Spending parts of three seasons in San Antonio, and not putting up monster numbers the second time around, has Carroll at a crossroads. Entering Triple-A, Carroll has to find the form that him bounding up the levels with his potent bat. Carroll has always had a long swing but could cover that up when he was mashing the ball with authority. Now that better pitching has him challenged, Carroll has to shorten up the swing in order to square up the ball with more regularity.
A swap of first-round disappointments (Allan Dykstra) brought Kunz to the Padres organization. Thought to be a future closer within the Mets system, Kunz' lack of command has led him to be forgotten. Averaging 4.8 walks per nine innings heading into 2012, Kunz has been unable to consistently harness a hard, sinking fastball. The pitch has a lot of movement and can fracture bats as well as generate ground balls. Hitters have learned that it isn't straight and will often fall out of the zone if they can remain patient. His changeup and slider also need to improve, as neither is really effective when he needs that strike and is behind in the count. This year will be important for the three-quarters throwing right-hander. If he can't find the zone with consistency, he may have to look for work somewhere else.
The first baseman is in a bit of a logjam with Matt Clark and Yonder Alonso ahead on the depth chart and a growing stable of able bodies coming from behind. The bull, and we mean that kindly with his pre-bat routine, has incredible power but saw his time limited because of injury last year. Averaging a strikeout per game coming into the year, Decker must show he can not only hit for power but also be more selective in order to up both his average and walk totals. Like others who have their position battles, Decker would do well to work on his agility in order to play some outfield – a spot he has played just once (2009 with Fort Wayne).
The enigmatic right-hander has all the tools to be a success but has yet to put it altogether with consistency. Moved out of the rotation and into the bullpen since he never took to the changeup, McBryde throws a hard, sinking fastball and plus slider. The draft-and-follow has never been able to miss bats with regularity, oftentimes finding too much of his offerings across the heart of the plate. Now more than a year back from injury, McBryde has to flash consistency to be considered for a future role. Being headstrong as he heads towards his 25th birthday has not been helpful.
Williams got an early label as not being as hard a worker as he could have been. That seemed to catch up to him in 2010 when he realized it wasn't just about pure athleticism. He needed to work at it. Looking to right the ship, Williams spent most of 2011 on the disabled list with a knee injury. Now, he has a fresh start and a new appreciation for the game. He has immense talent but also has holes in his swing that must be shored up, uppercut tendencies which shortens the time his bat head is in the zone. To reach his potential, Williams must put it all out on the field both offensively and defensively. Just because he is gifted does not mean it will be easy. The great ones always have to work hard plying the trade.
Being 26 without touching Double-A isn't a good spot to begin 2012. The right-hander burst onto the scene with his incredible fastball command but has been limited to 70.2 innings across the last two seasons. With his ability to get on top of his pitches and come at a hard downward angle from his 6-foot-8 frame, Fetter could have been knocking on the door this season. As it stands, getting him healthy and working on his secondary pitches is still the plan, but health trumps all, as he is again on the disabled list to begin the year.
Health, or lack thereof, and Tate have gone together since the outfielder entered the system. He has just a smattering of games under his belt and for the third overall pick in 2010, games are his most valuable commodity. Tate is a gifted athlete with a baseball frame that projects to do well – but along with that comes refinement of his swing, the ability to see and react to different pitches and the ability to understand what a pitcher is attempting to do. That all comes with game action. If he can stay healthy, we may finally see what Tate is capable of doing.
The right-hander is a bonus baby out of the international signing class of 2008. Each year, the organizational coaches commend his advancements during their annual Instructional League, but he has yet to carry that over with consistency through the season. Portillo must find his own rhythm within his mechanics and release point without the pitching coach to realize his true potential. Until he can feel when something is wrong, and this comes with repetition, he will continue to struggle to find the strike zone and will have his issues with men on base as the doubts creep in. While he certainly has more time than others, the clock is beginning to tick.