Padres prospect scouting report: Jordan Pickens

Early on, Jordan Pickens was on pace to make a run at the triple crown in the Midwest League as a member of the Fort Wayne Wizards. Unfortunately it didn't last and his season ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury.

His shoulder has been a problem for him over the past few seasons but the word is that the ailment differs from his previous ailments. In 2001 and into 2002 it was an issue with his labrum in his right shoulder. He tore his shoulder apart sliding into second base that year and had surgery.

A stitch that was supposed to dissolve and didn't used to make a rusty door hinge sound in early 2003. He had that removed and they cleaned up his rotator cuff at the same time. He eased back into it and remained healthy until August of 2004 when he hurt his shoulder for the umpteenth time, albeit a different part of the shoulder and the extent of which is unknown.

As far as his season with Fort Wayne, Jordan Pickens was way up before going way down. He had a stellar April and May, batting .300 with ten homers and 29 RBI's. He began June with seven hits in his first six games to cap off an 11 game hitting streak.

"It looked as if for six to eight weeks when he got a fastball he tattooed it and when he got a curve he tattooed it and he had confidence," Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom said. "Then all of a sudden they figured out, ‘hey, we are going to throw him off-speed' and they all got him out."

Pickens went 9-for-63, .142, the rest of June and the stretch of futility continued through July, a month where he hit .161. Nearly half of his strikeouts, 54, came during that two month span.

"He had two seasons for me," Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller said. "His first half, he played like an all-star. In the second half, they started talking about breaking the home run record and his season went to pot. He was basically trying to hit home runs instead of trying to become a good hitter.

"We ended up talking to him late in August. I went in and really just talked to him. Bill Bryk, our field coordinator, and I sat him down and said, ‘You are a better player than the way you are playing right now. You have to have the mindset that I am still in the process of learning how to play the game. Use the whole field.' He got into pull mode and trying to hit home runs and he is a much better player than that. And he hit three more home runs, prior to getting hurt, in that week to ten day span."

The numbers suggest the talk did him justice and his season ended before Pickens was ready. His four multi-hit games in his last seven were as many as he had in his previous 29 games.

Playing in Fort Wayne proved to be the most amount of games that Pickens has ever played in. Fifty-two was his previous high and the outfielder made it into 106 games for the Wizards this past season. Every player hits that barrier they need to cross – a threshold they need to cross mentally to progress.

"The last three weeks before he hurt himself, he had made the adjustment and you could visually see it," Byrom said. "The biggest thing about Jordan is you can see his approach to the plate had changed and he was back to having confidence again. He hit four or five homers in the last few weeks he played and that was with a bad shoulder. He hurt the same shoulder a couple of times and they finally shut him down."

Byrom, coincidentally, said during the games that Pickens was one of the hardest working players on the team and everyday he swore it would be the day that Pickens broke his slump.

In his defense, it was his first year in a full season league and he did show promise. He had 17 homers, 23 doubles and 58 RBI's.

"There is some potential there," Waller explained. "It is a part of development, the mindset of a player. When he goes out there day-to-day and works on the player he needs to become. Hopefully we can get Jordan to that place where he can just concentrate on the day-to-day and the rests takes care of itself."

There is some concern about what position he will play in the future. His arm is clearly a problem that could force him to first base – a stumbling block in his development. Pickens plays good defense but again his arm limitations may come into play.

At the plate, Pickens had obvious bouts of inconsistency. He struck out a bit too much – although it is more acceptable from a power hitter. He does need to draw a few more walks and perhaps he will see better pitches if he takes one or two more and gets himself into favorable counts.

Above all, Pickens must prove he can stay healthy through a full season, a daunting task given his history of shoulder problems.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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