Padres Prospect Report: Rico Washington

Rico Washington is a bit of an unknown in the San Diego Padres organization. He joined the Padres organization after spending time in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system. Originally drafted in 1997, the Padres picked him up in the Rule V draft in 2002.

Washington began the 2003 campaign in Mobile before a late season promotion to Portland, his first stint in Triple A. His efforts were rewarded when he was designated to the Peoria Saguaros as a member of the taxi squad.

Washington was originally drafted in the tenth round of the 1987 draft. After peaking in the Pirates organization in 1999, he hit a wall in Double A ball in the Pirates organization. Up until 2000, Washington was a .300 hitter who excelled in his classic lefty line-drive style.

From 2000 to 2002, Washington was stuck in Altoona, a Double A affiliate of the Pirates. He struggled with some injuries and the Pirates had a tough time finding him a position, using him at catcher, second base and third base.

In December of 2002, the Padres scooped Washington up.

"Rico Washington is a veteran guy who has spent seven years in the minors," said one Padres scout. "Because of the lack of big bats in Mobile in 2003, he had to hit third in the order and he probably could have fit in better as maybe a number six hitter.

"He was hitting .311 on May 20th but then went into the three spot and hit under .200 in both June and July and finished at .244. As a number three hitter, he batted just .212 for the year."

His start was so good in Mobile, Washington earned player of the week for May 2nd-8th. Washington hit .455 (10-for-22), drove in eight runs and scored seven times that week. He also smacked six extra-base hits with three doubles and three home runs. For the week, the 24-year-old had a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .455 on-base percentage.

Washington is just beginning to find his stroke again. After being voted by Baseball America as the most likely player to hit for a high average in 2000, he got away from what got him there and tried to hit for power instead of letting the home runs come to him. The Pirates had thought he would be part of their future and the change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered.

"He is a solid defensive third baseman, a little better than average," said BayBears announcer Tom Nichols. "He also has spent some time as a catcher and we did not see enough of him there to really know what he can do."

Washington led all Southern League third basemen in fielding percentage in 2003, playing in 91 games at third. He also played 10 games at catcher, five at first and one at second.

"Rico spent four years in Double-A ball, so I am sure he was pumped to get a shot at Triple-A toward the end of the 2003 season," said Nichols. "He might have gotten a little stagnant in Double-A."

Washington's numbers were not great in 2002, but he was tied for second on the team with 14 homers and did drive in 60 runs, good for second on the team.

With a fresh start in the Padres system, Washington has continued the upward trend as he was sent to the Arizona Fall League. He is working closely with Rob Deer out there to find the stroke that made him a sought after prospect.

In nine games, Rico is hitting .333 with 12 hits in 36 at bats, driving singles to all parts of the field. He is only available on Wednesday's and Saturday's as a member of the taxi squad.

Next year Washington is expected to be in Triple A. The addition of Craig Colbert, the former manager of Mobile, will allow him to grow.

His ability to play multiple positions will aid him at this stage of his career and with a solid 2004 season in Triple A, Washington could become a solid utility player in the major leagues.

Note:

A Rico Washington interview will follow this scouting report and a final scouting report will be included. This report was done before speaking with Rico as he works in the Arizona Fall League. By releasing this report before the interview, we felt we could grade his progress fairly.

If you have missed any scouting reports on the way, you can always check our list of current reports located HERE. The list is updated as new reports become available. Reports on Alan Webb, Matt Hampton and JJ Furmaniak will follow shortly as we finish up our reports on those participating in the AFL before we speak to them for exclusive interviews.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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