Scouting Report: Jon Knott

The Southern League is not known for its hitters. In fact, many consider it to be one of the toughest leagues to hit in. So with numbers of 27, 35 and .514, Jon Knott may have cemented his status as a prospect. His reward is a trip to the Arizona Fall League where he hopes to continue his pace.

Mobile finished last in the Southern League in team batting average at .238, 32 points behind league-leader Birmingham. Yet, the BayBears were second in the league in home runs with 96.

"The last couple of years we have not had a very good hitting team," said BayBears announcer Tom Nichols. "It is not an easy place to hit, the Southern League is not an easy place to hit period. The humidity knocks down some fly balls and the pitching is good in this league."

Twenty-seven of those dingers came off the bat of Jon Knott, placing him third in the league. 59 represent the number of extra base hits he had, good for first in the league. .514, that would be the answer if you asked what his slugging percentage was, also third in the league. Knott had the biggest overall season at the plate for Mobile, hitting .252, third in runs batted in (82), second in runs scored (83) and fifth in on-base percentage (.387).

All this from a hitter no one drafted. After four years at Mississippi State University, his name went uncalled and he only got a shot at professional ball after impressing San Diego Padres scouts at a tryout camp. Despite his stellar season with Lake Elsinore, he was only an honorable mention on the Cal League All-Star team.

After starring in the SEC, Knott got injured right at the end of his senior year and he couldn't sign a major league deal until recovering from the ankle injury so he didn't make his pro debut until 2002. The injury to Knott was a strained ligament in his leg that cost him the end of his senior season at Mississippi State, likely contributing to his undrafted status.

"Another interesting story," said Nichols when prodded about Jon Knott. "Undrafted out of college, out of Mississippi State, the Padres signed him as an undrafted free agent and his first year, which was 2002, he was the Padres Co-Minor League Player of the Year."

Knott made the most of his first chance in single-A ball, hitting .333 with three homers, 18 RBI, 12 doubles and three triples in 37 games, and had a .411 slugging percentage and a .411 on-base percentage. All that in just 126 at-bats for Fort Wayne before being called up to High-A Lake Elsinore. Knott continued his torrid pace for the Storm, hitting .341 with 33 doubles, eight triples, eight homers a .535 slugging percentage and .413 on-base percentage.

"His second year, he set the BayBears all time single season home run record with 27 homers, would have probably shattered the old record which was 22," said Nichols. "That would indicate to you that it is not an easy place to hit home runs.

"Jon probably would have hit 35 homers this year if not for the fact that once he got to the top of the home run list, he did not see anything to hit. It was similar to what a Barry Bonds might expect in that we didn't have a strong hitter in the five spot. Jon was in the four spot and they just pitched around him. He did not get anything to hit from about the beginning of July through the end of the season."

Knott was then promoted to Portland where he hit .346 with one homer and 5 RBI's in seven games.

Knott has a career on base percentage of .411, a huge determining factor in the future of a young player. He shows patience at the plate and, despite his less than stellar .252 average at Mobile, is a career .300 hitter in the minors.

Knott is good with the glove at first base and in the outfield. He won't be confused with Keith Hernandez or Andruw Jones, but he does possess an above-average arm, and given the Padres depth at first base, his best chance is going to be through an ability to play multiple positions. His first 53 games of the year came at first base before moving to the outfield for his final 72 games.

The 2003 season was a success for Knott, adding to his list of improvements within the organization. He will look to build upon that in Portland this year and with another successful campaign, it will be hard for the Padres to keep him out of San Diego.

With Mobile being so bad at the plate in 2003, the answer of whom the team would want up with the game on the line was easy for Nichols:

"Jon Knott would have been our guy."

Scouting reports from the top players who were in Mobile this season will continue to come. Prospect recaps from Fort Wayne will follow as we sat down with another insider and covered the best pitching staff in the Padres system, A ball or not, as well as some potential hitters. More will continue as we target the rest of the minor league affiliates and talk to the people that see them play everyday.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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