth studying. Granted, minor league data isn’t as rich as major league data, but some of the basic advanced stats work just fine. It’s the predicting major league success from minor league numbers part that gets tricky. I’m currently working on a formula that will determine major league success based on minor league numbers. However, since that’s not complete just yet, I’ll speculate on Decker here shortly.

During his Rookie season in 2009, Decker’s BB% was a nice 8.3%. His K% sat at 18.4%. But the ISO is really interesting: .364. For some context, at the MLB level, Jose Bautista’s ISO in 2010 was the league best at .357. Definitely not a one-to-one translation, but the reference gives you some idea. In Decker’s case: fantastic pop, excellent discipline, and striking out around league average. I’ll take that.

During Decker’s 2010 campaign in High-A, he increased his BB% to 10.3. Unfortunately his K% also increased, in this case to 23.2. For a quasi-context, MLB average for BB% in 2010 was 8.0% and for K% it was 20.7%. The ISO, however, remained impressive at a .243 clip. Even during his limited Double-A season, his ISO totaled .288. Granted, the BB% dropped (5.8) and the K% increased (31.1), but a right-handed power threat will always have a spot on San Diego’s shopping list.

The question is, where will he play? Another good question. Glad I asked.

The bulk of his time has been spent at 1B. Unfortunately for Decker, though, 5’11” and 220 LBS doesn’t exactly profile well for an MLB first baseman. Don’t let the size factor prohibit consideration for the position, however. He as a total of 158 games at first and has committed only 13 errors in 1,467 chances, good for an impressive .991 FLD%. Further complicating the issue for Decker, though, is the trade for Yonder Alonso.  Decker is a year older and will have to watch Alonso completely fall on his face before he gets consideration. Decker’s been run out to left field and third base but only for a grand total of one game each.  He saw a total of seven games in left in his college career. In college, he was primarily a DH, so from my perspective, Decker might be better served on an AL team that can see him split time between first base and DH.

I’d hate to see San Diego lose a player like Decker, but I think, for his sake, a change to an AL organization would give him two avenues to pursue a big league career because his bat projects to play at this point. If he stays in San Diego, he becomes another slugger looking for a home behind the likes of: Jesus Guzman, Kyle Blanks, Logan Forsythe, James Darnell, and Matt Clark. He’ll likely start the season back in Double-A San Antonio to show that he can still swing it. If healthy, there’s no reason he couldn’t produce:  .280/.370/.560, if not even better.

What happens from there will be determined by what happens to Guzman and Alonso at the big league level and Matt Clark in Triple-A. Though, Clark can play a respectable outfield. But the way the club fell all over themselves for Alonso, he’s going to have every chance in the world to be successful. It’s a tough outlook from a San Diego roster standpoint, but baseball is always filled with opportunities.

I do believe, that big league talent finds the big leagues, and I see Decker as possessing that talent. It’s simply a matter of when and where he gets his shot.

Yonder Alonso loves Petco

Over at the U-T, Bill Center has an article on Yonder Alonso, with a lot of quotes from the new San Diego Padres first basemen:

“A lot of left-handed hitters and first basemen are thinking home runs,” Alonso continued. “That’s not the type of left-handed hitter I am.

“When I look at Petco Park, I don’t see how far away the fences are. I see a lot of grass. I feel like this ballpark likes the kind of hitter I am.”

It’s certainly refreshing to see Alonso embracing his new digs, regardless of how he’ll feel come June. He goes on:

“The fences are closer in Cincinnati,” reasoned Alonso. “The outfielders are packed into a smaller space. A lot of balls in the gaps get caught. There isn’t nearly as much grass in Cincinnati as there is here.”

He’s right, there’s more green in Petco’s outfield than Great American Ballpark’s. However, it’s unclear whether line-drive hitter’s can neutralize (even to a degree) Petco’s ability to suppress offense.

Sure, a screaming liner that barely gets off the ground will play anywhere. The real question, though, is the gap line-drive that should fall for a double in most parks. In Petco, that ball has a tendency to hang up in the air and gently fall into the glove of a waiting outfielder. Think marine layer.

Petco always ranks at (or near) the bottom of the league in its ability to prevent not only runs, but also doubles. According to research at Beyond the Boxscore, here are the five toughest hitter’s parks from 2006-2010:

Team Runs PF 2B/BIP HR/BIP
SD .91 .90 .92
SEA .96 .98 .95
NYN .96 .97 .95
OAK .96 .97 .93
TB .97 .96 1.00

Note that these PFs include away games, so to truly isolate the Petco effect you would double these figures (Petco suppresses doubles by 20 percent, for example).

You can see that Petco is clearly the best all-around pitcher’s park in the league. Interestingly, though, there’s a larger discrepancy between Petco and the other pitcher’s parks for doubles per ball in play than HR/BIP. In fact, no team’s home park comes close to Petco in stifling doubles, which while not as devastating as a home run are certainly a more frequent event.

