Time To Start Reaping What You've Sewn

<b>Fostering the growth of a minor league system creates a depth of prospects and possibilities.</b><br><br> During the past several seasons, the San Diego Padres have shown a pattern of picking up Rule V draftees, giving nearly retired free agents a second chance, and watching the waiver wire for cast offs– all while protecting the young arms and bats in their organization. With September call-ups right around the corner, it's time to take a look at some of the minor league talent.

While this September exercise is often a chance for young players to see big league fastballs, Kevin Towers might want to consider using it an opportunity to show off some of this team's merchandise. With other franchises interested in rebuilding, the Padres can trade way some youth to fashion a contender for their inaugural season in Petco Park.

Xavier Nady – You can't talk about top players in the minor league system without his name being near the top of the list. While X was sent down to make room in a crowded Padre outfield, his early season performance that earned him Rookie of the Month honors in May clearly showed that he is ready to play in the big leagues. A team with the patience to help him with plate discipline will benefit from his strong arm, ability to hit outside pitches to the opposite field, and his untapped ability to hit for power. It's no wonder that Nady seems to be a fixed component in the ongoing Padres-Pirates talks for Giles and Kendall. The Chicago Cubs or Montreal Expos might also have some interest in a trade for Nady if rumors of the Yankees pursuit of free agents Sosa and Guerrero turn out to be true. Nady could also get a chance to hit in the friendly confines of Arlington as the Rangers look to rethink their overall strategy.

Khalil Greene - While clearly labeled an "untouchable" in recent trade talks, the Padres might be willing to move this former All-America shortstop and minor league standout if they accomplish their off season goal of signing free agent Miguel Tejada or Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui. The versatile Lou Merloni or Donaldo Mendez would probably come off the bench next year as a backup, while Mark Loretta's recent contract extension likely spells the end of Ramon Vasquez's tenure in a Padre uniform. If the Padres find themselves unable to sign a free agent shortstop over the winter, Khalil's time with the big club in September, under tutelage of hitting coach Dave Magadan, will be the beginning of a quick learning curve for next year's Opening Day shortstop.

Tagg Bozied - Despite a slow start at each level of the minor league system, Bozied has big league power and currently leads the AAA Portland Beavers in doubles, is second in home runs, and tied for second in RBI. It seems unlikely though that he will make the major league roster for the Padres unless Towers sees an opportunity for a blockbuster trade that includes Ryan Klesko. As Ryan is a fan favorite and reportedly a core component of a contending Padre line-up, it seems more likely that Bozied will be on the table for any potential trades. After years of the major leagues being deep in power hitting first baseman, injuries and retirements mean that Bozied could find himself starting for another team as early as next spring.

Jason Bay – The future of this former Gonzaga University stand out is more dependent on the Padres other commitments rather than his own on field performance. With a .297 batting average and leading the Portland Beavers AAA affiliate in homers and RBI, Jason Bay has done everything to show that he is ready to make a move up. The failure of Kevin Towers to trade Rondell White as of this late date gives the impression that the Padres would like the chance to sign White to an extension or exercise their priority in negotiating with him in the off-season. Otherwise, the failure to trade Rondell for any considerations above a draft pick will be an obvious mistake to most baseball fans. Bay may turn out to be an attractive opportunity for another team looking for a young outfielder with above average offensive skills.

Just like the experienced farmer, Kevin Towers has believed strongly in cultivating a healthy farm system. But just like a successful farmer, now is the time to decide what you keep, and what you take to market for sale.

Michael F. Fangman can be reached at investguru@san.rr.com

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