Mobile BayBears 2003: Position Prospects

<b>Year in Review Summary</b><br><br> The Mobile BayBears entered the season with the potential to be the best San Diego Padres minor league team, but finished with the second worst record of all their teams. Going into 2003 Mobile expected to have seven of the top ten Padres prospects in the organization as ranked by Baseball America.

Three of the top five players were to play in the same infield, shortstop Khalil Greene (#2), second baseman Jake Gautreau (#5) and first baseman Tagg Bozied (#4). The team then proceeded to win 61 games and lose 77. What happened?

"I don't think the team ever recovered from its bad start," Director of Player Development Tye Waller said. "At the beginning of 2003 we really thought the Mobile team would be our best team. Players like Vince Faison, Todd Donovan and Ben Johnson really struggled, which resulted in us not having enough offense."

Bozied, was promoted to Portland, largely because of the desire to play Jon Knott at 1b and never played in Mobile in 2003. Gautreau struggled with colitis for most of the season, and was unable to demonstrate the consistency needed to impress the Padres. Greene started off very slowly, at one point going 8-61 in late April and early May, but hit .377 in his final twenty games before being promoted to Portland. The outfield, with the notable exception of Jon Knott, who alternated between first base and right field, was a mess. Both Vince Faison and Todd Donovan, holdovers from last year's Mobile teams, were major disappointments.

"We've had some players the last few years that just did not perform up to expectations offensively and that has kept Mobile from being a playoff team the last couple of years," said a San Diego Padres scout. "We have had a number of players who have come through and the performance level hasn't been what the organization had hoped for. For whatever reason the last two years, we have had players who have struggled in situations. In other words, look at their batting average with runners in scoring position it's been considerably lower than it has been with the bases empty. Sometimes that is where you can look at a guys stats and it doesn't tell the whole story.

"I believe games are decided often times in one or two or three particular instances late in the game where you get a guy go up there with men on base. Maybe you are down a run. He is either going deliver that big extra base hit that will bring in a couple of runs, that is what the '98 team did. They were able to get those key two out hits to drive in runs."

A few players emerged from Mobile in 2003, led by Jon Knott, a player who was only rated the #21 prospect by Baseball America in 2003. Humberto Quintero, Jake Gautreau showed some ability, but still have quite a bit of questions about their play.

If anyone read the last reviews, I will repeat the section on what determines a "prospect". If you are already familiar with the process, skip down to the section that begins to analyze the position players. When doing these types of analysis, as rudimentary as they are, if you are only looking at statistics as opposed to actually scouting the players in person, one is looking for a separation, something that indicates the player will have the capacity to develop into a major league player. The three main criteria that form the basis of this analysis usually look for the following indicators:

(1) Tools - This can loosely be defined for position players as the ability to run, field, throw, hit and hit with power. Typically for position players, someone needs to be a plus player in at least one category to make it in the major leagues. For pitchers it can be a variety of components, velocity, control, ERA, strikeouts; something that indicates the pitcher is able to dominate the competition. Control is important but velocity tends to get greater weight. If a pitcher can harness outstanding velocity, he may have a chance at a major league career. Very few pitchers can advance without a decent fastball.

(2) Performance - The easiest one to evaluate. How well the player actually performed in their league. Someone can have all the "tools" in the world, but as the player advances higher in the minor league system his actual performance becomes more important than his actual potential. Performance is the main criteria at AA or AAA level, as compared to the lower minors.

(3) Age - Age is an indicator of how well the player does against the competition that he is facing. A 19 year old hitting .310 in the rookie leagues carries far more weight than a 23 year old, with four full seasons of college ball experience, doing the same thing. The younger and more successful a player is, the bigger upside they could possess.

Position Players - Jon Knott is really the main position player who could have a chance to be part of the San Diego Padres in the future. Humberto Quintero also emerged as a potential prospect; he probably is the best defensive catcher in the San Diego Padres organization on both the major and minor league level. Jake Gautreau showed flashes of his ability, but was plagued by high strikeouts and inconsistent performances. After that the prospects do tail off, although Bobby Scales, a utility player who played everywhere in Mobile and Portland, could be a sleeper pick. After that, its hard to see any of the other position player who were at Mobile in 2004 having much of a chance to make the major leagues.

Knott, 24, is a 6'3" 225 lb outfielder/first baseman out of Mississippi State University who had the one good all around year for Mobile for a Padres position prospect. Knott hit .252/.514/.387 (Batting Average/Slugging percentage/On-base percentage), with 27 home runs and 82 RBIs. His performance was even more impressive when you take a look at the lack of hitting ability that surrounded him for most of the season, which resulted in Knott pressing because of the lack of talent behind him.

