Top ten surprises in the Padres' system

Every year a prospect emerges from virtual anonymity and turns heads. This year was no different as prospects in the San Diego Padres system asserted themselves.

10. Tim Stauffer was expected to rise quickly through the system. Boy, did he do it in style. Stauffer was dominant in tours with Lake Elsinore and Mobile on his way to Portland. His poise on the mound and ability to limit mistakes by shirking the big inning earned him praise and a shot at the number five spot in the rotation in 2005. He gave up a few long balls in Portland but still managed to keep his ERA down.

9. Californian Dale Thayer was dominant in 2003 for Fort Wayne but there was a question as to whether he could continue the success in the California League. He quickly took over the closer duties and never let them go. He held opponents to a batting average of .181 with the Storm and his ERA away from home was a miniscule 0.77.

8. Chris Kolkhorst came out of one of the top schools in the country and figured to be advanced. What surprised was how advanced he was. He got better as the season wore on, hitting above .340 for the year. He also showed patience at the plate, one of only two players with significant playing time to walk more times than they struck out on the year.

7. Nate Whitney was a free agent pickup expected to plug a hole. As it turned out, Whitney was capable of doing just about everything. Asked to bat in a position largely unfamiliar to him, batting in the middle of the order as opposed to the top, he responded. He led the Peoria team in RBI's and tied for the team lead in walks and runs scored. Whitney is now getting serious looks for the future.

6. Lachlan Dale has always been tabbed as a player with power. After two year totals that resulted in three homers, Dale busted onto the scene with 15 in 2004. Dale remained streaky at the plate and doesn't take nearly enough pitches for a power hitter but this is the first year he was to be feared at the dish.

5. Nate Sevier sported an ERA of 5.76 in 2003 and was tabbed for the California League, generally not kind to pitchers. Sevier responded with a phenomenal year. His 3.10 ERA in 38 games with the Storm earned him a promotion to Mobile and he proved it wasn't a fluke. His numbers were even better in a pitcher's league, a 1.47 ERA in 11 games with the BayBears.

4. Everyone knew Humberto Quintero would provide solid defense, especially David Wells, but the question was whether he could stay consistent with his hitting. Quintero surprised all with a healthy .300-plus average and a 14 game hitting streak. His play earned him time with the Big League club and he may become a permanent fixture or a chip in trades.

3. Dirk Hayhurst was loving his role as a long reliever. He began the year with 20 innings pitched and no earned runs. He was thrown into the starting rotation, a move he was not in favor of, and responded, going 7-4 as a starter. He allowed three earned runs or less in 16 of his 17 starts with Fort Wayne and two earned runs or less in 12 of those starts. That included a six game span that saw him give up five runs total.

2. Drew Macias was placed in Fort Wayne for his defense in centerfield. He surprised everyone by hitting. When August began, Macias was still a .290 hitter but the long season finally caught up with him and he ended at .266. Still, the Padres didn't figure he would hit better than .240 all year.

1. Leo Rosales wasn't on any roster to begin 2004 as he wallowed in extended spring training. In fact, it wasn't until the beginning of June that he was tabbed as the closer of Fort Wayne. He racked up 26 saves in three months and ended the year with a 1.40 ERA. The Padres now believe he has the stuff to excel in any role.

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