Further, Petco actually increases strikeouts more than any other park. It’s a deadly combination that’s earned Petco its deserved reputation as Killer of All Things Offense. It’s important to note, however, that it doesn’t just eat up home runs.

Alonso may still be a better fit for Petco than Rizzo, but he won’t be able to escape its overall negative impact on offense.

THT Forecasts

By now, you probably know I write a bi-weekly article for The Hardball Times. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a great opportunity to write for a site with a rich history of producing awesome content.

This year I have a chance to write the San Diego Padres player comments for THT Forecasts, which you should probably buy. I’m taking over the duties from the venerable Geoff Young, so I have my work cut out for me.

It’s a bit of a challenge distilling a player’s future outlook down to a paragraph or two, but it’s a challenge I wouldn’t dare pass up. I should have comments for a good 40 players or so, including a number of prospects. The player comments won’t be available until closer to spring training, but the 2012 projections are already updated and certainly worth the price. The comments are just an added bonus.

Along with the 2012 projections, you also get a long-term (six year) forecast for every player, various leaderboards and options to sort the projections, comments from past seasons, and updated in-season projections. If you’re a fantasy player, these are right up your alley.

For more info about THT Forecasts, check here and here.

The next Erubiel Durazo

Generally, I’m hesitant to compare prospects to established major leaguers. There are so many subtle differences in player skill-sets that, without exhaustive research, I’m never all that comfortable with the comparisons.

Yonder Alonso = Erubiel Durazo

After watching some video of Yonder Alonso, though, (notably the embedded one below from Scouting the Sally) I can’t help but think Erubiel Durazo.

At first, you might think that comparing a highly-touted first base prospect to Erubiel Durazo is my way of saying that I’m not overly high on Alonso, but that isn’t necessarily true. Upon reaching the majors at age 25, Durazo raked, and he didn’t stop until his major league career was over seven years later.

Note Durazo’s debut 1999 and Alonso’s 2011 in Cincinnati:

Player PA BA OBP SLG OPS+
Durazo 185 .329 .422 .594 153
Alonso 98 .330 .398 .545 154

Pretty similar starts, though I certainly don’t mean to imply that I’m comparing these two players based on such a small amount of performance data. As mentioned, Alonso’s swing and movements simply remind me of Durazo, and it conveniently fits the narrative that the numbers are very similar.

Physically, they are similar too. Durazo is listed at 6’3’’, 240 on Baseball-Reference. Alonso: 6’2’’, 240. Both left-handed hitters. Durazo ended up hitting .281/.381/.487 in his major league career, split between Arizona and Oakland. Alonso has posted inferior numbers so far in his career (.292/.370/.466) – and that’s in the minor leagues.

Durazo played in Mexico prior to the majors and only spent part of one season in the minors before debuting in Arizona, so we can’t really compare minor league stats. He hit .404/.489/.703 that year in Double-A and Triple-A.

In the field, Durazo provided limited defensive value at first (he was traded to Oakland and became a DH) and he wasn’t particularly fast or athletic. The scouting reports on Alonso are similar. He’s not out there for his defense or base running.

Scouting or performance

Let’s face it, Alonso’s scouting reputation far exceeds his actual performance thus far. Based on the numbers, Clay Davenport* projects Alonso as a .260/.335/.400 hitter in his prime. That isn’t bad, especially in Petco, but it isn’t really what we are expecting out of the Padres new first basemen.

*Davenport adjusts raw minor league statistics for league, age, park effects, and various other factors to get a better estimate of the player’s major league potential.

Yonder Alonso = Adrian Gonzalez

Finishing where we started, PECOTA currently lists Adrian Gonzalez as Alonso’s number one comparable player. Number two: Jeff Clement.

Interestingly enough, there might be something to the Alonso-Gonzalez comp. Though Gonzalez was always young(er) for his league, both players put up underwhelming minor league statistics (but were highly-rated amongst scouts). Gonzalez, of course, blossomed into the player we had the pleasure of watching in San Diego for five seasons.

Then again, there is probably something to the Alonso-Clement comp, too.

As you know, there’s a large degree of uncertainty in player evaluation, especially prospects. Here’s hoping Alonso turns out more like Gonzalez than Clement. But I’ll settle for Durazo.

Greg Maddux or Kevin Slowey?

Recently, I found myself pondering and age old mystery: Do squirrels fart? I know….profound, right? Naturally, I then started to wonder if control artist pitchers would be any better at playing darts than pitchers with ordinary or no control, another one of life’s great mysteries. You can temper your enthusiasm as this article will not answer those mysteries. Some of you may be scratching your heads right about now, but I promise to tie it all together.

