Level: Double-A baseball is where the rubber meets the road or where you find out who can really play. Anyone who makes it to this level has the talent to play in the major leagues; it's more of a question of how often they can replicate their top performances to keep on advancing. As will be noted often in any discussion of the San Antonio club, Nelson Wolff Stadium because of its swirling winds is one of the most pitcher friendly parks in professional baseball.
Player of the Year:
While Clark, 23, didn't have quite the year that Kyle Blanks did in 2008, his 28 home runs were the most by any Padres' farmhand at the Double-A level since the organization moved to San Antonio in 2007. He led the team with 51 extra-base hits and 97 RBI and was much better in the second half than the first, hitting .303/.382/.539. As with most of the Missions, he was better on the road than at home and could put up some big numbers next year as the Padres move their Triple-A affiliate to the much better hitting environment in the Lake Elsinore area.
Hunter, 22, recovered from a tough season last year in Double-A as his on-base percentage rose from .294 last year to .375 and along with it an uptick in power as he nearly had as many extra-base hits (21) in 71 games as he did last year (28) in 131. For most of the year he hit in the middle of the line-up and came through in the clutch, hitting .362/.434/.511 with runners on and two outs. The one big part of his game that is still missing is stolen bases, as he only stole 9 in 16 attempts.
Player of the Year:
Hunter was tasked with being more selective at the dish and accomplished the feat with a 31-to-21 BB-to-K ratio. He has such incredible bat control that he was hitting into outs when swinging at balls outside the zone. This was a leap forward, as his knack for making contact can be an asset. He has also become one of the strongest defensive center fielders in the system and put himself back on the map with a strong season. Hunter still needs to mature physically, adding muscle to his frame to take better advantage of his contact prowess.
While he was hot and cold at times during the year, the cumulative marks were quite positive for the backstop. One of the best defensive catchers in the system, Martinez has proven capable over the last two years with the stick. While he is built like a rock, he needs to get even stronger because he doesn't have the quickest hands and therefore lacks the extra-base ability John noted above.
Others of Note: Blake Tekotte, 23, was called up to replace Hunter in mid-season and put up some solid numbers, hitting .250/.324/.444 and was 6-for-9 in stolen base attempts. Utility man Andy Parrino, 24, saw action this year at five different positions and was pretty effective as a pinch-hitter (.286) as well. He started off the year in a backup role in Lake Elsinore and hit well enough, .246/.373/.415 to usually find a place somewhere in the lineup every day. Logan Forsythe, 23, was able to get on base at a very good rate with a .377 OBP, but struggled mightily at home, hitting .189/.300/.245.
Manager's Comments: " I thought he had a tremendous year this year. In Matt Clark's case, with his 12 home runs (at home) along with his other 16 on the road, when you hit them good they go, and he did that." – San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo on Matt Clark.
Top Prospect (John): Blake Tekotte.
Tekotte has the best range of any outfielder in the system, and while he doesn't possess the strongest arm, it is accurate. At the plate, the left-handed hitting Tekotte is working on getting shorter to the ball but seems to have a game perfectly suited to PETCO; a gap-to-gap player offensively that can steal bases (28-for-39 between Lake Elsinore/San Antonio) who is a plus defender. There is a good chance he will begin next season at Double-A with Hunter in Triple-A, but if he can continue to become more selective at the plate, he will be someone to watch.
Top Prospect (Denis): James Darnell.
It was a learning year for Darnell, in just his second full professional season. There is no doubt he struggled and missed a month due to injury. The struggles came from being too aggressive. He tends to rush in both his hitting and fielding, as most of his errors were of the throwing variety and Darnell will get on his front foot and be off-balance when he hits the ball, making for weak contact. He still has the talent to be a power hitting third baseman that delivers damage from the middle of the order.
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