Level: The San Diego Padres High-A affiliate in the California League is mainly comprised of second and third year players – some of the hitters have never experienced full season ball. While Lake Elsinore is a pitcher's park, many of the other venues throughout the league favor the hitters. They hit 58 more homers on the road this past season.
Player of the Year:
Cumberland took the California League by Storm, literally. He was a force in every facet of the game, scoring 63 runs in 60 contests with 35 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He also had 26 extra-base hits and was the primary catalyst for the offense during the first half of the season. Cumberland boasted a .415 average when leading off an inning. His loss upon a promotion to San Antonio affected the team more than any other.
The one-two of Cumberland and Figueroa early in the season was deadly, as oftentimes both were on base back-to-back. With a stellar batting eye (81-to-54 walk-to-strikeout ratio), he waits for his pitch to hit. He also squares up the ball nicely with hard shots. Figueroa knows how to play the game and is clutch as they come with a .348 mark with RISP. Defensively, he is sure handed and able. Rarely is he caught out of position. Figueroa also stole 26 bags, more because of innate knowledge than pure speed.
Player of the Year:
The former Florida State football recruit finally showed a glimpse of the vast potential the Padres' have always believed is there. He has improved every year defensively at both short and second to go along with plus range; particularly in the strength and accuracy of his arm. The left-handed hitting Cumberland was particularly tough on lefties, hitting .393/.416/.524 in 87 plate appearances.
Decker, 23, led the team in extra-base hits (65), home runs (28), RBIs (90) and total bases (260). He made the rare jump from the Arizona League to Lake Elsinore and more than held his own. The former UCLA Bruin is a good fielder at first, posting a .989 fielding percentage and has played some outfield in the past as well.
Others of Note: Vince Belnome lead the league in walks and his power came on as the season progressed. He also drove in 84. Jaff Decker was on a torrid pace before breaking his hand with eight homers and 25 RBI in his last 13 games. Allan Dykstra was more aggressive this season and landed with a .241 average. Dan Robertson hit .300 with 30 stolen bases – his prospect status elevated even further with a potential move to second base (he is a plus outfielder too). Blake Tekotte hit .310 and showed a wide array of skills, including power and speed.
Manager's Comments: "This kid has a quick bat with a nice line drive stroke. He can really kick start an offense. He is the kind of player we are looking for in Petco Park." – Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano on Drew Cumberland.
Top Prospect (Denis): Drew Cumberland.
The most dynamic player in the system right now, the only hesitation with Cumberland is his health. He went down again this season (after leaving Lake Elsinore). It has been a constant through his career. Cumberland is the perfect fit for a Petco Park type player. He is an aggressive, run through the wall type player that has amazing bat control. With his plus-plus speed, he can turn any grounder into a bang-bang play. He also has enough power to hit the gaps and ring up triples.
Top Prospect (John): Jaff Decker.
Any discussion of the top Padres' prospects for 2011 is going to include both Cumberland and Decker, 20, and normally I would go with an athletic middle infielder over a corner outfielder; unless the bat was that special, and Decker's bat is that special. At first glance, a .262/.374/.500 line is good, particularly for someone only twenty; but Decker had a much better year when you factor in that he missed all of spring training and the first six weeks of the season with a strained hamstring. Throw out his first fifteen games in May and he hit .292/.421/.558 before breaking his hand in mid-August, where he had 25 RBI and eight home runs in 14 games. Decker came into the year in the best shape of his life, has gotten much shorter to the ball and has the arm to play either corner. If healthy, he should put up very good numbers in Double-A San Antonio.
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