The San Diego Padres are hungry to see the fifth reach their height. ">
The San Diego Padres are hungry to see the fifth reach their height. ">

Padres Prospect Report: Justin Germano

"Justin Germano moved up to Double-A as a very young player," Tom Nichols of the Mobile BayBears explained, "becoming just the fifth pitcher to start a game for Mobile prior to his 21st birthday. The others, by the way, all got to the big leagues eventually. They are Jake Peavy, Oliver Perez, Buddy Carlyle, and Junior Herndon."<br><br> The San Diego Padres are hungry to see the fifth reach their height.

Justin Germano was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 13th round of the 2000 draft, straight out of high school. He has been promoted at least one level since his arrival in the Minors and finished the 2003 season in Mobile.

Germano's stock was pretty high entering 2003 and took a little bit of a hit after an 11-10 season between Lake Elsinore and Mobile. His WHIP also took a hit in 2003 rising to 1.33 after a 2002 season where he posted a 1.21 mark and 2001 season where he posted a 1.26. His almost 6-to1 strikeout to walk ratio dropped to almost 3-to1, attributing to his higher WHIP and increased struggles.

But one Padres scout tells us he is not a strikeout pitcher and was unfairly judged by poor defense behind him.

"He is a ground ball pitcher. He is a guy who can really benefit or really be victimized by the quality and range of the defensive infield behind him because he throws a lot of strikes and hitters tend to put the ball in play. On his best nights, he will get a lot of first or second pitch outs and have some quick innings. On nights when his location is off a little, he is going to get hit. He is not the type of pitcher who can work behind in the count and still be effective. Generally, he is going to give up his share of singles but he gives up such a low walk total that he is able to get away with it.

"He is not the type of pitcher who is going to thrill the fans by getting big strikeout totals and make hitter look silly like a Jake Peavy or Dennis Tankersley, but he will quietly put up scoreless innings. He has worked well and has a good relationship with his pitching coach, Gary Lance, who has been with him for almost all of the 2002-2003 seasons and probably will be in 2004. Our manager in 2003, Craig Colbert, loved him, as did Padres' Special Assistant to the GM Randy Smith."

The numbers don't lie. Germano walked 38 in 168.2 innings this year and 24 the year before in 174.2 innings.

At 21, Germano is already an innings eater and with better defense could become something special.

"Again, he needs a good defensive infield behind him," said the Padres scout. "The major leaguer you hear him compared to most often is Greg Maddux. Ironically, at the same age, people compared Peavy to Maddux until Jake started throwing his fastball consistently 92-95, and then they started comparing him to other pitchers rather than Maddux."

Jake Peavy, coincidentally, was the top Padres pitcher in 2003. He led the team in victories with 12 and was the only starter to have a winning season.

Germano is a little further away than where Peavy was at this stage of his development, but the signs are promising despite a setback in 2003.

It is hard for anyone to handle being compared to Maddux. Germano has been tagged as such because of his velocity, movement on his fastball and ability to locate his pitches.

"Everyone I talked with was impressed with Germano's jump to Double-A in 2003, but he still has a ways to go," says Nichols. "Most people will tell you he ‘knows how to pitch,' meaning he understands what pitches to use against each hitter he faces, where to locate, and how to use one pitch to set up the next pitch."

Darren Balsley is slated to work with him within the next few weeks to harness all his best attributes. It won't entail changing his mechanics, but will focus on his adding some power to his delivery in hopes that he too can make the jump Peavy did.

"He is not a real hard thrower in the mold of a Ben Howard, Jake Peavy, or Dennis Tankersley," said Nichols, agreeing with the scout. "He is generally going to pitch in the 88-90 range. He is very poised on the mound and is a very mature player, especially in light of his age."

"I look for Germano to be the BayBears opening night starter in 2004 and have a solid season. He does not have the arm of a Peavy or Tankersley, but those types only come along every few years and Germano could still very well end up being a solid starter in the majors for the Padres."

Fans can only hope he turns into either player. It would mean a very promising future ahead.

Denis Savage can be reached at

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