The recent trade of Kevin Slowey got me to thinking about high control pitchers. Yes, Kevin Slowey was traded again. Maddux and Slowey represent two of baseball’s best when it comes to not issuing walks. The Padres have two players almost major league ready that have very similar control profiles. Robbie Erlin and Joseph Wieland were acquired, as many of you know, from the Texas Rangers for Mike Adams before the 2011 trade deadline. Each has not disappointed since joining the Padres organization. Here are the career, to this point, minor league numbers for Maddux, Slowey, Erlin, and Wieland:

         ERA         H/9       BB/9         K/9
Greg Maddux

2.86

7.9

2.7

5.7

Kevin Slowey

2.13

6.8

1.3

8.6

Robbie Erlin

2.61

7.4

1.2

9.7

Joe Wieland

3.28

8.8

1.6

8.3

My first thought was… wow! Shouldn’t it have been Slowey with the great career? Interestingly, I came across an old Cubs scouting report on Greg Maddux. The biggest concern with Maddux was his control and his physical stature. Having read scouting reports on Robbie Erlin, he has many similarities to Maddux. Erlin has a very similar frame and throws about the same fastball speed as Maddux. Of course, Erlin is a lefty and has already shown great control prior to making the big leagues.

Wieland happens to be about the same physique as Slowey. Scouts seem to be very impressed with the control, command, pitch sequencing, and baseball aptitude of both Erlin and Wieland. Of course, the same could have been said about Slowey. Don’t get me wrong, Slowey is a legit MLB starting pitcher; but, clearly he is back-of-the-rotation filler.

Forrest Gump would probably suggest prospects are like a box of chocolates. I can’t help but wonder what the Padres have in Erlin and Wieland. Do they have a squirrels fart or a bull’s-eye?

A closer look at Vince Belnome

Justin over at Chicken Friars sort of beat me to the punch on this article, with his recent piece on infielder Vince Belnome. It’s a good read and covers the basics of who Belnome is as a player and potential prospect. I won’t regurgitate too much of his analysis here (hence, the link); however, I will explore some of his performance in a bit more detail and go so far as to say that I think Belnome will be on San Diego’s roster at some point early during the 2012 season.

Belnome is a player who hasn’t received much hype until recently. He doesn’t often appear on prospect lists, and if he does, he’s likely to be listed in the higher numbers. But fans and scouts alike are starting to take notice of the 5′ 11″ 205 pounder, and it’s likely because he’s proven he can handle himself with the lumber.

Belnome was drafted in the 28th round of the 2009 draft out of West Virginia. There’s a certain other Padres prospect who came from that same team a year later by the name of Jedd Gyorko. That’s probably a name you recognize at the top of most prospect lists, and for good reason. Gyorko was a second rounder and just completed an Arizona Fall League season where he nearly set the record for batting average.

Obviously, late-round picks are rarely given much fanfare, but ask Mike Piazza (62 round) what he thinks about draft order. (I know…he’s the exception.) Belnome is quickly becoming another example of proof that major league quality players can be found throughout all levels of the draft.

The reasons are simple: he knows what he’s doing in the box, and he’s not going to give away too many runs with his glove. Now, most teams look for elite defense up the middle. With Belnome manning second base, his defense can’t exactly be considered elite, so his prospect status takes a hit. But, let’s look at the numbers on both sides of the field and give him his due.

In three minor league seasons, Belnome has straight produced. He’s clubbed 43 HRs and knocked in an impressive 200 RBIs in 285 games. In 1,256 PAs, he’s walked 205 times and struck out 255 times. On defense, his fielding percentages break down as such (range factors per game in parenthesis):

442 CH @ 3B: .914 (2.64)

416 CH @ 2B: .976 (4.61)

177 CH @ 1B: .989 (8.75)

Now, 5’11” and 200 lbs+ sounds like a nice frame for a slugging 3B, but you can see that his glove work at the hot corner is not terribly strong. As a first baseman, though, Belnome’s defense gets better. However, his height doesn’t fit the position. At second, Belnome seems to have found somewhat of a home. The FLD% is good, and the range factor is solid as well. The struggle here, though, is with the body as well. Big-bodied second baseman don’t fit the mode unless their name is Dan Uggla (5’11”, 205 lbs).  The position requires nimble footwork and quick bursts and turns of activity. Now, if you can slug like Uggla, people forget about the defense. Uggla’s second base range factor in the minors was 4.41, by the way, very similar to Belnome. So, essentially, at second, Belnome won’t give up many runs, but he also won’t save many, either. The question will be, can he slug like Uggla?

Let’s look a bit closer in that department.