"It didn't really matter (who was behind me) unless someone else was hitting a bunch of home runs and driving in runs," said Knott. "Our manager was just trying to put anybody back there that would produce RBI's so they would pitch to me and they would get hurt if they didn't."

"Greene was hitting third and Knott was hitting fourth and we never had anyone emerge in the five spot that would force pitchers to throw Jon Knott strikes," Tom Nichols, the broadcaster for the BayBears said. "He was a money guy for us. If you had a chance to have a guy up there with the game on the line, he would have been your guy. A very productive hitter, probably the best hitter as an individual in the last three or four years.

Jon is a good athlete and has strong arm, which provides him with the versatility to play either corner OF spot or 1B.

"It is going really well in the outfield," Knott said. "I have been doing really well out there."

The one knock against him is his age, he needs to have a good year in Portland to force his way into San Diego. Because of his performance in 2003, Knott was ranked #6 in Baseball America's annual preseason ranking for top prospects in 2004.

Humberto Quintero was the biggest surprise in the organization for 2003, mainly because he was finally able to post a respectable batting average, albeit with little power, to accompany his tremendous defensive ability. Quintero, 24, a 6'1" 190 lbs catcher is now the top catching prospect in the organization. In 2003 Quintero hit .298/.389/.343, with 3 home runs and 52 RBIs. He will be the everyday catcher in Portland, but is going to have to develop some more power to have a legitimate shot at being an everyday catcher. Because of his defensive abilities, he could be the Padres backup catcher in 2005 or sooner.

Jake Gautreau has always been one of my favorite prospects. Gautreau, 24, is a 6', 185 lbs left handed hitter with power. Jake seemed on the verge of forming a very formidable double play combination with Khalil Greene, two middle infielders that would hit with power, until the combination of colitis and Josh Barfield dimmed this possibility. Gautreau has a disappointing year in 2003, hitting .242/.393/324 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs. However, the big number that sticks out is the 131 strike outs in 438 at bats. Jake seemed to find his stroke in August, when he hit .284 with 5 home runs and 13 RBIs. Much of Gautreau's struggles in Mobile seemed to be that he was trying to be too much of a power hitter to compensate for the BayBears weak offense, especially with players such as Todd Donovan and Vince Faison hitting in front of him.

"I started off struggling," Gautreau said. "It was definitely mostly mental. This game is all mental basically if you have talent. It is so mental and if you can keep a level head you will be ok. And this year I think I worried about way too many things and got caught up."

Like Knott, the lack of hitting ability around him in the lineup, changed Jake from a patient hitter with a line drive stroke into more of a free swinger. To advance in the organization he is going to have to cut down on his strikeouts.

"It was a struggle for me and it kind of got worse and worse," said Gautreau. "It seemed like I kept digging a hole deeper and deeper and my AB's just never got better."

"I believe we will see improvement from Jake at the plate this year," Waller said. "He needs to show more plate discipline, he just tried to do too much last year. You can't hit a five run home run. Defensively Jake made some strides, but we feel it's going to make him even more valuable as a player if he can play both second and third base."

Despite his struggles, Jake still finished tied for second in home runs, and third on the team in RBIs. He is a competent, but not spectacular, second baseman. Although Gautreau didn't have a great season, it wasn't as bad as others have written. At the time of Greene's promotion, Gautreau had more home runs, RBIs and better OPS numbers than Greene. Greene went on to put up some serious numbers in Portland, especially after being called up. Its my opinion that if Jake had been called up to Portland in mid-season, like Greene, we would have seen some better offensive production. Nearly all of the former BayBears hit much better in Portland than they did in Mobile.

Because of the emergence of Barfield, Jake will probably be moved to third base for 2004. I have mixed feelings about this for several reasons. One, Gautreau has much more of an upside than Castro and should be playing 2b in Portland instead of him. Two, if he isn't at second base, then he should be at 3b in Portland, it is doubtful that Ben Risinger or Rico Washington will ever make the Padres or have much trade value. Finally, the Padres are better off with Nick Trzesniak, Greg Sain and Michael Johnson playing everyday than some of the journeyman players we have currently in Portland.

Bobby Scales had a nice year in both Mobile and Portland, but will have to fight his way into the lineup to have a shot at a starting position. Scales, 25, a 6' 175 lbs switch hitter from the University of Michigan hit .282/.405/.361, with 3 home runs and 37 RBIs. At Portland Scales was more impressive hitting .372 in 43 Abs. Scales, played 2b, 3b and the outfield and can play SS. Scales is one of the few players that is labeled a potential "utility player" that actually could develop. If Greene sticking as the everyday shortstop in San Diego and the departure of Rey Ordonez, it would be nice to see Scales be given an opportunity to play everyday. The key for Scales making the major leagues, as it is with every utility player will be his ability to play shortstop and prove that he could be a capable defensive MLB shortstop.

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