Eugene Emeralds 2011 Season Preview

Synopsis: This should be one of the better teams in the Emerald City in a long time; particularly if they stay intact. The two big names are first round pick 2b Cory Spangenberg and de facto first round pick from 2010 RHP John Barbato.

Three Strikes with Randy Smith, Director of Player Development and International Scouting

If you had to pick one pitcher to have a chance to replicate Matt Lollis success last year who would it be and why?

Randy Smith: John Barbato just has great stuff. Right now his fastball is sitting around 92 to 94 and his curveball has been outstanding. This last month in extended it all really started to come together for him.

Many pundits speculated on what position Spangenberg would play. Why did you select second base for him?

Randy Smith: Our top scouting guys, Jason McLeod, and Jaron Madison, thought he profiled best as a second baseman. He's a natural hitter and plus runner so second was a good spot for him. He's played all over the infield in his career but we think that 2B will be his strongest position. Most importantly, he is a baseball player and a very good athlete.

So far who has impressed you the most in camp?

Randy Smith: Spangenberg is going to hit, I'm very sure about that. Barbato, as I said earlier, stands out and I really like a lot of the athletes that we got in this year's draft [Kyle] Gaedele, [Mike] Gallic and [Lee] Orr are all big dudes that are athletic and can run; some really interesting guys this year.

2011 Projected Lineup

1b Daniel Garce SP/RHP John Barbato
2b Cory Spangenberg SP/RHP Juan Herrera
SS Jace Peterson SP/RHP Matt Andriese
3b Clint Moore SP/RHP Colin Rea
LF Jose Dore SP/RHP Leonel Campos
CF Donovan Tate RP/RHP Matt Stites
RF Kyle Gaedele RP/RHP Kevin Quackenbush
DH Lee Orr/ Zach Kometani RP/RHP Greg Gonzalez
C Matt Colantonio/Jeremy Rodriguez RP/LHP Jeremy Gigliotti

Catch a Rising Star: Cory Spangenberg
Spangenberg was a high school shortstop, a second baseman with VMI, and a third baseman last year at Indian River JC. He has the hands to play in the middle infield but not the arm to be on the left side. While it's true that the Padres wanted to ensure they could sign the tenth overall pick of the draft, it's also true that many thought he was one of the best overall hitters in the draft.

Starting Pitching: John Barbato
Barbato was a sixth round pick in the 2010 draft whom the Padres gave a $1.4 million bonus essentially making him a low first round draft pick. He was considered one of the more gifted right-handed pitchers in the talent laden Florida high school ranks and has been clocked up to 95 MPH. Andriese is a 3rd round pick out of UC-Riverside and is the type of pitcher that usually does well in short-season leagues; college pitcher, good fastball command with decent secondary offerings. Colin Rea is in interesting late pick out of Indiana State and right now is known more for his stuff than his command. Greg Gonzalez out of Fresno State will probably see time in both relief and starting.

Pen: Stites and Quackenbush are two pitchers than many people who follow the draft believe can be sleepers. Stites was the "Saturday pitcher" or number two guy on the Mizzou staff. He threw a team high 92 innings with 77 strikeouts but also struggled with his command walking 41. Still he can bring it in the low 90's consistently. The Padres were particularly high on South Florida closer Kevin Quackenbush – and yes, that is a fine name – was a second team All-American who sported a 0.81 ERA this year for the Bulls only allowing three earned runs in 33.1 innings. As with most highly regarded relievers he has a big fastball that has been clocked up to 95 MPH.

Infield: Spangenberg and Peterson, the top two draft picks from 2011, will be the double play combination and the key will be to translate their athleticism into baseball skills. Peterson was a football star at McNeese State and has never played in a wooden bat league, so there will be a transition. Garce had a nice year in the AZL last season hitting .323/.363/.438. Moore is a late round pick from the U.S. Military Academy and holds most of the career offensive records for the Black Knights. A shortstop in college, Joe Sottolano, his head coach, claims he's one of the best defensive players that he has had in his twelve years of coaching. Moore will be able to play all of the season before returning to West Point to be a graduate assistant and going off to his military commitments.

Catcher Three players should share the position this year in Eugene. Matthew Colantonio was second team all league at Brown hitting .301/.424/426. "Veteran" Jhonado Pozo is going into his fifth year of pro ball and is still only 22. Jeremy Rodriguez is only 5'8" but he hit .328/.424/.429 for Cal-State Bakersfield this year. With Brett Austin and Austin Hedges, two high profile high school catchers that the Padres picked early expected to sit out most of the summer, its a great opportunity for someone to step up.

Outfield: Corner outfielder Jose Dore was an eighth round pick in 2010 that the Padres went over slot to buy him out of his commitment to Florida State. He showed some power at the beginning of the year in Fort Wayne but struggled to make consistent contact. According to Randy Smith Tate has looked great in extended spring after a two month middle of the season lay-off. RF Gaedele is a big, "toolsy" 6'4" 220 lbs. athletic outfielder from Valparaiso University, according to Baseball America.

On the Spot: Donavan Tate. Coming into the year the former overall number three overall selection in 2009 has battled injuries and when he has been healthy he has struggled to hit. The good news is he did perform well in his first six games in Fort Wayne before an outfield collision with OF Everett Williams sidelined him until now. More than anything Tate needs to get his at-bats in after a year and half layoff.

Under the Radar: Matt Stites is a 17th round pick out of the University of Missouri was an effective starter for the Mizzou but at 6 feet 185 lbs. is going to be turned into a relief pitcher. He is a solid athlete with low 90s fastball and four serviceable pitches but will probably focus on his fastball and slider.

Draft Picks You May See: RHPs Cody Hebner (4th round Green River (WA) Community College and Mark Pope (5th round, Georgia Tech) should sign later this summer and report to Eugene. For position players Auburn Casey McElroy (11th round) a left-handed hitting middle infielder is also expected to eventually make his way to the Northwest League.

Draft Picks You Won't See: Four of the Padres first six picks, RHPs Joe Ross, Michael Kelly and catchers Brett Austin and Austin Hedges, are high profile high school players that the organization will have to go significantly over slot to sign. This means they will probably not be signed until August 15 and once they are signed they will probably go to the Arizona League. The good news is, as with Barbato and Dore, there is a good chance Ems fans will see them in 2012.

Sources: Thanks to Jim Callis of Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and John Sickles of Minor League Ball for the voluminous information supplied on the recent draft picks in interviews with MadFriars and in their respective publications. Also, special thanks to Randy Smith and Jason McLeod for always taking time for our questions on everything and anything related to the San Diego Padres.

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