Belnome’s 2009 season was an impressive introduction to pro ball. Between Eugene (A-) and Ft. Wayne (A), he compiled a gaudy slash of: .321/.444/.519 (.963 OPS). Additionally, only 32 of his 268 at bats that season were in Ft. Wayne. The organization thought highly enough of his bat that he basically skipped A ball, and was moved up to hi-A Lake Elsinore in 2010. In the hitter-friendly California League, Belnome put forth: .273/.397/.436. He knocked in a career high 84 RBIs that season to go along with 16 HRs, also a career high.

The following season saw him move up to Double-A San Antonio, notoriously pitcher-friendly. Not if you ask Belnome. In 267 at bats, he produced: .333/.432/.603. Just video game-like. He set a career best in HR with 17 in half the games of his previous season. He managed just 75 games last season due to injury, but many in San Antonio felt he was the team’s MVP, and the numbers bear that out.

Overall, Belnome’s career slash in three seasons looks like this: .301/.418/.500 (.918 OPS). In case you’re wondering, Uggla’s career minor league slash line in five seasons was: .276/.347/.442 (.789). Am I suggesting Belnome is the next Uggla? Maybe. Maybe he could be even better. Why? He’s got a considerably better eye. In low-A, Belnome’s BB% was 17.6. In hi-A, he maintained 16.8%, and in limited time in Double-A, it was 14.8%. Uggla’s overall major league BB% is 10.5%. [Granted, that’s a minor league versus major league comparison. Somebody help me find data on FanGraphs that comes before 2006!]. The power is there, too. His ISO for those same seasons: .203, .163, and .270.

Now, he does hit left-handed, and he will be playing his games in Petco National Park, but I think you’ll see Belnome manning second base sooner than any other minor league infielder gets the call up. Once he establishes that he’s healthy, and once he starts demolishing PCL parks and pitchers, I think you’ll see the big league club take notice. He’ll look even better once Orlando Hudson scuffles again, preferring to spend his down time discussing the finer points of lawn mowing on Twitter.

Keep your eye on Belnome, and see if he doesn’t open some other eyes in San Diego this coming season.

 

Rockies acquire Marco Scutaro from Red Sox

In a curious move, the Colorado Rockies acquired shortstop/second basemen Marco Scutaro from the Boston Red Sox for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen.

Scutaro will make a more-than-reasonable $6 million in 2012 before becoming a free agent in 2013.

He’ll slide over to second in Colorado, with Troy Tulowitzki entrenched at short, and offer an immediate upgrade over Chris Nelson. Over the last three seasons with Toronto and Boston, Scutaro has hit .284/.356/.404 (102 OPS+). Defensively, he’s probably a little below average at short, but should project right around average at second base.

He just turned 36, but he’s a nice short-term pick-up for Colorado. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged 3.3 rWAR and 3.2 fWAR.

The curious part of the deal is that the Red Sox don’t really have a legitimate replacement at shortstop and they got back only Mortensen for Scutaro and his favorable contract. Mortensen isn’t anything more than roster-filler, at this point, as neither his major or minor league track records inspire much confidence.

In 95 major league innings, Mortensen’s posted a 5.12 ERA, a 1.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 1.5 HR/9. It’s hard to project anything better than replacement level production out of Mortensen at the major league level.

The Red Sox will likely use Scutaro’s money to sign a pitcher, perhaps Roy Oswalt, but it’s strange to see them working on a tight budget.

Follow Friar Forecast on Twitter

It’s the weekend — a good time for a little blog-promotion.

Many of you already follow us, but if not consider following @FriarForecast on Twitter.

We don’t get too carried away with tweeting, but you’ll find links to our content here, links to notable stuff around the interwebs, and some good ol’ Padres/baseball/sabermetric discussion. That’s a combination you cannot resist.

Thanks!

Friday links

In new(ish) semi-weekly tradition, here are some links for your perusal:

At Chicken Friars, Justin hopes that the Padres can extend Cameron Maybin this offseason. He’s not alone. Maybin recently switched agents, delaying any chance of ironing out an extension in the near future. Hopefully he’ll get locked up soon enough.

Tom Krasovic and Friarhood held a chat. Tom answered a bunch of questions about the Padres.

At GLB, there’s an entertaining review of the Josh Byrnes meet up — check that, tweet up — that took place Wednesday night at a San Diego bar/restaurant. Sounds like a good time.

Fun discussion with RJ’s Fro, Avenging Jack Murphy, and Geoff Young about the Padres relationship with the media/fans.

Good Q&A with Randy Smith, Padres vice president of player development and international scouting, at Mad Friars.

Marc Hulet offers his top 15 Padres prospects at FanGraphs, listing Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal 1-2.

Brad Johnson has some good analysis of the latest baseball news at The Hardball Times, including the huge trade between the Yankees and Mariners.

Geoff Young has a comprehensive look at the Angels and third basemen at Baseball Prospectus.

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